A novice house for a new congregation of religious sisters.
The apostolic vicariate of Bomadi is situated in Delta State, on the delta of the River Niger in the South of Nigeria. Unlike the northern part of the country, Christians here are not – for the time being at least – being threatened by Boko Haram. Nonetheless, the Church still faces many serious challenges. For there is great poverty in the region and very little infrastructure in the way of roads, a healthcare system, clean drinking water or electricity supply. Child mortality here is still higher than in other parts of the country.
Most just about manage to scrape a living as fishermen or small peasant farmers. The ordinary people generally derive no benefit at all from the revenue from the oil production in this region – in fact, on the contrary, the oil industry simply causes pollution of the water around them; just one more hardship the ordinary people simply have to endure.
Within the apostolic vicariate that covers this region, the Catholic Church has some 23 parishes, 25 home-grown priests, eight missionary priests and around 50 religious sisters. In addition to this there are some 600 lay catechists. Catholics make up just 1% of the total population here. Islam does not play any significant role here and in fact the majority of the population are still animist. Hence this is a region of primary evangelisation where many people have still not heard of Jesus Christ, though they are very much open to the Good News of the Gospel. But all the same, the work of the Church is not easy – not least because many of the villages can only be reached by water, along the numerous river branches of the Niger Delta.
The work of the religious sisters is particularly important here, for they help to train and educate the children and are always there to support the families. Nonetheless, many of the sisters, who come from other parts of the country, are fearful of travelling by boat to the more remote areas, since they have no experience of the waterways and also cannot swim.
Consequently, in 2012 Bishop Egbebo established a new diocesan congregation of „Our Lady Star of the Sea “which aims specifically to foster vocations from within the territory of the vicariate, since these local women are familiar with all the challenges of the river delta and can therefore travel out into the remoter villages where the people are in need of help.
The new congregation has a number of vocations, but so far it does not have any novitiate where the young sisters can be trained. At present there are 11 young women preparing to devote their lives to the service of God and their neighbour here in the Niger Delta. Thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, we have been able to help them with a contribution of 90,000 Euros for the construction of a novice house. The sisters ask us to say “Thank you!” on their behalf.