By Murcadha O Flaherty
A CONTEMPLATIVE community of religious Sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who pray for persecuted Christians will have their future ensured by a new well – after a chronic shortage of water threatened their survival. “We didn’t know how we were going to survive after the collapse of our old well a year ago,” Sr Mahele Mwamini, the Prioress of the Discalced Carmelites at the Glorious Saint Joseph Convent, Kinshasa, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
ACN responded to the Sisters’ urgent request by providing a grant to enable the well to be deepened so it reaches a new water source. During 2017’s dry season the well will be extended by another 30 metres to a new depth of more than 50 metres to ensure reaching enough water to supply the convent’s needs.
Sr Mwamini said: “We are committed to praying for the Church, but especially for those who need our prayers the most – the priests and the Christians persecuted because of their faith.” In a desperate plea to Aid to the Church in Need she described the crisis they were facing: “Our well that provided water has collapsed. We haven’t had a single drop since February 2016. Our convent is suffering from this situation.” She said: “Previously we did sell a few vegetables, this was to help the community be more self-sufficient and support unemployed mothers and their children including with their school fees.“ But now with this water shortage, we have no more vegetables and we are forced to buy them for the community.”
(One of the Carmelite nuns of the Convent of the Glorious St Joseph in Kinshasa standing next to the current water pump that has run dry © Aid to the Church in Need)
The lack of the water from the well made it difficult for the Sisters to bake Eucharistic bread and to maintain their small farm. Sr Mwamini said: “It was difficult [without water]… to prepare the unleavened bread for Communion and tend our small barn with pigs, our chicken coop, our rabbit hatch, our small vegetable garden and ourselves – it was disaster.” She added: “We didn’t know how we would survive. Since the well’s collapse we have used a small old hand pump which has already undergone several repairs.”
The water shortage meant the convent had to stop the spiritual retreats they ran: “There were people who came to us for a time for healing or retreats, but due to the lack of drinking water we were obliged to tell them that it would be impossible for them to come and spend time in prayer with us.” But Sr Mwamini spoke with optimism: “the new well will ensure drinking water, our resource-generating activities and retreats as well as our needs for cleaning, domestic and hygiene needs.” Also benefitting will be “mothers without work who buy vegetables, chickens and pigs for re-sale to enable them to support the needs of their families.”
Fr Saverio Cannistrà, General Superior of the Discalced Carmelites, said: “We are thankful that this project ensures that these contemplative nuns can live in peace, that they not further disturbed by the lack of drinking water and so that they can continue to support the Church with their prayers.”
Thanking ACN benefactors for their support Sr Mwamini said: “May the Lord bless you and fill you with abundant grace… this kind assistance that you give us enables us to achieve a drilled well.” Speaking on behalf of the 12 Sisters, whose ages vary between 32 and 81 years old, she added: “We are touched by your care that you have shown to our suffering and by your willingness to do all that you have done to help us. May God bless you.”
(Discalced Carmelite Sisters, the Glorious St Joseph Convent in Kinshasa, a community of 12 ranging in age from 32 to 81 years © Aid to the Church in Need/ Jaco Klamer)
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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