As Pope Francis urges religious women in Eastern and Central Africa to serve Christ with an undivided heart, an association of consecrated women in Africa has been doing just that.
Over the weekend, the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) celebrated its 40th anniversary and the 16th Plenary Assembly at Zambia’s Lusaka Cathedral of the Child Jesus, Pope Square, reported Vatican Radio.
The Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) is a body of Catholic Religious sisters comprising nine (9) national sisterhood associations drawn from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
In a message to the sisters, the Holy Father echoed his call for consecrated women in their region to serve the Lord. Zambia’s Bishop of Mongu Diocese, Evans Chinyemba, read it to them in Lusaka, after the Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, Archbishop Julio Murat, had delivered it.
The long-awaited Eucharistic celebration brought together nuns from nine different African nations and was presided over by Bishop Patrick Chisanga of Mansa Diocese who is also the Bishop Director for the Religious in Zambia, and was festive, with music.
In his homily, the bishop urged the religious sisters to be courageous and focused like the Canaanite woman, who proclaimed that the love of God cannot be bound and limited. He encouraged the sisters to challenge prejudice and deceptiveness in society.
Calling the nuns the backbone of the Church and Africa, chairperson of ACWECA, Sr. Margaret Aringo highlighted the major apostolates the sisters are doing in the region: justice and peace issues; HIV and AIDS; orphanages, schools, health-care and other developmental activities.
Sister Aringo stressed to them that despite the challenges they face in their work, continue being a ‘true witness.’
Professor Nkandu Luo, the Zambian Government’s Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs commended the Catholic Church in Africa for its great contribution to the development agenda, noting the developmental projects which the sisters were running, in Africa, are a testimony of their love for humanity.
Assuring the sisters, at least in Zambia, that the government supports their work, she said, “You go about doing your work quietly, committed and dedicated. The results you produce in your schools, the smooth running of your health institutions and many other developments projects are a testimony of your love for humanity.”
On the same occasion, the Nairobi-based AMECEA Secretary General Fr. Ferdinand Lugonzo also addressed the sisters, congratulating and encouraging them to discover new ways of evangelization.
“Life begins at 40,” he said, “ so we congratulate you and we are telling you as AMECEA that life (for your association) begins here and now. We promise you our support and commitment to the work of all women religious for the betterment of the region.”
Present at the anniversary celebrations were the Bishop of Mongu in Zambia, Right Reverend Evans Chinyemba OMI, Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) Secretary General Fr. Cleophas Lungu, donors, partners, scores of Zambian priests, religious and the laity.
Under the theme, “Go, do not be afraid and serve,” the 16th ACWECA Plenary Assembly is being held at Andrews Motel in Lusaka, Zambia from 16 to 29 August where some topics under discussion are leadership, transparency and accountability, civil law and canon law.