Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Africa, Part III

Guest blog by Sister Maxyne Schneider, President of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, who is currently visiting missioning Sisters in Africa.

October 12, 2015

During the past eight days as we visited community after community, some small part of Pat's very extensive ministry in the formation programs of both women's and men's congregations became very clear to me. Pat has been retreat director, spiritual director, presenter of programs that have been important parts in the formation of sisters, brothers and priests in many places in Kenya and other countries, as well. The novices, postulants, temporary professed and the now fully professed whom I met spoke with warm affection and great enthusiasm of her.

Pat with Sr. Mary McHale, CCVI, THE CCVI postulants
and the novices from the Franciscan Sisters and Franciscan brothers.

On Saturday, October 10, we were in Molo, Kenya at the very beautiful retreat and conference center run by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (the same congregation whose sisters were good to our sisters in Louisiana). There Pat was feted at two farewell parties. The first was hosted by Sr. Mary McHale, CCVI, the postulants of her congregation, the novices from the Franciscan Brothers and the novices from the Franciscan Sisters. All of these young people had been together for the workshops and programs that Pat led for them over the past year. They included, not just spiritual sessions, but also a workshop on communication and craft sessions on baking, candle making, creating greeting cards and knitting hats and scarves on the circular frames that some of our sisters use.

As we were enjoying refreshments, one after another the young people left the room. They returned as a group with a song they composed for her and wearing or holding the various items that they had created with Pat. They were quite funny, and they clearly loved both honoring her and spoofing her. It was the kind of presentation that people do only for those they really love and enjoy. They presented Pat at the end with a scarf that one of them knitted for her using all the colors of the Kenyan flag.

In the evening it was the School Sisters of Notre Dame, with whom Pat has lived for many years, who honored her and their own Sr. Maris, who is also returning home to the States for good this month, too. Again it was the young congregational members, all natives of Africa, who gave tribute to and roasted both of these women who played such an important role in their formation. It was truly an African party with dancing, singing and much spontaneity. Gifts were given, hugs exchanged, and, as has been true at each place we have visited, I was asked if Pat might stay in Kenya just a little longer.

The novices of the Srs. of Loretto

Today, Monday, October 12, on our way back to Nairobi we stopped at the Sisters of Loretto, where Pat needed to return a book, say farewell to missioned friends, and fulfill a promise to the novices that she would come to say goodbye. One young novice, preparing for first vows in late  November, told me how good it was that Pat had directed her 30-day retreat earlier in her novitiate and how she had hoped that she might be her director for the shorter retreat just before her vow date. She was just one of many, many religious and lay persons who have spoken to me of Pat's impact on them in spiritual direction or retreat. Pat may physically be leaving Kenya, but her influence will clearly live on in the lives of individuals and of congregations.

Some photos will capture a tiny bit of the spirit of these farewell gatherings with some of Africa's congregations' young African members.

Sister Maxyne Schneider

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