Golden Jubilee of F.M.S.A. in Nakuru, Kenya
Saturday March 19th 2005 marked a day of joy and gratitude, for us as F.M.S.A. The day provided another opportunity for us as a Congregation to remember sisters, past and present, colleagues and friends who had journeyed with us over the last fifty years of ministry in Kenya.
Many years have passed since the Kiltegan Fathers invited Mother Kevin, our Foundress, to come to Nakuru area, which was at that time part of Eldoret diocese. As young sisters, the names of the places our sisters ministered in, such as Kiminini, Nyabondo, Molo and Nakuru town, were as familiar to us, as those of towns in our own countries. Since 1955 we have been involved in ministries as diverse as various areas in the medical field, the different branches of education, social work, prison ministry, pastoral ministry, and in more recent times, a ministry with children living on the streets, or in the remand home. The sisters also visited, and continue to visit, the sick in the parish and reach out in love and compassion to whoever came to them. Now we are involved in the care of those sick and dying of various diseases, particularly, HIV/AIDS, through the Love and Hope Project.
So it is with joy and gratitude that we congratulate the many sisters who eagerly and enthusiastically responded to their missionary vocation in this part of Kenya. Many of these sisters have been called home by our God and are enjoying their reward, and others, older and frailer, perhaps, still pray each day for the needs of Kenya.
On March 19th 2005, a Eucharistic Celebration in Christ the King Cathedral, Nakuru had as it's theme 'remembrance for the past, gratitude and thanks for the present with a vision in hope and trust for the future.' Some sisters have generously given us memories of these earlier days and beginnings in Nakuru Diocese.
'In 1954, Mother Kevin negotiated with Fr. Dunne, a Kiltegan priest, to start schools in Kiminini and Nakuru. This latter was St. Joseph's Primary School. It was mainly for Catholic children of African, Seychelles and of mixed parentage. Sisters Vincent and Christina were appointed but had difficulty in finding a sufficient number of trained teachers. So the standard of education was not high. I (Sr Perpetua) was appointed as Headmistress in January 1961. Fortunately, I had contact with trained staff - a Mrs. Parson, from Scotland, two Graduate teachers, some volunteers from the American Peace Corps and an English V.S.O. Also Mr. Singh who taught football etc. for the boys.'
Gradually, the standard of the school improved and the intake of pupils increased - Asians, Muslims, and British. During the 60's the pupils did well in exams with Drama, Art and Singing - gaining first prizes. After completing Primary Seven, many young pupils had no access to Secondary Education, as these schools were few. We therefore set up a Secondary Form I and II -building the classrooms behind the Primary section. Fr. Prunty negotiated for a Catholic Secondary School. This was built on the premises next to the Primary School. With the help of local benefactors and money from Miserior, plans were complete and Sister Leonie took over the running of the new Nursery School.
Sr Enda writes......... 'I joined the staff of St. Joseph' s Primary and Harambee Secondary School in September 1974 and remained there till 1980. The last 3 years I spent as Headmistress replacing Sr Cosmas. The Municipality then took over the responsibility of appointing an African Headmaster. We had African, Asian and few European pupils in St Joseph's. The staff was mostly African with a Sikh deputy for many years - Jagir Singh.
Many of the students belonged to different religious denominations -Catholic, Protestant, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, etc - This did not create difficulties. The experience was mutually beneficial. Other sisters formed part of the school staff; Sr. Cosmas as Headmistress (1973-77) as well as Srs Paulina Codd, and Paul Therese sharing their many gifts and talents.'
Elimu Nursery School started approximately 1972-73. The local people built school buildings with a
small donation from Miserior. Sister Leonie was the first sister in charge of Elimu Nursery School assisted originally by five local staff. The increased to twelve teachers and eventually there were seven classrooms to cater for children from 4-6 years. Sister Leonie handed over the running of the school to Sister Isabel L.S.O.S.F. in 1979.
Sr Christina comments:
'The school was started by the Kiltegan priests, but the teachers were untrained and the children mainly Secychellois. Sister Vincent and myself started at the beginning of 1955 and we had to make do with very small rooms in the church compound. As the school grew I taught in the garage on to which we attached a kisikatia extension. Sr Vincent tried using our dining room but that didn't work, as the wind blew the blackboard through the door. She made a makeshift classroom outside. We worked very hard outside school hours and ran fetes to raise funds for a new building. The then European community helped us a great deal and in 1957 we moved into St. Joseph's School. The Indian people also helped us financially.
I taught in grade one in the mornings and helped the teachers with teaching methods and taught standard seven, geography and other subjects in the afternoon. Sr Vincent taught standard seven and also the church choir. We had untrained teachers who required help with teaching methodology. Perpetua came in 1961 and a few years later, the Secondary School in 1969 was begun.
Sr Gonzaga helped in the school and was also superior in the convent. Altogether, 1 was in Nakuru for 14years and enjoyed teaching there.'
Sr Teresa Rafferty's account of her time In Molo: reads:
'In December 1975 I made my way to Molo, which was not new to me, as I had visited many times since 1959. At that time the sisters were living in a wooden structure until a convent was built under the direction of Fr. Brian Cunningham S.S.P. and Sr. Regina F.M.S.A. Molo in 1975, comprised of, Mt. St. Mary's Primary and boarding school, a nursery and Mt. St. Mary's Secondary School. The Secondary School grew out of what was called Harambee - Self-help schools. There were only two types of schools at this time, Government and Harambees. The parents of the girls collected money and built the school. The hope was that eventually all would become Government funded schools. By 1975 the school was fully government and quite a few extensions had been added; a Home Science building funded by overseas donors; four new classrooms; an administration building; a dormitory and two science laboratories. A sponsored walk helped fund the science buildings!
There was tremendous co-operation between the staff and students and there was a good teaching/learning environment. This was a happy and satisfying time for all of us involved in Mt. St. Mary's. Today, Mt. St. Mary's Secondary School continues to flourish, in the capable hands of The Little Sisters of St Francis a Congregation of African women founded also by Mother M.Kevin.'
Editor's Note: We can congratulate these valiant women, and stand in awe and admiration as they recall those early days. It is a privilege for us to dip into their personal memoirs, and pause in such hallowed spaces.