As the Nandi Flames, the Jacarandas and a variety of other brightly colored flowers adorned the Villa-Maria compound in Nairobi, so did the Sisters of Mercy-Kenyan Province.
It was Saturday, December 1st 2012, and all came in their element to grace the two-fold occasion: First Profession of Carolyne Akoth Opong and Jackline Chepjumba Chemekuro and the renewal of vows of five sisters in Temporary vows (Srs. Risper Ouma, Catherine Wamboi, Willimena Ayan Epeyon, Virginah Kasai and Pauline King’ori).
Villa Maria, Nairobi
The short procession began at 10.30am and our hearts were filled with joy and hope as we witnessed the love and generosity of those seven young women desiring to commit themselves to God in the Mercy Congregation each holding their profession candle and reading her vows. Our joy was palpable as the witnessing sisters broke in to song, dance, claps and ululations! Nothing could hinder the strong-willed sisters from attending the celebration as they braved their way through striking matatus (public transport) and as the old saying goes “where there is will, there is a way” they surely found some means to get to Villa-Maria and they trickled in at different times!
The opening hymn was sung in Kiswahili and the words were true to the day-translated as “it is pleasing…it is joyful…it is beautiful to be in the house of God-and indeed it was beautiful to be in the house of Mercy that morning!
Sr. Liz Fletcher, Provincial of the Sisters of Mercy-Kenya Province at that time, welcomed all present to the Celebration which was presided over by Fr. Frankie McAuliffe (St. Patrick’s Society Priest ministering in Nakuru). Special welcome was extended to Carolyne and Jackline who were making First Profession and to the five who would be renewing their vows. She acknowledged the presence of Sr. Marilyn Lacey rsm from the West Coast of the United States who was visiting Kenya and Sr. Debra Campbell – a Providence sister also from the States and working with Catholic Relief Services. Present too was Miss Jacinta Nafula Sikali, a young lady interested in joining Religious life and on a ‘come and see’ visit from Busia-Kenya Uganda border.
In his homily, Fr. Frankie recounted his own association with the Sisters of Mercy in his home town in Kilrush, Ireland which goes way back since the 1940s. In that community, he witnessed the heroic deeds of works of mercy and praised their remarkable spirit of hospitality.
Fr. Frankie also referred to the call and commissioning of Peter in the Gospel. He reminded us that, in that account, Jesus did not have a well laid out theological examination set for Peter. Jesus asked Peter boldly, “do you love me?” He asked that question three times to emphasize the importance of love in His ministry. It was only when Peter answered, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you… that Jesus commissioned him…
“Love therefore” he said, “is the fundamental quality that we need if we are to be followers of Christ and to witness him to the world. It is mercy and compassion embodied”. He also quoted an article by Henri Nouwen where compassion is named as key in spiritual leadership and the first quality he mentions in the passion of compassion is solidarity – that profound faith experience of human sameness. We are one human family…the family of God and he noted the challenges of today where society urges us to be distinct rather that same, more wealthy, more specialized than others, more this, that and the other and the world will recognize and respect us by those standards. The Good news of the Gospel is, that that kind of superiority is an illusion and that our true identity is in solidarity and in service to God’s people especially the marginalized and it is clearly outlined not only in the Mercy Constitution but more importantly in the lifestyle and works of the Sisters of Mercy since its foundation.
Fr. Frankie remembered the Irish life in the 50s when many people where poor and many would never have gone to school were it not for the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers who not only offered free primary education but also a high standard of secondary education at very low cost and indeed free for those who couldn’t afford it and they were many. And even today he said, the same spirit of service to the most needy lives on in Kilrush where Sisters of Mercy live an inspiring witness of love and compassion in action.
In conclusion, he congratulated Carolyne and Jackline saying that it was a glorious heritage that they are heiresses to and we all pledged our prayers and support to them in their commitment.
Sr. Joyce Oluoch
In her brief testimony, Sr. Joyce Oluoch, who has been accompanying the two professed sisters said that they had shown great faith and dedication as witnessed in their mercy apostolate and affirmed that they were ready to make First Profession. Each read their vows and Sr. Liz Fletcher received them in to vowed membership and presented them with the Mercy Cross as the congregation applauded them.
A day like this couldn’t possibly end without cutting the cake after a lovely meal. Sr. Redempta rose to the occasion. She sang and danced her comic ’kata cake’ song and was joined by a group of jubilant sisters.
A series of photo shots took place and sisters grouped in twos, threes or more as they hugged and kissed goodbye until we meet again at the Chapter event due in ten days. Everyone seemed to exclaim quietly in their grateful hearts – thanks be to God!
Selina Mbuli rsm