St. Dominic Preacher of Grace in Africa

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I want to congratulate all the members of the Dominican order all over the world, particularly in Africa, on the effort each is making to sustain the grace poured out by God through St. Dominic. This gift or charism to know and make known has been with the Order for 800 years and is now beginning to be realized by Dominican women in Africa.  I believe this movement will continue because the Holy Spirit is with us and is working in us.

 Jubilee year as we understand the word is a moment of God’s bounty and it is not a coincidence for us to be contemplating on ‘St. Dominic preacher of grace’ at this time in Africa.

This grace is being spelt out by all branches of our family, the nuns, friars, sisters, lay associates and Dominican youths in our apostolate, prayer life and community/fraternal life.

St. Dominic and his friars went about in villages and towns, preaching God’s grace to the men and women he met. This grace is preached in Africa today in different ways by the sons and daughters of St. Dominic.

Schools are established both by the friars and sisters to ensure that the minds of whomever we come in contact with are enlightened and thus transformed into the mind of Christ. In many rural areas the sisters engage in school apostolate, they do not just teach but they desire that every child should be enlightened. They go the extra mile in begging, looking for scholarships to see that the children of poor families are educated. Many of these children are now in higher institutions, still supported and sustained by the help of the sisters with the collaboration of benefactors, to extend the kingdom of God on earth.

‘Peter do you love me? … Feed my sheep’. The church in Africa is the presence of Christ among his people; she makes his presence visible in Africa. Dominic answered the need of the church in his time as do his children today.

The health centres run by the sisters are located in remote places to afford the poor and less privileged of society to be taken care of.

The sisters go to the villages to bring medicine and to talk to people about how to care for their health and that of their children.  The drugs or medicines are for the most part highly subsidized so that people can afford them.  These sisters strive to bring the healing grace of God to all God’s children.

In our hospitals/health-care centres and schools we are faced with different problems, ranging from ignorance to questions of belief and value systems about which we have to dialogue in the light of faith.

We meet culture and belief that denies suffering and so when people are sick they go to the church to pray rather than seek medical advice, and by the time the sufferer is brought to the clinic he is already dead. We lose a lot of people made in the image of God because of ignorance. We keep encouraging them to see the need of hospital. God can heal miraculously but he still desires us to use the means of healing available to us. The rate of ignorance in health matters keeps us praying for the sick and doing our best to save lives when they are brought to the clinic.

Every soul that comes to us is an avenue to minister the grace of God to this person. Sometimes in the process of ministering to them, we get to know them, their family background, and we follow them up if there is any problem. This offers us the opportunity uplift the faith these children of God thereby restoring them to the eternal Father. The ‘prosperity gospel’ hinders many people from accepting the health care given by the sisters. Their preachers tell them not to seek medical attention because God will heal them; they believe this, and come to us only at the last moment when we can’t do anything to save their lives. A child suffering from sickle cell anemia was brought into the clinic in a critical condition, we had to transfuse him,  but if they had brought him earlier on he would have been taken care of and saved from much pain.

Barrenness and the ardent desire for male children are among the problems that tear families apart. Many couple comes to the clinic desperately hoping for children. In some of the cases we have been able to adopt babies for them thereby restoring joy to these families.

In every difficult situation that presents itself, the question is always ‘What would St. Dominic do if he were present?’  Remembering the various episodes of his grace-filled life, how he sold his books to feed the poor, how he offered himself as a slave, we cannot but be urged to imitate him in becoming ‘preachers of grace’ here in Africa.

 

Sr.Jacqueline Anurukem O.P
Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena
Nigeria