Here in Kiamaina, we are still in a celebratory mood because yesterday, 8th December 2007, the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, I made my First Profession as a F.M.S.A. in the presence of all our sisters in Kenya and Kathleen, Perpetual, Maureen and Lydia from Uganda. Fr. Josephat, O.F.M., from Subukia, was the celebrant.
Perhaps I could give you a brief account of the evening prayer on the 7th. I prepared our community room with a centre-piece with three clay pots at varying heights with lovely light material pouring out of it to symbolize the love of God being poured in our hearts and all of us present at the prayer called to pour out this love into the world. Close by I also had a few cultural symbols, e.g. cooking sticks, mortar and pestle. I had invited Kathleen Hickey to take on the role of ‘auntie’ as in Zimbabwe an older person would give advice to a younger person taking a new step in life! The prayer began with the song, ‘Strong and Constant is my love’ followed by a reading from Exodus 23:20-23, a Call to Fidelity. A prayer of being willing to serve, to speak, to nourish and work for the Lord all the days of my life followed. Using the mortal and pestle, standing and pounding maize in it, Kathleen gave me excellent pieces of her wisdom, experience, and advice for my future, standing on the threshold of my life as a professed Franciscan Missionary Sister for Africa. The cooking sticks of different sizes suitable for different sized pots symbolized that I am God’s instrument sent out to different people and situations and would need to use the appropriate ‘stick’ or response accordingly.
On the morning of the 8th, I was asked to sleep later than the others and was later served a lovely breakfast of sausage and porridge in the sunshine! I felt like a queen! The sisters from Kariobangi and Nakuru arrived and after morning tea and delicious scones and Swiss roll all prepared by Patience, we prepared to celebrate the Eucharist.
Following the processional entrance, Lydia explained the reason for our gathering as Mass began. The singing was beautiful in Kiswahili, Shona, Luganda and English. I assure you none of us will be out of place in heaven with the celestial choir!!
Patience carried the Book of the Gospels accompanied by Deirdre and Ancilla who incensed it. I chose readings from 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and John 17:15-23 with the theme, “I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth” (John 17:19). The Rite of Profession followed - Sr. Lydia asked what I wanted at this point and Fr. Josephat formally examined me on behalf of the Church to ascertain that I was taking this step of my own free will. Later, after the homily, which focused on living the three vows in daily life as a call to service, faithfulness and holiness, I made my profession of vows in the presence of Sr. Lydia, and all the sisters. I experienced mixed feelings– nervous, happy, with a sense of freedom and readiness to do what the Lord was asking of me. Sr. Lydia then presented me with the Rule and Constitutions, the Tau, and a lighted candle after which all the sisters sang the Franciscan Blessing for me. As they sang this I felt the entire Congregation present with me – including Mother Kevin and all the sisters who have gone before me. I signed the document of Profession and then everyone congratulated and wished me peace and happiness. We finished with a hymn to Mary and the recessional was the Canticle of the Sun during which all danced in joy!
Frs. Connor, Michael, Nicholas, Frank and Bill, (Kiltegans) joined us for lunch. In the evening, we had a get-together during which I opened my gifts from all of you. This was followed with much dancing and songs and other items that had us happy and laughing.
I want to thank each of you for being with me as I begin this stage of my life as a Franciscan Missionary Sister for Africa. I thank especially my community for their love and care during the years and for making the day such a happy one. I am also grateful to the sisters in Zimbabwe who welcomed me during my discernment process. Thanks also to all the sisters who travelled to be with me and to all of you who telephoned and wished me well. I am grateful for your presence and your love, which I know, will sustain me in the years ahead.
May the good Lord continue to bless us and let us continue praying for each other.
Back row L-R) Srs Rosemary, Jesinita, Maureen, Kathleen O'Sullivan, Lydia, Perpetual, Teresa, Kathleen Hickey, Mary, Patricia