Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions
Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions
2008 General Chapter Document
This year, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions—Religieuses de Notre Dame des Missions (RNDM) celebrate 150 years of their foundation as an international, missionary congregation.
Their foundress, Euphrasie Barbier, a Frenchwoman from Caen in Normandy, had a powerful insight into God as God as God Trinity and, from this she had a great sense of mission. In accordance with this, she founded the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions with the firm conviction that mission has its source in the heart of God Trinity. She urged her sisters to share in the mission of God, to proclaim and live out the love of God in their lives and their ministries.
Since their foundation in 1861, the congregation has spread to 26 different countries and there are almost 1000 sisters working in various areas—health care, pastoral work, education. Some of these are in politically sensitive situations and often dangerous ones. The Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions have as their focus the empowerment of women and the education of women and children. They aim to help women realise their dignity and develop their skills so that they can then provide for their children and their families.
MICRO CREDIT SCHEME
The sisters see empowerment as the principal means of helping people work towards self-sustainability and thus develop their sense of self-worth and dignity. The micro credit scheme is one such means of empowerment. This loan scheme was begun by Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, who realised that the poor needed a hand up to assist them to rise out of poverty.
In recent statistics in Senegal, it was noted that more than 80 per cent of sicknesses are due to lack of hygiene and around 30-40 per cent of sick people who come to the sisters suffer from skin diseases. The sisters have found that an easy way of healing some of these skin diseases is with the use of plant products—including Neem tree leaves and Aloe Vera—which they use in the preparation of soap. They have also made available soap for washing clothes. These soaps have been tested in the clinic and there was a good result.
After the first experiment there were many requests coming in for these antiseptic soaps so the sisters now teach the women how to prepare these soaps. So far two groups of women have been trained, and with a little more guidance, more women will become skilled in soap making. Groups of women who are interested come to the centre and are guided in the preparation of the soap. Hopefully this soap making project and the sale of soap will soon become available to all the villages in the region. This is one of the activities the women engage in, using their micro-credit funds.
Tel Wa Ngai Project
Another major project for the sisters in Kenya is the TEI WA NGAI project—Tei Wa Ngai means Mercy Of God—which provides educational and medical assistance. This project is situated in the Matuu Deanery, Machakos, Kenya. Two Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions manage this centre with a number of staff including medical and nursing staff. They are connected to and collaborate with major hospitals and surrounding village clinics.
The project is for all disabled persons, making no distinction in age, gender or handicap. The key target group is children but some adults who have had no chance of assistance have been included. Support includes assessment of children born with disabilities and encouragement of parents to understand the care they require. In addition, the project encourages families of disabled children to send their children to school. Where parents cannot afford the fees, the sisters find sponsorship for the students.
The Tei Wa Ngai Project has worked with 45 disabled young people who have benefited from an education that has allowed them to be self-sufficient and also has helped them support their families financially now that they are educated and qualified themselves. Although the direct beneficiaries have been the 45 disabled young people, indirectly about 250 family members and their communities have also benefited. This project has helped them acquire skills and some education to enable them to live a dignified life, with independence, in spite of their disability, as well as supporting their families. It brings great hope to these people.
Cosmos Muthama Kikuvi is a success story from the project. Cosmos is 28 years old and the third in his family of ten. He walks with the aid of callipers. He has completed his primary and secondary education but has no vocational training because he lacked fees.
Married with two children, he is the sole breadwinner for his family. He works hard in a small garden and was relying on carrying water for his garden from a neighbouring well. Through a micro credit programme he was able to dig his own well and purchase a water pump. This enabled him to plant timely crops which yielded a better return and so he was able to generate sufficient income to send his two children to school and provide a better life for his family.
Cosmos has taken the initiative to form a group of the parents in the Matuu/Kithimani area so they can access government funding for those with disability. Not content with his own success, Cosmos is using his skills for the service of others.
In their missionary work, the aim of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions is always to encourage respect for the dignity of each person and to provide opportunities for them to develop their skills so as to reach their potential. In doing this, they are helping to create a world where peace, justice and equality prevail.
The congregation will mark the closing of their 150th jubilee year on December 8, 2012.