"No stress, God is not complicated."
On 28 September 2019, Marie Koundouno, a young woman from Guinea Conakry, made her first profession which took place at Tambacounda Cathedral Senegal. Over four years, she gradually trained in the religious life of the sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy. Like the Virgin Mary, she answered "yes" to God's project for her by her profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, according to our rule of life. Mary grew up with the desire to be a religious sister since she was a child. Enthusiastic and dynamic in all she undertakes she has revealed her aptitude for our religious life. Her love for Christ and for the Church, has been shown in her various parish commitments such as in the choir, in the group of readers, with scouts, guides and other parish activities. Marie arrived in Senegal on November 10, 2015 and from then on, she matured in her response to the Lord's call. The path was not easy for her, but she stood firm in her desire to be a religious sister, despite the trials and difficulties of learning about and living in another country and in religious life too.
Marie’s spirit of endurance and perseverance has deep roots in her upbringing in the Catholic Church in Guinea Conakry. In the book written by Father Vieira, a Spiritan missionary in Guinea, entitled "The Catholic Church in Guinea tested by Sékou Touré,” we read:In Guinea, during the relentless "reign" of President Sékou Touré - from independence in 1958 until his death at the end of March 1984 - the Catholic Church experienced its most severe ordeal since the beginning of evangelization in 1875. Sékou Touré had kept anti-Christian prejudices from his formation in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, where he was encouraged by a number of anticlerical intellectuals. Added to this was a strong nationalism and an exaggerated sense of African dignity. For such leaders, the Church was a "remnant of colonialism". Also, the European missionary was considered an agent of a colonizing country eager to perpetuate its domination. Gradually, Catholic Action movements such as schools, Catholic broadcasts etc. were abolished.
The Church then had to renew her pastoral practice through teaching the catechism and the liturgy to the laity. Above all, it strived to train as many lay people as possible as catechists and leaders of small Christian communities. At the end of 1967, Guinea expelled all foreign missionaries so the laity had to take over as best they could in the circumstances.Marie's parents lived through this experience and succeeded in passing on a deep and strong faith to their offspring.
How then did this Guinean girl arrive at the sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy when we as a Congregation are not present in her home country Guinea? It was through the apostolic radiance of our brave missionary sisters who cared for people and children who fled from Guinea. One example is a Father Sebastian, who is now a Bassari priest from Guinea living in Senegal. He fled the dictatorship of Sékou Touré when he was a child with his family. He found himself at our boarding school in Kédougou, Senegal, where Sr Marie Pascale was headmistress and school teacher there too. The young Sébastien was greatly impressed by Sr Marie Pascale and has never forgotten her support and kindness to him. So, years later when his young parishioner Marie shared with him her desire to be a religious, he spontaneously directed her to our Congregation. It was to Nianing at the Inter -noviciate of us Sisters of St. Joseph in West Africa that Marie arrived for her novitiate formation. During her formation years there she fully experienced and responded to what was proposed to her: initiation into the spirit of St. Joseph, learning about fraternal life in community, detachments and about our vowed life to God. Mary and her companions opted for a most positive approach to their formation "No stress, God is not complicated!
"Take my life, I give it to you. Into your hands, O Jesus, I abandon myself to your love; Lord Take my life, I give it to you." These are the words of the Thanksgiving Song sung by Marie and her companions during the ceremony. The example of Sr. Marie Pascale led Sr. Marie to our Congregation. As the saying goes, "there is no such thing as chance." Sr. Marie is to be sent to Kedougou for her first mission appointment in our Region. So, Sr. Marie is following in the footsteps of Sr. Marie Pascale, Sr. Marie Dominique, Sr. Marie Alphonsa and so many others who committed themselves to following Christ in our Region.
She will assist Sr. Fidelma with the care of the girl boarders of our school. She will also be very active in the parish activities too such as catechesis and the pastoral coordination of young people in our Kedougou mission. It is a great joy for us to see a young sister of Saint Joseph at work who is really happy to serve the Lord and our dear neighbour. We give thanks to God with Sr. Mary, with her family and with all the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy. Magnificat!