Tazama…look at these happy faces!

By Sr Mary Ignatius C Aquino OSB

Sister Ignatius, who has written before in these pages, tells of her experience in forming the first Tanzanian members of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. This congregation, founded near Munich, Germany, opened missions in the Philippines and in Tanzania in 1906.

Seven years as a formator at Ndanda Priory, Mtwara, Tanzania that came swiftly to a graceful end. I came on 13 June 1995. I noticed on my arrival from Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of this East African country, that it was like an oasis in this dry, hot and bushy village. This area has been under the jurisdiction of the Benedictines since 1906. Both Benedictine monks and the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing work here. The Ndanda Mission has provided health care and educational development throughout Tanzania through its large hospital and secondary school and a housing complex for doctors, teachers and staff.

Most of the Sisters in Ndanda are Europeans in their 60s, 70s and 80s. It took almost a century to open the door to Tanzanians. Since 1995 we’ve had seven Junior Sisters from the Ndanda Priory Novitiate. Their radiant, happy faced added to the joy of the First Profession of two novices on 12 October 2002.

Formation is a gradual process of transformation into Christ. As I look closely at those faces, including my own, I am delighted at the marvels the Lord has done to our young Sisters and to me. We started like children learning to walk, I in a foreign land and they as beginners in the ‘School of the Lord’s Service.’ It was our Lord Jesus Christ, the Formator par excellence, who led us all along: in sickness and in health, in poverty and in abundance, in failure and in success, in losses and in gains, in tears and in joy. Yes, God accompanied and loved each of us all the way through.

Leaving Ndanda Priory, my heart is full of peace and happiness as I see the seven young Tanzanian Junior Sisters ready and joyful in committing themselves to our Missionary Benedictine way of life. With these seven seeds that have sprouted and are gradually unfolding into what God has intended, we go forth to draw all peoples towards God as we pray, live and work in common.

My missionary service continues in Los Toldos, Argentina. This assignment evoked in me an awesome wonder as the thought of going to this South American country had been lingering in my mind in Ndanda. One day, while I was at Chem-Chem, a water spring, I said to one of the novices, ‘My next foreign assignment will be Argentina.’ When Mother General Irene Dabalus OSB, the first Filipino in that post, subsequently missioned me to Los Toldos, I felt as if a mysterious event had happened to me. May I faithfully live this mystery!