CELEBRATION OF THE 60th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SSJA IN KEDOUGOU
We went to Kedougou on Friday 2 December to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the community of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. The premises of the Community of the mission of Kédougou was used to welcome the groups who came from Tamba, Dakar, Nianing, Gambia and Guinea Conakry, with the remarkable presence of His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah. Sixteen (16) women came from Nianing to join Sr Hélène and her family.
A prayer service was conducted in preparation for this great event. During the prayer, we experienced an attitude of deep recollection, we revisited the history of the Congregation, which was performed by the youth of the boarding and the parish, and presented the history of the foundation of Kédougou.
The community of Kédougou, which we are celebrating the 60th anniversary, was founded in december 28th 1962. In short, the two foundresses moved into their small house and immediately set to work. Sister Marie Dominique, a nurse, nursed the sick at the public dispensary and made a few visits with Father Marcel Paravy to the villages where primary health care was urgently needed. Sister Marie Alphonsa, on the other hand, brought the women together in the community to teach them sewing and for family support. The third foundress, Sister Marie Pascale, a teacher, arrived in October 1963 to start the present Marcel Paravy Primary School and the boarding school.
On Sunday,4th of December,2022 at 9:00 am, His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah, accompanied by His Excellency Bishop Paul Abel Mamba, Bishop of Tambacounda and surrounded by several priests, presided over the Eucharist for three important events:
The 60th anniversary of the foundation of Kédougou, 60 years of religious life of Sister Ailbe and 25 years of religious life of Sister Hélène.
Cardinal Robert Sarah Mgr Paul Abel Mamba
Before he begins his homily, Cardinal Robert Sarah greeted and thanked his Excellency Mgr Paul Abel MAMBA, Bishop of Tambacounda, for having given him the opportunity to preside over the mass. He then expressed his gratitude to the priests, religious sisters and the Christian community for the warm and friendly welcome he received. He said that it was a great joy for him to join the sisters in surrounding our beloved jubilarians, one of whom, Sr Ailbe, who was celebrating 60 years of religious life, is a long-time acquaintance and friend. Indeed, it was in 1968, when he was finishing his studies at the major seminary of Sébikotane, that the two of them worked together to help the teams who were travelling through the villages to treat an epidemic in the region.
In his homily he focused on two points. First, he began to speak at length about the Advent season which we are experiencing.
What is Advent? Cardinal Robert Sarah answered this question by explaining that Advent is a time to prepare our souls to welcome the gift of God's love which is Jesus. This time prepares us for the feast of Christmas and helps us to enter into the greatest Christian mystery. This time calls us to perfection, to holiness. We should make our Lord Jesus Christ dwell in us. He emphasises that God is not an idea or a creation but a living person who is helping us like a father. He continues to be demanding of us and that is why he does not tolerate falsehood, hypocrisy. In his exhortation on the dimension of inculturation, he explained to us that inculturation is to make God enter into the depth of one's culture. When God enters into the life of a person, he added, it is to divinize him, to transform him. He became man so that man in turn could become God. At the second point, he reminded us of the following; I quote: "We give thanks to God for the wonderful missionary work of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy since the foundation and for our jubilarian sisters. It is in God's faithfulness that we celebrate all this. As a young girl, Sr Ailbe and Sr Hélène each gave their heart, their intelligence and offered themselves totally for the service of God and his Church". He invited the people of God to fix their gaze on Jesus, the Redeemer, to pray for the sisters and for the priests so that God may bless them and make their missionary work fruitful.
In conclusion, he made his own the words of the second reading of the day: "Lord, I will praise you among the nations, I will sing your name always and forever".
Before the end of the colourful Eucharistic celebration, we listened in turn to the speeches. Our jubilarians gave thanks to God with words full of gratitude to His Eminence Cardinal Sarah, His Excellency Bishop Paul Abel Mamba and to the whole Christian community in these words: "Eminence, thank you, thank you, your presence has touched us; at the time of saying thank you, we feel very small and poor. So we turn to God who will know how to reward and bless each one of us abundantly. The Regional Superior in turn thanked everyone and gave our jubilarians two symbols: the lighted candle, the living flame that has sustained them for 60 and 25 years, and a young cauliflower plant. She said: "By your consecrated life, you both bear witness that it is possible to find happiness in God alone, to love in the joy of service and sharing. It was then the turn of our Bishop Paul Abel Mamba to address the jubilarians.
He addressed the jubilarians with warm words and then the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph "I would like to thank the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph for all the tremendous work of evangelization in the diocese of Tambacounda, especially here in Kedougou with its various members for 60 years. We owe them the beautiful work...".
Forty-five (45) sisters from different provinces and the region have worked and loved Kédougou since 1962. "Kédougou the Beloved"!
The Cardinal then offered gifts to the jubilarians. A picture of the Virgin Mary with the Papal Blessing to Sister Ailbe, a rosary to Sister Helene. He also offered a statue of St. Joseph to the community of Kedougou. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, everyone was invited to share a fraternal meal with the jubilarians.
The day ended with cultural entertainment from the different ethnic groups present in the region: the Bassaris, Bediks, Malinkés and Cognaguis.