‘Africa is a martyr. It is a martyr of exploitation over the course of history. I love Africa, because it has so often been a victim of other powers.’

The suffering of Africa is not the only reason why Pope Francis loves Africa. The vitality of the African people fills him with enthusiasm. Both these things – martyrdom and vitality – are present and indeed incarnate, so to speak, in the Daughters of the Resurrection.

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994 many of them were murdered, while others were expelled, their convents looted and burned. In January 1998 six sisters of their congregation were hacked to death with machetes, while a seventh survived with severe injuries.

In August of the same year rebel fighters in Kasika, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo murdered three more sisters, along with a priest and over 70 parishioners. In August 2009, in the same region, the rebels murdered three sisters, a priest and 20 parishioners.

Again and again the sisters were forced to flee, but each time they came back – ‘in order to be with our people’, says Mother Petronelle, their Superior.

No other congregation is quite so African in its manner of suffering, helping and giving hope. The sisters embody the resurrection of Africa in love. They are showing the African people that their homeland does have a future. 

And they set an example with their hard work in the fields. They also help AIDS patients, work in the hospitals and bush clinics, instruct young mothers in hygiene and healthy nutrition, teach them sewing, and care for the little ones in their schools.

In their soup kitchens they feed over 5,000 people daily, saving more than a few of them from starvation. They care for sick and elderly priests, give religious instruction and organise prayer groups. And they themselves pray a great deal – for how else could they be such a source of mercy to others?

Christine, Antoinette, Marie-Josée, Immaculée, Bellancile, Marie-Claire and Léonie – those are the names of the newest novices. Soon they will join the over 200 already professed sisters of the congregation in four countries (Rwanda, Cameroon, DR Congo and Brazil).

Many of them do not have any prior education. With the Daughters they learn a trade and practical skills. They come from the villages, and once a year they spend a few weeks with their families, so that they do not forget the deep roots of their African culture and can at the same time, through their activities, infuse this culture with a Christian spirit.

This year the congregation will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee. The idea of establishing an authentically African religious community came from a Flemish missionary sister, Mother Hadewych, while Father Werenfried, the founder of ACN, helped them from the beginning and is remembered to this day by the Daughters as their ‘Papa Founder’.

Without this constant support and help from ACN Africa would be deprived today of the presence of these more than 200 joy-filled bearers of hope.

This article can be found in Mirror 0216.