Josefina de Jesús.
Twickenham, March 7th 2022.
My dear sisters and friends:
As you know, the origin of my call to Madagascar was in 2013, during the Third Year. At this time Sister Martine Tapsoba told me: “Wait and pray”, and the approval arrived with Mayi in 2018, when she visited our province in Mexico. I give thanks for the Montpellier’s community who welcomed me for a stage of 1 month to improve my French. I arrived in Madagascar on 16th September 2018.
I was in two communities, firstly, in the Formation House in Fianarantsoa for 2 years and then I spent a third year at Andohanilakaka further south in Madagascar, an apostolic community who work in a school of 1,300 students, from 4-18 years old! I enjoyed the beautiful Malagasy liturgy that is a great gift for our Congregation. In the noviciate, we had singing practice in Malagasy, French, Spanish and a few songs in English each week, I felt a great attraction to international liturgy, which is beautiful, and helps to open us to other languages and cultures. I gave some lessons, including Marie Eugenie and the history of the Congregation, self-knowledge, liturgy, basic Spanish and guitar practice. I discovered the simplicity and openness of the postulants and novices, and their joy in learning and growing in love of the Assumption.
I discovered that liturgical sense and good voices do not only belong to the sisters, because lay Malagasy people also sing very well in the Mass. The songs are very rhythmic, joyful, dynamic. I’ve received a good witness of a young, alive Church, with many committed groups in each parish.
The Malagasy sisters are very welcoming, with many good customs, songs and dances; during my time there, I felt well accepted and loved by all the communities. I experienced among the sisters a good spirit in community, with some difficulties, as is very normal in all human groups. The sisters are generally peaceful. The rhythm of life of Malagasy people is very hard, very organised but very exhausting. I participated in the community work according to my possibilities.
I discovered that many young sisters want to learn other languages, English or Spanish, or to improve their French, and perhaps one day leave for other countries. They are interested in the news of the world and the Congregation; some sisters read the news and share with the others at meals. I want to give thanks for the openness of the sisters to receive us from other countries, with this experience I felt that we belong to God, we are citizens of the world, we cannot leave our own identity, but I think we must be available as much as possible to share our faith and joy with other cultures. Many times, I said: “If I was younger I could….” but immediately I said: “No! God’s time is better than ours, for me it is the time.” That is the truth, sometimes I didn’t understand Malagasy nor French conversations but there is always a little suffering for the foreign missionary.
Our 9 communities are well inserted among poor people because almost all the population in Madagascar is poor, living a poor lifestyle, and we share the same needs: sometimes water, light, etc. I recognise their work outside of big cities, they make the “pastoral en brousse”, among the poorest who cannot study because they don’t have the necessary resources, some sisters have “stages” in these kinds of communities for one week, giving integral formation to girls and boys to learn some practical skills which allow them to earn some money for their families. They are very committed and take on the role of animation in other Lycées or Colleges, this is significant too. At Marie Eugenie’s School in Ampitakely and Saint Joseph in Ambohimansoa, the presence of the sisters and the young sisters as teachers, permit us to make known MMEugenie and our Assumption Spirit , the children are very happy to come to school. It is the same at schools that are not our schools, though the sisters are the animatrices, so little by little the Assumption is known. I was in Saint Vincent de Paul’s Lycee in Andohanilakaka, I could just teach songs in different languages: French, Spanish and few English songs and I discovered their great facility for learning different languages because of the “golden ears” they have. I enjoyed singing and dancing with them very much. Last year in Andohanilakaka we celebrated the MMEugenie’s feast, the 10th March, an extraordinary Mass with the liturgical dances of the Lycee’s students and singing in divers languages, I gave thanks to God for the beauty, the joy to see the students singing and dancing for God, it was fantastic!!! The lunch with the friends, Assumption Together, teachers, parents of families, the Lazarist priests, will be really unforgettable for the rest of my life!!!. I was invited by Catherine to share something about our Transformative Education but, at that moment another lockdown began because Covid increased, and we had to cancel this meeting.
For me it was a beautiful experience of ecclesial communion, the solidarity, the mutual help between the archbishops, priest, religious, laities, among Congregations, because of the “Inters” “Interpostulants” “Internoviciat” I give thanks to God for the Family’s spirit we live with the Assumptionist Family, brothers and sisters over there.
I give thanks to the Lord for the young people who answer with generosity the God’s call in these different vocations.
The sisters work very hard, they do their mission with a great sense of responsibility and a great spirit of obedience. I recognise that I participated according to my possibilities, sometimes I have the impression the rhythm of life it very tough for them.
I liked very much the relationship with the laities of Assumption Together, (formed by our families and the friends) we have many committed people very near to us. Little by little they are going to know and understand our charism and our spirituality, the translation work done by Sister Laurentine (the steps of our spirituality), and M. Marie Eugenie’s biography are very important.
I found the Madagascar Province looking to answer the call from the General Chapter on the level of: Finances, resources, restructuration, priority of formation, etc.
In Madagascar we live the priority of the Congregation about Formation and have joy sending many young sisters’ right now to different countries. All this is a gift for the province and the body Congregation.
Finally, I give thanks to the Lord for this marvellous experience in Madagascar, for his love and fidelity, we can live very happly with a few things, my spirit rejoices to remember many good moments I lived there, I must recognise that Malagasy has not been easy for me, I can follow the Divine Office, I can read very slowly but to understand and to talk has been very difficult for me. But anyway, I think it is very good to accompany our Malagasy sisters; well, I know they are well accompanied by the General Council with meetings and formation by zoom, but I believe that presence is important to continue. If God does not dispose another thing I’ll return to Madagascar for 2 years more, waiting for other sisters to come. Thank you for your prayers, support, and being close to me all this time.
“God leads us, and no wiser and more loving hand can guide our destiny” MMa. Eugenie.
Josefina de Jesus.