Monday – December 6, 2010
At the Monday liturgy with the Daughters of Mary, the Mass intention was for our delegation and all the Sisters of Providence. The Celebrant and Mother Rosemary expressed appreciation for our friendship and assistance and prayed for our safe journey. At breakfast, many of the sisters came up to us individually to bid us farewell and thanked us for coming. In turn, we expressed our gratitude for the hospitality extended to us. We received special greetings for the sisters who had visited Uganda previously and for the sisters of Mother Joseph Province that the Daughters of Mary who had lived with us came to know. We gathered cards and materials to bring to Srs. Antony and Maria Gorreth, DM. All were pleased that a special centenary celebration had occurred at St. Joseph Residence.
From breakfast, we returned to our rooms and gathered everything up for a 9 a.m. drive to Kampala with stops in Masaka. Sr. Justine arranged for the driver, but when he arrived it was clear that his car would not take all of us plus our luggage. Sr. Justine was able to get one of the Daughter of Mary’s cars and she drove one car. Sr. Jane Frances came with us since she had business in Masaka and Kampala. Down the road, a short distance from the motherhouse, we stopped to visit the home of Mary Emilie Namatovu, who had lived at SJR and left the Daughters of Mary. She has a home where she has cared for 28 abandoned or otherwise distressed children with various physical and emotional problems. She has had as many as 54 children, but reduced the number because of financial pressures. It was inspiring to hear some of the stories of children, now grown, who have been part of her ministry. She remains close to the Daughters of Mary.
In Masaka, we stopped to see the Daughters of Mary general store and bookstore, sang our Providence hymn in the beautiful Mother of Sorrows Cathedral, visited the school where Sr. Justine teaches religion, and then toured the Generalate House. The general superior and council live at the Generalate in Masaka. Sr. Justine toured us through the offices and the lovely grounds that include a large garden of fruits, vegetables and flowers. We were able to cut one of the pineapples and a few papayas and take them with us. We also saw the chicken house and the outdoor kitchen where the wood-burning fire and recessed pots cooked their hot food.
We stopped for lunch in a little restaurant in Masaka. Srs. Justine and Karin went to the post office to mail postcards and to the Internet Café to send Part 2 of our communications. They then joined the lunch, which really hadn’t started yet. Things move at a slower pace in Uganda than in the United States. After lunch, we continued on our journey to
Kampala. On the way, we stopped long enough for Sr. Jane Frances to see her brother, who was working in a shop near the road. We enjoyed meeting him and seeing her delight in seeing him. The stop also provided a few minutes to pick up some mangos that we enjoyed with supper.
The road to Kampala continues to be under construction, with many bumps along the way, so the trip was longer than it will be when the construction is ended. We arrived in Kampala about 7 p.m. and Sr. Justine took us to a pizza restaurant for our supper. The thin-crust pizza was delicious, as was the mango, and enjoyed by all. On the way back to the car, we came upon a street fight. Apparently, a motor bike (of which there are many dodging in and out) and a mini-bus collided and a dispute arose over who was to blame. Sr. Justine successfully steered us past the altercation.
Because the flight to the Cameroon was at 5:10 a.m. on Tuesday, the decision was made to stay at the college and seminary of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, which is about 25 minutes from the Entebbe airport, rather than stay in Kampala as we had at the beginning of our trip. Kampala is about 1-1/2 hours from the airport. We were graciously received by one of the brothers, and shown to our rooms. We said our farewells to Srs.
Justine and Jane Frances and expressed our great gratitude to them. Electricity was going on and off, but we managed to get ourselves settled and showered in between. At 3 a.m. Tuesday, the brother who had greeted us and his assistant were there to assist us and take us to the airport. That is REAL hospitality!
Tuesday – December 7, 2010
The five of us boarded Kenya Air for Nairobi. After a few hours’ layover, we headed for Yaounde, Cameroon. As soon as we entered the door from outside the terminal, we
were greeted by Fr. Emmanuel MBOCK MBOCK, founder and director of Afrique Future, and his undercover airport police friend. The friend gathered each of our passports and returned to escort us past the visa checkpoint and off to get our luggage. With luggage in tow, we headed outside the terminal and there Sr. Jeanne d’Arc greeted us. Her van was able to take all five of us and our luggage! We expressed our appreciation to Fr. Emmanuel and his friend for their assistance and made arrangements to spend the day with Fr. Emmanuel on Thursday.
Sr. Jeanne d’Arc is an excellent driver and dodged the motorcycles and other cars with great skill. We wound our way through town and then proceeded up the Febe “Mountain,” past large homes and resorts, and had a beautiful view of the city. As soon as we started going down the other side of the hill, the types of houses changed, and the paved road turned into dirt road. We cut off of it onto a bumpy dirt road in Febe, a village on the outskirts of Yaounde where the sisters live and minister. Sr. Jeanne d’Arc oriented us to their home and we proceeded to unpack again. The house is used as a novitiate, though there are currently no novices.
We had a late lunch that Sr. Jeanne prepared and then visited, with Sr. Judy assisting us with translation since Sr. Jeanne speaks only French. Srs. Judy and Karin went for a walk up and down the road, with cameras in hand. They saw interesting things along the way, including little children carrying large plastic containers of water on their heads and young girls carrying baskets of bananas on their heads. While it would not be surprising that people suffered from neck problems, we are told that it is not a problem. Strong neck muscles must be developed at a young age. We enjoyed the beautiful flowers along the way.
Sr. Felicite, a candidate, came home from her classes and we enjoyed visiting with her. Among her subjects, she is studying English and she seemed to enjoy practicing her English with us. We were able to help her as she worked on her English lessons. We had a delicious dinner, helped with dishes, visited into the evening and shared how much we are enjoying Sr. Hortense. They miss their temporary professed sisters. After a while, we headed for bed earlier than usual after our travels.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 – Feast of Immaculate Conception
After breakfast, Sr. Jeanne d’Arc took the five of us on a trip to Koudandeng, a small rural village some distance from Yaounde, on dirt rutted roads where our sisters live and serve. The trip there was made longer than usual because when we got closer to Koudandeng we approached a truck that was stuck crosswise. It was obstructing the whole road and left no choice but to turn around and find an alternative road. It didn’t look like the truck would be out of this situation anytime soon. Sr. Jeanne d’Arc managed to get turned around on this narrow road.
Once we got to an area where we saw people on motorcycles, she spoke with them and they offered to escort us to another approach. They were successful and we arrived happily at our destination. At the mission in Koudandeng, we were greeted by Sr. Marie-Rose St.-Amant, superior, and Sr. Pauline, a candidate. We enjoyed cold drinks and visited before going on a tour of the complex, which has several buildings in addition to the main house. There are classrooms, sleeping rooms, meeting rooms, a laundry room, and an outdoor kitchen area. These buildings are used for women wishing a “Come and See” experience and also include the candidacy house. Sometimes it is used for retreats. There is also a meeting room for the Providence Associates, who meet regularly. The associates were meeting the next day to organize their project of beginning a chicken farm to feed the poor. Each associate has adopted a poor family that they assist throughout the year in whatever ways they may need help.
The sisters served us a hearty, delicious meal. We then visited the Providence Health Clinic that is adjacent to the house. This is the clinic where some of our sisters have ministered, including Sr. Marie-Claire Soucy. We enjoyed meeting the nurse who manages the clinic and the lab technician and learning about the ministry of the clinic. We also visited the beautiful church next door to the sisters’ house. The church was shaped like a round hut. We marveled at the beautiful modern stained-glass windows. A previous pastor had come from Italy and imported the windows. We sang together our Providence hymn in French.
After saying our goodbyes, we returned to Febe in order to be home for the 6:00 p.m. Mass at St. Laurent Church, which is just down the road from the sisters’ house. The youth of the parish provided the beautiful and very lively music. The Mass was said in French by the pastor. During the recessional, women danced and sang down the aisle. After Mass, we joined the pastor, Fr. Simon-Pierre, in the rectory, where Sr. Jeanne d’Arc introduced each of us. Then it was home for crepes stuffed with well-seasoned hamburger and also fresh tropical fruit.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
At 6:45 a.m., Fr. Emmanuel came to pick us up with his driver and the communications director, Marie-Joseph Mballa. Off we went to a remote village in the bush in Ngodi-Si. Once we left the main road, we traveled about 14 kilometers on the same kind of dirt rutted road we had traveled on to get to the Koudandeng, though the road was much narrower. The road and the many small bridges were built by Afrique Future. About 275 km of road paths and more than 100 bridges have been created to bring development to villages and to permit villagers to have access to town markets and sell their products. The Emilie Gamelin Mission Fund has provided support to Afrique Future.
Once we got to the Ngodi-Si Deo Gratias complex, we were greeted by all the pre-school, grade school and high school students and faculty – about 500 people – standing in formation outside and singing an English welcome to us. When Srs. Barbara Schamber, Maureen Newman, Alice St. Hilaire, Lynn Chappell and Mrs. Chappell were there in 2001, Sr. Barbara laid the cornerstone for the grade school. Quality education is seen as an essential tool for the Africa of tomorrow.
The complex has grown significantly since then. The students sang their national anthem for us in English and then in French, and sang some of their traditional songs. A few children recited poetry. We were introduced to each of the 30 faculty members and told what they teach.
The site manager, Fr. Martin Hott Nkou, prepared an address to us which was translated and read by English professor Samnick and a copy was given to us, He stated:
“The honour is ours having you here again in Ngodi-si as it was on the fourth of February, 2001, when Sr. Barbara Schamber laid the foundation stone for this complex.
“NGODI-SI is located in the center part of Cameroon; with about 350 inhabitants. Since the year 2001, our complex ‘Afrique-Future’ has improved on its own thanks to the Reverend Emmanuel Marie MBOCK MBOCK.
“We have, hence, as far as its structure is concerned, a nursing school, a primary school, a complete secondary school with lower and upper classes, a big health center complex, a big joinery workshop which provides nice furniture.
“We are very thankful for that. Nevertheless, life is always conveyed by obstacles and not willing to resurrect an ancient nightmare, we are struggling to no avail to combat two tremendous problems: water and more housing.
In fact, on the one hand we are facing an urgent need of clean water to prevent skin diseases as scabies and on the other hand to prevent lodging. The latter will help orphans and students coming from long distances (three kilometers) everyday, to be closer to school and to be on time. It will also reinforce our boarding school which is becoming narrow [too small] day by day. More books and computers are also expected for the promotion of global education in NGODI-SI (Afrique-Future).
“For as the Latin thought:
Mens saqna in Corpore Sano (A holy Spirit, in a holy body).
Long live America; Long live to the partnership (friendship) American – Cameroon
Long live Afrique Future; Long live Reverend Father Emmanuel Marie MBOCK MBOCK
Long live NGODI_SI; Long live Cameroon.”
Signed, Martin Hott Nkou
Professor Samnick translated Sr. Karin’s remarks of solidarity and gratitude for the warm welcome following the presentation and program. After the program, we toured the complex. The school provides uniforms, books, supplies and housing. The students come from poor rural families. Houses are provided for the teachers and their families. We visited the clinic and 16-bed hospital, which has no running water.
One of the pending projects is the construction of a water tower and generator for the hospital. Assistance has come from Germany, France and Canada. The carpentry workshop produces beautifully carved doors, furniture, and pews used throughout the Afrique Future projects. The church is named St. Michael the Archangel and holds 1,000 people. The complex includes a 200-seat auditorium, a dining hall, and a spirituality center. We saw where the previous MJP delegation stayed when they were there in 2001. A palm tree plantation and a brick-making project are also in Ngodi-Si.
After the visit to Deo Gratias Ngodi-Si, we headed back to Yaounde. We had lunch at the Retreat and Conference Center where Afrique Future offices are located and where Fr. Emmanuel lives when he is in Yaounde. The lunch (dinner) was served on the veranda with a view of the city. Tasty barbecued chicken and fish were served.
After dinner, we embarked for Emana, a poor area on the outskirts of Yaounde, to see the 80-bed hospital and health center and meet the staff as we toured the hospital. This hospital is better equipped than the hospital in Ngodo-Si, though simple still. We visited a new mother and baby. While greeting the staff members, one woman said her name to Sr. Judy. She was Ann Blandine, who had entered the Sisters of Providence in Cameroon in 2000, but subsequently left as a novice. It was a most joyous reunion with her.
From the hospital, we walked up a drive and were met by little children and their teachers. A little girl presented Sr. Karin with a lovely bouquet of fresh tropical flowers and offered a sweet greeting. Sr. Karin responded to her and then the children led us to their school, where schoolchildren lined the road singing and forming an honor guard. After everyone was seated, Fr. Emmanuel celebrated liturgy.
The Deo Gratias Emana school complex includes about 275 students, pre-school, grade school and high school. After the liturgy, with its beautiful singing and drumming, a program of entertainment began, with children at each of the levels participating. The program included singing, multiple kinds of dancing, and poetry reading. The dancers managed to get Fr. Emmanuel and most of us dancing with them. It was delightful to be with the children and also to see the devotion and pride of the faculty toward their students. We were provided with a welcome address by the principal. Among his remarks, he stated:
“Our school complex was founded in 2007. Our main purpose is the education and training of human being as whole (body, mind and soul). Our work is based on the following slogan: Be and become. We provide our students with a quality education to make them very helpful wherever they may be so that they can easily start working in the Afrique Future which lays emphasis on quality: good facilities, competent and steadfast, appropriate pedagogical methods that surely develop facilities such as creativity mind, autonomy, respect for mankind, honor, tolerance, love for peace, introduction to Democracy.
“God is the only one able to reward you, for your tireless efforts to fulfill your humanitarian work around the world. For all that you’ve been doing for us and especially for the aid you’ve given us to start our water project, we just want to say thank you and God bless you … .“
We left with very warm hearts after these encounters with students, faculty and hospital staff.
Fr. Emmanuel drove us back to Febe after a very full and rich day learning more about the people and projects of Afrique Future. When we arrived home we met Sr. Aurora del Rosario Herrera, SP, formerly of Bernard Morin Province in Chile, and now a member of Emilie Gamelin Province serving with Caritas in Cameroon near the coast. She came to Febe to meet us. We had a nice dinner with her, Srs. Jeanne d’Arc and Felicite prior to Srs. Karin and Anita leaving for the airport for their 10 p.m. flight to Doula and from there to Zurich, Frankfurt, Washington D.C., and then Seattle.
Srs. Judy, Mary and Jacqueline left the following day for an eventful LONG trip home.
There is certainly much more to tell about our individual impressions and lasting memories, but we can share those if and when you ask us about them. We all took pictures, so we will have those to share, as well. We do hope that you have the idea of our pilgrimage through these communications. We are most grateful for the opportunity and privilege that our province granted us to be able to have the experiences we did in Uganda and the Cameroons. We traveled in your name!
Peace to you all!
Sisters Karin, Judy, Anita, Mary and Jacqueline