Lagos (Nigeria) On November 15, 2019, the new community consisting of three FMA made their official entrance into Lagos, inaugurating the first FMA presence in Nigeria.
This is the interview of Sr. Dieudonne Jean-Luis of Haiti, who is in the West African Province, Mother of God (AFO) since 1998. Like all the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, she works in the Salesian mission, in the Professional Centers, with children, and in Youth Pastoral.
The first presence of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Nigeria at Lagos. What were the preparatory steps to accomplish this?
It is a joy for me, for the FMA Institute, and for the Province to be able to found a community in Nigeria to bring the Good News and to spread the Salesian charism. The desire to open a presence in Nigeria is a project that the Institute has carried in its heart for a long time and it has been accomplished today. For various years, the sisters studied the project, solicited by Mother General, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, due to the requests received from the Bishops of Nigeria. In recent years, we made various visits and held meetings in this Nigerian land to discern God’s will and be able to open this mission, looking for the best place in which to locate the community.
Since it is an extremely vast and complex nation, many small steps were needed for the discernment. This year, I took part in four ‘missions’ in Nigeria during which I was able to meet the Archbishop of Lagos, our Salesian brothers, and the pastors of some parishes. At the end of the fourth Mission, we were able, with the help of some people, to decide to begin this presence in Lagos, awaiting the exact place in which it would be definitively established. Our presence will be a very simple one, a small community of three sisters: Sr. Teresa Fernandes from India, Sr. Justina Egbedike from Nigeria, and myself. The house is in an area near a parish so we can participate in parish activities offering our service and continuing to look for a secure place for the definitive establishment.
What will you do at Lagos?
The project foresees two phases: the first phase will be a ‘simple presence’ in the area, in the parish, among the people, in a house like all the others. We will try to discover little by little, the needs of the children and young people of the area, collaborate concretely in the parish, in the youth movements, also offering support to the families in the family spirit and with the richness of the Salesian charism.
The long-term second phase will be that of finding land to build a definitive work. The time in Lagos will allow us to discern what kind of educative-pastoral work to implement in order to respond to the needs of the young people.
The Provincial, in the prayer at the official mandate at the Provincial House, gave you a statue of Mary Help of Christians. What are your sentiments?
A feeling of joy that also Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello must have felt. I also imagined the joy of Mother Yvonne, if she were here, finally seeing a new presence in this land with such a young population. These children have waited for us to come there for a long time, calling us, and now we can remain at their side.
Above all, I feel the maternal Presence of Mary and I continue to go ahead with Her because ‘She is the one who has done everything’, as Don Bosco said, and She is the one who precedes us already in opening paths before us and thus we are not afraid. I feel that Mother Mazzarello and Don Bosco are already in this land and they are calling us. This is why I go with great joy and trust.
Thanks to all the people who have accompanied us thus far, to all those who have shared the ‘missions’. Thanks to the Salesian brothers who have accompanied us from the beginning to now. I think that the first persons who will be happy to see us in Nigeria are precisely the Salesian confreres who have worked so hard so that the project would become a reality. Thanks to the Provincial, Sr. Yolande Kikange and to the Council, to Mother Yvonne Reungoat, who stimulated and encouraged us so that we could take this step. It is a joy for the Institute as well.
Interview by Sister Pascaline Affognon, FMA.