Blessed Emilie Gamelin brought Marie-Thérèse Gnamazo back to the United States from Rome and Cameroon to enter the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province, as a candidate. Since she was introduced to the life and legacy of the foundress of the religious community during a Come & See experience in 2008-2010, Marie-Thérèse has felt drawn to her example and her passion for the poor.
“I welcomed the Come & See as a time to pray, retreat, and to ask God to tell me what he wants me to do to help my people,” she explained. “I fell in love with the charism, to serve the poor.”
She became a Providence Associate before she went back to Cameroon, taking the spirit of Blessed Emilie with her as she began projects to help the poor and the orphaned. “It was a challenge because I had a lot of projects in mind, but no resources,” Marie-Thérèse recalled. “I asked our Provident God to take care of that. I did not know where to find the money to do it, but I thought of Mother Gamelin and her basket. I asked her to put something in this basket every time we had a need, and I can tell you that our basket was never empty. We received a lot and it was, for me, very significant: Providence of God – Mother Gamelin’s presence.”
Founded organization for African relief
When she was in Seattle she founded an organization called African Solidarity in Action. Once in Cameroon, step by step she began helping students and asking for help from others. When she returned to the home where she grew up, she became a blessing to her community by providing one of life’s most precious gifts: clean water. It was a big job to build a well 70 to 80 meters deep, but the result was well worth the effort to the 2,000 people who use it.
“Water is important, especially for the children who become sick from unclean water,” she explained. Support for the wells, now three of them, led to tuition support for students in nearby schools (at least 33 students now) and to construction of a small clinic. Donations came from Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates and from friends in Europe, including Rome, where she had worked as a secretary. Providence General Superior Karin Dufault, surrounded by singing and dancing children, tried her hand at pumping the well when she visited Cameroon in 2013. The mayor of her village of Lomié sent his thanks and appreciation to the sisters.
Marie-Thérèse said her ministry was a very good and satisfying one, and she was living with the charism of the sisters as a Providence Associate in Italy and Cameroon. “But God was asking me to do more, to give my life as a consecrated religious with the sisters.” After prayer and discernment, she wrote a letter to the Sisters of Providence, letting them know she was ready to come back. “The answer was positive,” she said with a smile.
After obtaining an R-1 visa, Marie-Thérèse moved to Seattle and was received as a candidate for the religious community in a simple ceremony at St. Joseph Residence on May 19. “This time of closer relationship with the sisters allows a woman to be free to hear at a deeper level how God is calling her,” said Provincial Superior Judith Desmarais.