On Saturday 25th January 2014 the road to Namwala saw some Religious Sisters of Charity travelling for what was to be both a joyful and sad occasion. After fifty three years of faithful service to the people of Namwala the parish was saying farewell to the sisters and the sisters were saying farewell also.
The heavens wept in sympathy with all. One Sister of Charity, on arrival in Namwala, was heard to say – “I cannot believe I am here”. Having spent many happy years on the mission there she was sad at the prospect of no Sister of Charity presence there but very grateful to have the opportunity to be with the people and to thank God for what He had done through the Congregation in Namwala.
The south of Zambia suffers from a lack of rain and on Sunday, the day of the celebration, you would not believe that was possible. The heavens opened and as we often say in Ireland “it rained cats and dogs” - “it bucketed down”. The land and maize crop needed this rain but we all hoped that by 10.00 hours, when the Eucharistic celebration was due to begin, the rain would have eased off to allow people to make their way to Church. In spite of the rain they did.
Fr. Kennedy Sitameki (Parish Priest) welcomed all and said how fitting it was for the Religious Sisters of Charity to be there to pray with the people of the parish on that day. The Eucharistic Celebration was full of joy and thanksgiving with the choir in full voice and the Stellas (young liturgical dancers) and the Goretti girls putting their hearts and souls into the dancing. A very moving moment came during the thanksgiving hymn which was about the sisters in Namwala and their contribution to the life of the people.
Following the Eucharist the parish hosted the sisters and invited guests to a celebration in the hall. This was attended by His Royal Highness Chief Mukobela, the District Commissioner, Fr. Joseph Simweleba, the representative of the Bishop, and guests representing other aspects of life in Namwala. A short history of the presence of the Catholic Church and the sisters was shared with all present. We too learned something new about our presence in Namwala. The Sisters of Charity are highly respected by all and this came through many of the speeches, poems and sketches in the programme that afternoon. The sisters never side-lined people because of denomination, all were welcomed by them. The Sisters were referred to as “our mothers” who taught us love, patience, hard work. This was done not so much by words as by actions, the sisters exemplified dedication to work and commitment.
His Royal Highness spoke highly of the Sisters and was saddened by the news of the imminent departure of the Sisters of Charity from his Chiefdom. However, he wished all God’s blessing and asked all to pray earnestly to God for help to fill the “vacancy and vacuum” left by the sisters.
The District Commissioner spoke of the difficulty there is for us all in parting from those we know, love and respect. But our ways are not God’s ways. The time for departure has come and who are the people of Namwala to hold the sisters, to prevent them from doing God’s will. January 2014 is a transit point for the Sisters – the Congregation has a Vision, a Mission and that must continue. His hope and prayer was that another Congregation would come to Namwala. He pointed out that in fact “We meet to part and we part to meet”.
The event was both joyful and sorrowful – saying goodbye is never easy but we know that the people of Namwala hold the Sisters of Charity close and the Sisters carry with them the people of Namwala and the experiences that they had there.
The Sisters left Namwala on the 30th January 2014.
To view some photos of the day click HERE.
Sr. Margaret Mary Chileshe’s Speech at the farewell to the Sisters of Charity in Namwala.
On behalf of the Religious Sisters of Charity of the Zambian Region and on my own behalf, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for having given us the opportunity to work in the Diocese of Monze and in the Chiefdom of Namwala. It was a great joy for us and a privilege to have in particular worked in the field of Education at both Primary and Secondary level, to have engaged in Development work for both the youth and in skills training for adults, to have had the opportunity to do Pastoral work among the people in villages and compounds and also to have given our services in Health delivery in Namwala District Hospital. We were glad to express our Charism of service of the poor and under privileged in whatever form it took. We served in Namwala from 1960 which gives us a period of 53 years of dedicated service to God’s people, 53 years is a lifetime.
As we look back we thank God that we did try to bring some comfort and consolation to the people in all kinds of need but especially the sick and vulnerable. We considered education as one way of trying to empower people to move away from the poverty line and improve their status in life so we advocated for education at all times and encouraged the children to value education.
We are grateful for the good working relationship we enjoyed with the Bishop and all his predecessors in the Diocese. I would like to acknowledge the acceptance we got from the people all around. For me the love and acceptance of us was demonstrated when His Royal Highness personally called me and expressed a wish to have an audience with me. When I met him with some of his Headmen and one Headwoman I was deeply humbled when His Royal Highness spoke of how our Sisters throughout the years had worked and given of themselves whole heartedly for the poor and most vulnerable. They had become identified with the people.
The concern of the chief was, “Who will take care of us? Who will walk with us now? Who will care for our orphans?” I can only say that when God closes a door He opens a window. So it is my prayer and wish that some other religious will come to work here soon.
I would like to acknowledge all our sisters who worked in Namwala from its inception to the present for their commitment to the people. May I ask some of the sisters who worked in Namwala and are here today to stand so that we can see them and thank them. My very sincere gratitude goes to Sr. Caroline Muhau and Sr. Francisca Mutelo who are the last sisters to work here in Namwala. We acknowledge that it must be very hard for them but sometimes certain decisions are inevitable. We have decided to leave Namwala having been enriched by the rich culture that we found among you as we interacted with you. We thank you for this and beg your forgiveness when we perhaps hurt and caused you pain though at times unknowingly. As we go we promise to pray for you and we ask you to pray for us too. We also thank you most sincerely for this very good send off that you have given us.
God bless you.