Belgian Dominicans join their African sisters

In the summer of 2023, the Congregation of the Dominican Missionaries in Namur, Belgium was merged with the Congregation of the Dominican Missionaries of Africa. The Belgian community that gave birth to the African community in the 1980s had only seven sisters. Sister Clemens Atangayo, Prioress General of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of Africa, explains that this connection is the result of an exchange of evangelization and the Dominican charism.

Jean-Benoit Harel – Vatican City

“We call them moms or grandmas.” Sister Clemens Atangayo laughs at the Namur Dominican Missionaries. From the motherhouse in Kigali, the Friars General of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of Africa is happy to link her community with the Sisters of Namur, which she sees as the fulfillment of a common collaboration.

By 1983, various European Dominican congregations were working in Africa, particularly in Rwanda and Burundi. this “Dominican family» According to the Rule of Saint Dominic, it was decided to found a Congregation for Africa, focused on preaching in all its forms. This is the birth certificate of the Dominican Missionaries of Africa. “In support of the establishment of this new community, the Sisters of Namur were appointed as founders», Sister Clemens explains. With the program, studies for missionary apostolate in schools, hospitals, social work.

Gradual transfer of tasks

The Belgian sisters trained the young African sisters, built the community and accompanied them until 2005. Later, the connections between the two congregations were strong: “On missions, in Rwanda, in the DRC… we were always together to work together. Then, they became very tired and returned to Nammur», says the current Friars General. As Sister Clemens says, the African sisters take over the different tasks of their Belgian elders little by little. “In 2010, we settled in the Central African Republic with the mission of taking care of schools, evangelizing pygmies and maintaining a women's home. But now there is also a day school for girls, so we have intensified this work“.

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Beyond pastoral work, the two congregations help each other. In Belgium, African sisters come to study or receive treatment, but also to help older sisters in the Belgian community. In Africa, the Dominican Sisters of Namur continue their teaching work.

A link requested by Namur Sisters

But in 2018, the Dominicans in Namur called for help, and the number of sisters continued to dwindle. To answer this request, “Our sisters went to Belgium and helped them live, supporting them as they did not have much strength» Sister Clemence Atangayo of Congolese descent explains. Then a connection request comes from the Namur community.

A surprise for the African nuns who had hoped to join the Belgian congregation founded in the 13th century following Saint Dominic. “When we received the request from our sisters, we were initially surprised. We said: ''You are apprentices and you agree to come to us trained''. We thought a little bit» Pioneer General Testifies. The ties that have been forged since 1983 and the same Dominican charisma of the two congregations have facilitated the merger between the two communities.

For the Belgian sisters, after sharing their experience and work, mixing with the Congregation of the Dominican Missionaries of Africa was a continuation of this exchange. It's like a crowd of mothers have come to die in their daughter's arms. “They became like our mothers as we were trained as their little girls» Says the foremost general of the African community.

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After various administrative and canonical complications, the merger will take place on August 6, 2023, the day of the Transfiguration. “Incidentally» Underline the Dominicans of Belgium mischievously. With the pledge of obedience before Sister Clemence Atangayo, the seven Belgian sisters, aged between 87 and 95, joined the 50 Dominican Missionary Sisters of Africa, their six novices and three postulants. “It is a veritable bath of youth» Rejoice former Dominican Missionary Sisters of Namur.

August 6, 2023, during the effective merger of the two Dominican Missionary Congregations.

August 6, 2023, during the effective merger of the two Dominican Missionary Congregations.

From now on, the Belgian home in the district of Salsains welcomes two Belgian sisters and three Rwandan sisters who take on the responsibility of watching over sick Belgian sisters in a retirement home. Sister Marie-Pascal, former Friars General, went to Rwanda as a training promoter in Kigali.

An opening to the whole world

Currently in Rwanda, the DRC and the Central African Republic, the Dominican Missionaries of Africa celebrate the 40th anniversary of their Congregation this year and continue their evangelization work with new missionary momentum. “This connection gave us an open mind. Our mission has expanded; It is no longer just for Africa, but for the whole world. This fusion awakened a missionary spirit within us“.

Novices of the Dominican Missionaries of Africa.

Novices of the Dominican Missionaries of Africa.

The question of diffusion to declining societies is a very hot topic for the European Councils. “Many congregations in France have a majority of members in the south», notes Sister Véronique Margron, President of the Conference of Religious Men and Women of France (Corref). Many questions arise for these congregations at the end of their meetings: “How to think about your company's organizational decision? What is an achievement?»

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Sister Clemens Atangayo's community provides an example of this achievement. With the experience of a successful merger, he encourages communities thinking about their future: “II want to tell other hesitant congregations that all things are possible with God. For the Church to grow, we must have the courage to take a step, dare and risk“.

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