Valerie, the housekeeper of the Sisters’ community in Daoukro, Ivory Coast, was baptised on Easter night. Her discovery of God transformed her life and had a strong impact on the community. Sr Ruthina tells us about her journey.
Durant la Vigile Pascale cette année, Valérie, l’aide-ménagère de la communauté de Daoukro, est entrée dans l’Église du Christ RDuring the Easter Vigil this year, Valerie, the housekeeper of the Daoukro community, was received into the Church of Christ risen from the dead. She received the sacrament of baptism in the Church of St Peter and St Paul with fifteen other catechumens, during a celebration rich in African-style dances, songs and symbols.
Valerie had a personal spiritual experience with Jesus. She is the only one who can testify to this. This touch of God is a real gift for the Church, as Pope Francis underlines: “Becoming a Christian is a gift that comes from on high. One cannot buy faith, but ask for it, yes; and receive it as a gift, yes”. It is a richness that she brings to the Church, a call to new life.
A personal encounter
She tells us her story: “I didn’t know the Church and I fell seriously ill for a while. A woman from the Charismatic Renewal prayed for me and asked me to accompany her to Mass. I was hesitant at first because I had three children and I am not married yet. I thought I was not ready to be a Christian. But the woman insisted that I accompany her.
At first, I didn’t understand anything, but at every Mass a lot of intentions were read out. One day I decided to ask for a Mass so that God would save me, and I was healed. I found a job with the Daughters of Jesus as a housekeeper. When I saw how the Sisters lived, with prayer and their closeness to people, I began to look for this God. I went to Mass more often.
Pope Benedict XVI summed up this encounter in n°1 of his encyclical Deus Caritas Est : ” Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Valerie did not go far to look for God, but heard Him through this “woman of God” and through the meetings with the Sisters. She therefore decided to register for catechesis for baptism.
An adapted way of life
How do you catechise someone who has never been to school? The only way was in her mother tongue, Baoulé. An adapted preparation was needed! This means that everything was done orally, with symbols, life experiences, little stories, images and photos…. In this journey of the catechumenate, she sometimes misunderstood She had mixed feelings, but in all simplicity, she asked us questions to make things clearer for her.
Her journey of learning the Christian life was not always easy but she held on. It took courage and desire! One thing is certain, Valerie was not discouraged, she had a thirst for God, she was passionate about this discovery of a new God who is merciful, full of love and pity. The more her catechumenate programme progressed, the more she thirsted for God, as in Psalm 63, “My soul thirsts for you… because your love is better than life.”
It was a pleasure to see Valerie enlightened as she shared all that was going on in those catechism classes. She often recited the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Act of Contrition, the Ten Commandments in Baule with a certain pride in front of the Sisters. We too, excited by this new discovery, walked with her like the two disciples in Luke 24, 13-25. What a joy!
A new woman
I am amazed at the journey Valerie has been able to make and the wonders God has wrought in her. She takes part in the various apostolic movements in the parish and is still passionate about her spiritual experience. The 18th century song Amazing Grace sums up her journey very well:
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now I’m found,
was blind but now I see…
May the Lord give Valerie the grace to live out fully her Baptism, and to be the light of God for all the people she meets.
Sr Ruthina Francis dj
Daoukro, Côte d’Ivoire