ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST: MAY 11 – 16, 2014. THEME: Our Dominican Mission in the context of the challenges facing women in Africa

The Assembly which drew participants from thirteen countries across Africa as well as the International Coordinator for Dominican Sisters International (DSI), Sr. Marie Therese Clement OP; the Socius to the Master for Africa, fr. Gabriel Samba OP; and the International Co-promoter for Justice and Peace, Sr. Celestina Veloso Freitas OP, sets as its objectives the following:

•           To deepen our understanding of the situation of women in Africa today.
•           To discover our call as Dominican women and identify ways of responding.
•           To develop a strategic plan of action.
•           To celebrate Dominican women together on mission in Africa today.

The Assembly provided us with the opportunity to listen to the unique experiences of how each Dominican Sister Congregation of Apostolic life is continuing to birth Dominic’s vision of setting the world ablaze with the fire of God’s love in our different locations on the continent, and to offer opportunity to dream and plan together on how we could best fulfill our charism as women preachers, in our continent. 

The weeklong program began with an opening Mass presided over by the Socius for Africa, fr. Gabriel Samba, OP who expressed happiness at the convocation of the Assembly and encouraged us to continue to strengthen our bond for the sake of fostering our Dominican mission on the continent. The continental coordinator, Sr. Faustina Jimoh OP formally welcomed everyone and especially our guests from Rome, the DSI Coordinator, the Socius and the Co-Promoter for Justice and Peace.

There were reports from the Zonal Coordinators in Africa, the Continental Coordinator for Africa, the International Coordinator and the International Co-Promoter for Justice and Peace in which they expressed their successes, strength, weaknesses, challenges and hope for the future.

The Socius for Africa, fr Gabriel Samba also gave a report in which he enlightened the sisters on the governing structure of the Order, his duties as Socius for Africa, the activities of IAOP especially as regards its forthcoming Assembly in Kenya in July. He stressed the need for collaboration among the branches of the Dominican family in Africa.

To aid our deliberation on the theme of the Assembly, there were presentation from fr. Emmanuel Ntakarutimana, OP and Sr. Florence Nwaonuma (Sacred Heart of Jesus, Nigeria) which brought closer to us the reality of injustice in our continent particularly as it affects women and especially in the area of trafficking. Putting into consideration the objectives we had set at the beginning of this assembly, we laid down some focus for the next four years.

Following the invitation of the Master of the Order to an inward journey leading to conversion of self as a way of preparing for the jubilee year of the Order (2016), we reflected on the need to create ‘safe-spaces’ for healing, reconciliation among ourselves starting with the individual sister, local community, congregation and zone.

We had the closing Mass at the friars Convent in Cocody and dinner with the friars after the Mass. It was a beautiful experience of the communion of the Dominican family.

At the end of the Assembly, Sr. Marie Therese and I had the privilege of visiting the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation in Quagadougou, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Our visit to these communities resonate our desire to be family, to carry one another along so as to ensure that no Dominican Sister on the continent of Africa lives or work in isolation.

In conclusion, the Assembly was altogether a success because not only did it fulfill the objectives we had set at the beginning, it also gave us a clear focus for the next four years.

(28 May 2014)