The fecundity of the life of a Dominican contemplative nun

la soeur Raymunda Witjes, op

After almost 40 years in Cameroon, Sr. Raymunda Witjes, op, passed away very peacefully on Monday 1 May 2017 at the age of 82 years, after a protracted ill-health. Sr. Raymunda was the last of the six Dominican nuns who set out on the 22 December 1965, from the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Mariadal in the Netherlands for the foundation of a Dominican monastery in the North-West Anglophone region of Cameroon. Yah Raymunda as her fellow nuns of the Monastery of Saint Dominic in Bambui, Bamenda (Cameroon) used to call her affectionately, was buried in the cemetery of the monastery on Saturday 6 May. Her funeral has shown the fecundity of the preaching, contemplation and prayers of a Dominican nun, within the silence of the cloister of her monastery.

Sr. Therese Claire, the prioress of this monastery, gives us her testimony. For the burial Mass of Sr. Raymunda, says the prioress, “there were about 65 priests and 3 Bishops, to say nothing of religious men and women. As for the crowd of lay people, the monastery has never witnessed such a crowd since her Golden Jubilee celebration on 28 December 2015. Although no member of Sr. Raymunda’s biological family could make it for her funeral, she has indeed acquired the hundredfold of another family in Cameroon.”

This was also the case for the transfer of the mortal remains of Sr. Raymunda from the Akum Mortuary, on Friday 5 May. Sr. Therese Claire testifies: “More came to mortuary than I expected, thus there was a whole convoy of cars as we returned with Yah Raymunda. As we approached the monastery grounds I was moved to see the number of people already there.” Then the prioress gives us the details on the celebration of the funeral of Sr. Raymunda in the monastery.

The coffin was blessed in front of the outside chapel, and then opened for the people to pay their last respects to Sr. Raymunda, says the prioress. She goes on: “At 6pm the first vigil Mass, led by the Immaculate Heart choir of Bambui parish, commenced with 22 priests concelebrating with Fr. Cosmas and a big congregation. The second Mass which was at 9pm, had 6 priests with Fr. A. Fondong, a real son to Sr. Raymunda, as main celebrant. The third Mass at mid-night, had 7 priests with Fr. John Berinyuy as main celebrant. The Mass at 3am was taken by our former chaplain, Fr. Clement Pishangu, with 3 priests assisting, and finally the Mass at 6am had Fr. Donatus Capuchin, as main celebrant assisted by 2 priests.”

For the day of the burial, Saturday 6 May, Sr. Therese Claire gives us this testimony: “All was set for an out-door Mass when the sky began to close over, raising tension in all of us. Finally just 15 minutes before Mass our chaplain calls for and we begin to drag everything in. People began flowing in to the chapel and in my mind I wondered, how a little-stream of a chapel could hold this sea of people. But it worked and all in all I believe it is just as Sr. Raymunda would have wanted it. Ironically as we all settled in and the Mass commenced, the sky cleared and there was no rain till late in the afternoon, around 5pm when all our visitors had gone home. In fact, I believe she had to have her straightforward and simple way even in the cold hands of physical death. As we later reflected, Sr. Raymunda would never have allowed her casket to be taken to its final resting place from any place other than that sanctuary in which she had prayed for almost 40 years of her time in Cameroon… All in all, it could only have been the work of God! And the support of so many!”, Sr. Therese Claire concludes.

May the soul of Sr. Raymunda rest in peace and may she continue to pray for us from heaven, for her monastery, for the Dominican nuns in Cameroun, in Africa and in the Order of Preachers. May she continue to pray for peace in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, and for all of us.

fr. Gabriel Samba, op.


(22 May 2017)