Solidarity and sharing with the poor: a prophetic witness to the vow of poverty

Monastery of Our Lady of Peace of Rweza

On 2nd February 2015, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and Day of Consecrated Life, the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Peace, Rweza, Burundi wanted to reflect on the Year of Consecrated Life. Two elements inspired our reflection: the intention of Pope Francis on January 2015 for evangelization, and the solidarity of the Order which allowed the electrification of the Monastery of Our Lady of Peace of Rweza.

"That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious females and religious men rediscover the joy of following Christ and engage with zeal at the service of the poor." Two things caught our attention in this intention for evangelization of Pope Francis of January 2015 namely, joy and the service of the poor. These are two favorite themes of the Holy Father strongly emphasized in his Apostolic Letter to all consecrated on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. Joy is the first expectation of Pope Francis for this year of grace. "Come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries", this is the fourth expectation of the Holy Father who asks us "to work concretely in… drawing near to the poor."

How can contemplative cloistered nuns (with papal enclosure) live that joy, come out of their monastery to go forth to existential peripheries and be close to the poor? For the Dominican nuns of Rweza, the expectations of Pope Francis are realized through the prophetic witness of their prayer life and their vow of poverty expressed into concrete gestures of solidarity and sharing with the poor. Since its founding in 1974 by the monastery of Taulignan (France), the Monastery of Our Lady of Peace, Rweza has always lived in great poverty: modest buildings, lack of electricity, running water, good guest quarters and profitable economic activities. For many years the nuns lived in these difficult conditions, singing the evening Divine Offices with candles or lighting from a few solar panels, very low and of short duration, which damaged the eyes of the sisters to the point that all of them started to wear glasses.

Thanks to the solidarity of the Order (Spem Miram Internationalis and especially the Nuns Fund of the Order), our sisters have finally electricity. What joy! The extension of the connection goes from Gashikanwa center to the main line Ngozi-Kirundo to Rweza on a distance of five kilometers (5 miles). This project, which cost millions of Burundian francs was made possible thanks to the Fund of the nuns managed by Spem Miram Internationalis, the organization for solidarity of the Order. For people who see this and do not know where the money came from, they say that the sisters have a lot of money, the nuns told us. But for the Order and for the sisters, this project is a witness to our vow of poverty expressed into concrete gestures of solidarity and sharing, not only with the nuns but also with the inhabitants of the hill (village) of Rweza.

Indeed, this extension does not benefit only to the monastery but to the whole hill. Among the main beneficiaries there are the clinic and health center that has a laboratory, the primary and secondary school, and the people who are now connecting to this line without paying financial compensation to the sisters. What joy to see this hill once forgotten, transformed today. People's lives have changed. Small businesses now use fridge where you can buy cold drinks, keep meat and fresh fish. Young people open small business (kiosk to recharge cell phones - cyber cafe for the Internet will not delay!). Women will no longer go to Ngozi or no longer use traditional pestle to hull their rice and other grains. In the evening, the main road is illuminated by street lights. We saw this ourselves on February 2.

The nuns are infinitely grateful to the Order, the Master of the Order and the contributions by nuns to the Nuns Fund of the Order. The sisters now have electricity, but they still do not have water, computers for study, neither a good hospice to welcome people in search of silence, meditation and rest. Do not hesitate to offer them again your help for one or the other project.

fr. Gabriel Samba, op


(3 March 2015)