Each mission is a personal story, lived for and with others, so that it can give birth to God – love in the heart of the human being, capable of welcoming and loving Him in our turn.
At the age of 30, I had a ‘baggage’ and thus something to ‘give’ in the mission: my studies, my experience in the educational field and in youth movements, and my conviction that I could give a lot! This conviction to “give a lot” was changed little by little. The person to whom I was sent was the “other” and I had the desire to meet him in his own identity.
After 5 years in secondary education in Sandoa, a large centre in the South West of Congo, I was sent to Likasi (Jadothville) for a foundation composed of four sisters. Three of the sisters were beginning their service in the hospital of the Railway Company. I became involved in the pastoral team of a part of the deanery belonging to the diocese of Lubumbashi. Quite quickly, by visiting places, and by associating lay people with my project, I created a “School of Life” for young girls who did not attend school and who were entering adult life without any preparation. Also, the formation of catechists (fathers and mothers) required special attention and a significant investment of time according to a programme set by the diocese. The work seemed to be enormous but so necessary.
Along the way in this new phase, I strongly felt the lack of knowledge of one of the local languages, Kiswahili. The study of this language was necessary. I moved away for 6 months to live in another congregation of native sisters. Many of the children I met on the street during my walks were excellent teachers who were never afraid to correct me!
This experience of wanting to learn and the desire to gradually make my way towards my mission gave birth to a new conviction in me: the “me” gave way to a space where the “we” was brought about in an environment of proximity, mutual acquaintance and collaboration. It was then that Article 39 of our Constitutions became so real: “we want to approach everyone… ready to learn and to receive as much as to give.”
Enriched by what I had experienced in the African culture and having the desire to keep a certain physical and missionary vitality, I chose to put an end to this mission in Africa but to give it a follow-up in my homeland. What attracts me today is to go and meet people every week who come to the Welcome Centres for support or material help. Our city of Antwerp (Belgium) is full of many cultures and many people know how to add colour to their daily lives by their joy of living, their endurance and their efforts to build a better future.
Sr. Paula Wijnants, fmm
Province: France- BNF