In Niger, a nun devoted her life to poorest of the poor

WITH GREAT SADNESS Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has received news of the passing of Mother Marie-Catherine Persévérance Kingbo on May 24. She dedicated her life to the care and concern for the poor, especially women, in Niger.

MotherMarie-Catherine Persévérance Kingbo spent almost 15 years in Niger, an Islamic country and one of the poorest in the world. During an interview with ACN some years ago, she said: “I heard God’s call to leave everything and serve the poor.”

In Maradi, in the south of the country, the sister founded the “Fraternité des Servantes du Christ (The Fraternity of the Servants of Christ),” an order devoted to social and charitable work. Through education and training, the community offers new prospects for children, young people and their parents.

ACN had the privilege of working for many years with Mother Marie-Catherine, who visited ACN several times and she was invited by national offices of ACN to give testimony in many countries, including Portugal and France.

Until the founding of the Fraternity, Mother Marie-Catherine, who was born in 1953 in Guinguinéo, Senegal, had belonged to one of the first African women’s congregations, the “Filles du Saint Coeur de Marie (The Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary).” It was there that she heard the call to dedicate her life to the poor. Bishop Ambroise Ouédraogo of Maradi asked her to help the still young diocese. The community has been working there since October 2006.

Together with another nun, Mother Marie-Catherine initially cared for people in six or seven villages. The community has grown since then and today its members regularly visit up to 120 villages. The sisters run a school in the community of Tibiri and a nutrition center in the community of Dan Bako. “Every week, 500 to 600 mothers come with their children; many are malnourished. Every year we feed about 23,000 people,” Mother Marie-Catherine once told ACN.

Mother Marie-Catherine

The country is dominated by Islam, the way of life is extremely traditional, and the number of Christians is negligible at less than 1 percent of the populations. The locals, the village elders, the imams and the rural population show trust in the sisters. They are often greeted with phrases like: “We see God in what you are doing,” or “you show us love.” In the rural areas the sisters’ commitment is appreciated and only in towns do the sisters encounter any hostility.

The biggest problem in Maradi, alongside malnutrition, is the widespread custom of marrying off girls as young as ten years of age. The sisters, supported by (ACN) since 2010 in different ways, speak to the parents about the consequences of this practice. The Fraternity manages more and more often to persuade parents to send their daughters to school. Because classes are mostly taught in simple straw huts, village elders have asked the sisters for schools.

Last year, Mother Marie Catherine wrote ACN to report on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their missions. She closed the message with this prayer: “May the power of the Risen Lord eradicate this pandemic that is disturbing all humanity and may the Holy Spirit direct hearts toward more humanity, justice and peace.”

Since her arrival in Maradi in 2006, she never ceased to reveal the love of the Lord through the work now the Lord now has asked her to stop. She will continue to fulfil the work guiding the community from heaven. May her soul rest in peace.