The Regional Meeting of Nuns in Africa Held at Nairobi

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Prioresses and Delegates of Dominican Nuns in African
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The prioresses and delegates of the Dominican nuns of Africa met at the monastery of Corpus Christi in Karen, Nairobi, Kenya, from 16 to 23 September 2013 for their regional meeting held every three years.

These were: Sr. Therese Claire and Sr. Mary Agnes – the prioress and delegate of St. Dominic Monastery, Bambui (northwest Cameroon), Sr. Mary Anne and Sr. Mary Martin, from the host monastery of Karen (Nairobi), Kenya, Sr. Margarita and Sr. Imelda, delegates from the monastery of Our Lady of Peace in Rweza (Burundi).  The monastery located in Senekal, South Africa for almost thirty years recently transferred to the Diocese of Kabwe in Zambia.  Though they are still in the process of foundation and dependent on the founding monastery of Karen, this new foudation was represented by the vicaress, Sr. Joyce Gabriel, along with Sr. Monica, in her capacity as Coordinator of the UMAOP (Union of African nuns of the Order of Preachers) and Representative of Africa on the International Commission of Dominican Nuns.

The prioresses and delegates of the two monasteries of Angola, the monastery of Toumi in western Cameroon, the monastery of Douala and the newest community in foundation – in the Diocese of Dassa-Zoumé, Benin (a foundation under the auspices of the Monastery of Burundi) – could not make the trip to Nairobi.  Brothers Brian Pierce, OP, Promoter General of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers and Gabriel Samba, OP, Socius of the Master of the Order for Africa, also took part in the meeting.

The objective of this regional meeting was threefold: to review the life of Dominican monasteries in Africa, assess the formation program agreed at the last meeting in Bambui in 2010, and reflect on the future of Dominican monasteries in Africa.

The Master of the Order of Preachers, Brother Bruno Cadoré, OP, sent a message to the nuns that was read at the beginning of the meeting. The nuns have reaffirmed the need, importance and urgency of a strong initial formation and formation programs for the African monasteries. Two nuns from the Kenyan monastery, both of whom presently study outside the monastery, shared the experience of  this opportunity to deepen their formation as Dominican nuns.  Brother Brian encouraged the nuns to seek formation opportunities that could bring monasteries together for the benefit of all the nuns of the region, and to minimize costs.  Two proposals for ongoing formation were presented: one would be a scripture formation course offered by two apostolic Dominican sisters from the USA, and the other idea was to combine a course on writing icons (offered by Sr. Toni Harris, former Promoter of Justice & Peace) with a workshop on economic development for the African monasteries.  The nuns finally decided to design a course that would focus on formation in leadership, iconography, and project development and fundraising. The formation will take place next year in Bambui, Cameroon and the coordinator of the region will contact sister Toni for the arrangement.

Brother Brian also talked about the Dominican University online DOMUNI as an excellent ongoing formation opportunity for the nuns. The idea was greeted with joy, and yet at the same time the sisters expressed their limitations, due to the lack of quality internet connection in their monasteries. Both the Promoter of the Nuns and the regional coordinator invited the sisters to strengthen the links between the different monasteries in Africa, by participating in the regional meetings, paying their annual contribution, and by implementing the decisions agreed upon at the regional level.  Brother Brian congratulated them on the criteria and procedures that they have put in place for the use of their funds.

Finally, there was a sharing of ideas regarding the Jubilee of the Order in 2016, marking the 800th anniversary of the confirmation of the Order by Pope Honorius III.  In view of this celebration, each monastery is encouraged to write its history and to send it to sister Barbara Beaumont (SHOP, in Fanjeaux, France) for publication.

As Sr. Monica arrives at the end of her six-years term on the International Commission of Nuns, and as regional coordinator, the nuns thanked her for her service and have also sent three names to the Master of the Order for the appointment of a new Coordinator and Representative of Africa.  They elected sister Mary Martin of the monastery of Karen as the new bursar of the region, to replace sister Therese Claire of the Monastery of Bambui who has concluded her tenure. And finally, the assembly requested that Brother Gabriel Samba make contact with the monasteries of Douala and Rweza to speak about new possibilites of collaboration between these two monasteries.

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Fr. Gabriel Samba, op

(30 September 2013)