Prophetic Role of Religious Sisters in Leadership Amidst Multiple Challenges Posed by Covid-19
The Religious Sisters Webinar organized by The Leaders Guild (TLG) in partnership with Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) was well attended by two hundred and ninety-six (296) participants across the globe, precisely from twenty-five (25) countries of the world, namely Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Ireland, USA, Zambia, Algeria, Malawi, Philippines, South Sudan, Srilanka, Malta, Rwanda, Myanmar, Liberia, Congo, India, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Italy.
Webinar Gallery View Screenshot Photo
Wow! From all these countries? Viewed from the faith perspective, Covid-19 pandemic is indeed a blessing in disguise, one that reminds us of our interconnectedness and through technology, we have been able to get together as one family of religious sisters and engaged on how to continuously stand firm and be prophetic in responding to the daily invitation of mission, regardless of the challenges posed by the current global health crisis.
TLG and AOSK partnership focuses on impacting society positively and sustainable human development respectively. The Webinar which took place on 25th July, 2020, was facilitated by Sr. Jane Wakahiu Ph.D, member of Little Sisters of St. Francis (LSOSF), Associate Vice President of Program Operations and Head of Catholic Sisters Initiative at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. In her excellent presentation, Sr. Jane remarked that Catholic Religious Women are bridges, providing avenue for others to pass through especially during challenging times like this.
She powerfully stated that in their prophetic role, religious sisters compassionately witness with love in times of challenge. Quoting Pope Francis, (“People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others”), she affirmed the various initiatives of Sisters as they creatively reach out especially to those at the margins of society. Regardless of the fact that religious communities were equally impacted in terms of many deaths of elderly members, loss of jobs and livelihood, lack of PPE in health facilities, closure of education institutions among others, Sisters have continuously hearkened to the voice of the Master – do not fear, for I am with you; for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you… Is 41:10. With such strength, they have been able to strengthen others which is a sign of hope, for if we hold hands and stand together during this crisis, we are sure to come out stronger.
The African philosophy of Ubuntu was glaring as Sr. Jane talked about partnerships and networks – global Sisterhood; ‘I am because we are’. She stressed that it is high time to start “thinking outside the box to discover income -generating solutions that meet needs for what is relevant in this new COVID-19 landscape”. A strong call to work in collaboration with others resounds here. She called on Religious Women to collaborate with other ministries/sisters/ congregations doing the same work to join together and leverage resources, to position together collectively to engage with other funders, explore partnerships with government, NGOs, faith based organizations and philanthropic community so as to empower and uplift themselves and others through the journey together. With collaboration, neither will the jar of flour be used up nor the jug of oil run dry until the day the Lord brings healing on the land!
I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die … the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land. 1 Kings 12: 12 -14.
In order to achieve meaningful outcomes, Sr. Jane beckoned on particpants to have a positive attitude towards change and to bear in mind that “no change is possible without renouncing obsolete models, so that new horizons and possibilities may arise in … mission” (New Wines in New Wineskins, 2017). In closing, she remarked that we have an opportunity to re-invent ourselves and adapt to the times we find ourselves in, and the aim here is not only to prepare for the future, but to actually prepare the future!
Full of appreciation, participants commended the input of Sr. Jane and expressed that it was indeed an eye opener which helped them to understand the present situation better and how to constructively respond to it. Hence, the ball is in their court to embrace new ways of doing things as Congregations due to the present challenges of Covid-19.
It was indeed amazing to hear testimonies from participants on how they found insights from the Webinar very beneficial. This is practically seen in the very words of Sr. Joyce Kiige- LSOSF (Principal of the Holy Family Basilica Parochial School)- “I head a primary school here in Nairobi and since the closure of schools in March 2020, finances have been hard to come by. The Ministry of Education as well as of Health have given guidelines on how schools must be before January 2021. There’s need to ensure sanitizers and soap dispensers, hand washing points put in place before then. With no funds at hand, this is a challenge. However, Sr. Jane’s sharing gave me some insights on different ways of soliciting funds. I thought it was the opportune time I shared this challenge with parents. I posted my appeal for donations on the school WhatsApp wall and the feedback was tremendous! Parents heeded to my call. Some sent me the money, others made pledges, while some promised to buy the items and drop them at school. Thanks Sr. Jane for opening our minds and inviting us to stretch ourselves beyond the challenge. Thanks Leaders Guild-CLM/AOSK for organizing the webinar. God bless”.
What more can we say? All thanks to God who brought us all together and thanks to our responsiveness to the invitation. Let’s not forget that great things happen when we come together. Never underestimate the power of collaboration!
Sr. Elizabeth Onoja, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (MSHR)
Public Relations & Marketing Officer, TLG