Sister Ruthina Francis, dj, tells us about her 12 years of missionary experience in Africa. It was a call that she had not chosen but which she learned to welcome with open arms, to honor the humanity of the African people.
A journey awaits you
In 2010 I got a call from the General Council to go on mission in the Province of Africa. What news!!! I was destabilized in my habits, in my mind, and that for some time because I did not understand. I asked myself questions: “Why me and not another? Will the Province of Africa welcome me? What will my job be? What will happen to my parents? How will I learn a foreign language?” I looked for excuses and could only see the negative. It was a realinner battle that lasted a few months.
I returned however to my motivations for religious life and to the words of our Rule of Life: “We remain available to go beyond the boundaries of our own culture and to “leave”, if the mission demands it… “RV, #19. I reread the letter of my acceptance of final vows in March 2005, written by Sr. Christian Lorcy then Superior General. In this letter, she said: “As you know, making profession does not make us perfect, it is a path which leads us into the unknown…you are entering into a Congregation which has an international dimension…and “displacements” await you, but you know that it is possible to live them”.
I was comforted by the fact that I am not alone in the mission – everything should be done in communion with my Congregation and more broadly the Church that sends me on mission. As it says in the book of Isaiah, (Is 6, 1-2a.3-8), I expressed my availability: “Here I am, send me“. So I left for Cameroon for ten years and then the Ivory Coast for two years.
Going out of oneself
Arriving in Cameroon, I found myself quickly integrated into the Province, but I realized that my mission could not be like before. In order to be the free and joyful missionary that I wanted to be, I had to be converted in order to be a true “witness of Christ“. As Pope Francis says, we must “always be ready to step out of our comfort zone to share the faith.” In this sense, an inner change was important for my actions and words to become fertile and witness of the risen Christ in this “foreign land“.
In fact, it was not always easy to face myself; I had to trust in the Lord especially in moments of fatigue and doubts. I needed the necessary grace to detach myself from everything in order to accept my mission with joy, without doubting. I relied heavily on the support of my Sisters, Daughters of Jesus throughout the world, regardless of their state of life. Their prayers were precious for the success of my mission.
Letting oneself be transformed by the other
A second aspect that completed my mission was the discovery of the richness of others in their culture. These encounters with people awakened my desire to know them better, to discover their way of life, their rites and their ways of being in prayer, their struggles and their faith. I discovered a new identity. The success of my mission did not depend on the means used but in the fact of allowing myself to be transformed in my encounter with the other.That was thanks to our crossed glances on the Word of God, but that without becoming similar to the other.
I like the words of Timothy Radcliffe, OP : One is a missionary “not by what one does, but by what one is” – or rather, by the willingness to allow one’s whole being to be transformed by being in and with others. This transformation by the other pushed me to go further and brought me closer to my own truth, to “look in the mirror“. It is obvious that we are different but united in the family of God and this difference was an opportunity and not an obstacle for my mission. This true encounter strengthened me.
Ma mission dans la Province Afrique parmi les jeunes étudiants, les élèves, à la pastorale paroissiale ou avec les ‘’junioristes’’ était « une aventure spirituelle » forte. Elle m’a beaucoup apporté humainement et spirituellement. Bien sûr, mon pays me manquait, mais j’apprenais à porter un nouveau regard sur les gens inconnus et sur toute la réalité.
Le chant « Christ aujourd’hui nous appelle » résume bien ma mission dans la province Afrique : « Christ aujourd’hui nous envoie, Dieu nous donne sa joie, partez loin, l’aventure est infinie, ses chemins sont amour et vérité ».
Merci au Seigneur pour son inspiration et ses grâces !
Merci aux Sœurs de la province Afrique pour votre accueille et votre soutien.
Sans votre amour je n’aurais pas réussi ma mission !
Sœur Ruthina Francis, fj, Paris, France