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CELEBRATION OF THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR PRESENCE IN MIKALAYI

Before the D-Day, a conference cum debate was conducted by Brother François-Xavier, a brother of Saint Joseph of Mikalayi, followed by a time of entertainment with a football match between the teachers of our schools and the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. The match ended on a score of one goal to nil in favour of the teachers.
Celebration of a jubilee is surely a time of grace and thanksgiving! We are therefore invited to contemplate on the wonders that God has accomplished through His handmaids, in the not so young mission of Mikalayi, St Joseph. We raise our hearts to you Lord in thanksgiving for the innumerable blessings which we have received without any merit of ours.

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The history of Mikalayi tells us that five missionaries, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, under the guidance of a White Father, Rev. Fr. De Deken, one of the two founders of this mission, left Bas-Congo in September 1893 to head for Luluabourg Saint Joseph, in Haut-Kasaï.

The caravan started their journey from Nemlao, a village near Muanda / Bas Congo, on September 2, 1893, and they arrived at the Mikalayi mission on January 20, 1894 after a long, tedious and painful journey of four months. It was indeed a journey in faith like our forefather Abraham, leaving behind the familiar and known and launching out into the unknown, relying only on the providence of God. It takes courage to answer such a call and risk one’s life for the Lord.

As soon as the Sisters arrived at the mission station, they found a group of hundred girls to teach and instruct and many sick to take care of. That alone summarizes all the activities of the Sisters in that place since then.

Over the years, new apostolates were added to the existing ones: the Lazaret, a place for the incurables and the elderly was founded in 1895; arrangements were made to place orphaned boys and girls in Christian families (1896) and started a dispensary; in 1923 a tailoring school (a sewing school) was built, etc. Education of the girls and the empowerment of women remained at the heart of the Sisters’ mission.

In Mikalayi, the first Girl’s School was begun by Sister Donat Olivier. This is the ancestor of the current Tusadile High School. The SCJMs thus became the promoters of girls’ education in Kasai. The reputation of our Mikalayi Girls’ Teacher Training School had reached all over Kasai. The boarding students were well supervised by the Sisters, who invited them to attend the prayers of the community.

On the medical side, not only had attention been paid to the care of patients at the clinic and hospital, but also to train qualified and competent medical personnel. Thus the nurses’ school (now I.T.M.) has been in operation since 1953. Today, as it was a hundred and twenty-five years ago, Mikalayi still remains the focal point of all the activities, with its important medical training: dispensary-maternity- psychiatric hospital, its health and nutritional centre.

In terms of works of mercy, the Sisters still keep all the works specific to the spirit of the founding charism: welcoming and caring for widows; organized orphanage and education of the youth.

JPEG - 104.3 kb A whole book will not suffice to narrate the story of Mikalayi’ and it can evoke the memory of all those people: Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Catechists, faithful believers, etc. who have dedicated all their energies and lives to the work of evangelization of the region, each one according to the unique gift received from the Spirit.

The Archbishop was unable to attend the jubilee celebrations so he delegated the Dean of the Parish of St Joseph, Mikalayi, to preside over the Eucharist. During his homily, the latter praised God for so many wonders accomplished through our pioneering Sisters; he also exalted and praised the work done by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary to this day in Mikalayi. He said that it was due to their presence and efforts religious life is flourishing in Kasai today.

After the communion, the Provincial Superior recalled the 125-years of the history of the presence of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary in Mikalayi, the cradle of evangelization and religious life in Kasai.

JPEG - 144.8 kb Sister Angelique Dikete, one of the General Assistants, delegated by the Superior General who was unable to be present personally, gave glory to God for so many blessings. She thanked the Sisters for their missionary commitment and the assembly for their presence and support. Finally the Sisters and guests shared a meal in fraternity. Everyone was overjoyed with the experiences of the day.
We were fortunate to have the presence of the Provincial Superior of the Province of Saint Vincent de Paul and a large delegation of our Sisters from Mbuji-Mayi.
We thank the Lord for all His blessings and graces. We entrust ourselves to His Divine Providence.
May He continue to lead and guide us in our endeavours in furthering His Kingdom in this part of the world.

Sister Angèle BENABIABO


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