Mozambique: 40 years later, religious sisters are back in Dómuè
When the Little Sisters of Mary Immaculate arrived in Dómuè, in northern Mozambique, they were met with a great celebration. After 40 years, the Church in this area is once again home to a female congregation.
Sister Mirian dos Santos was stunned and moved by the greeting that she and her fellow sisters received in town. The people of Dómuè, in the Diocese of Tete, took to the streets in joy.
To fully understand their enthusiasm, historical context is needed: the last female congregation in the region left due to the anti-Catholic hostility that followed Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975, as well as the subsequent civil war. So, for the local Catholics, the sisters’ return is significant.
Bishop Diamantino Antunes of Tete says that their arrival is providential. “This is something we have wanted for a long time, even dreamed of. Now, it has finally happened,” he said.
In a message sent to Aid to the Church in Need’s Portuguese office, Sister Mirian could barely hide her emotion. “Seeing how much the people wanted our presence, after 40 years without women religious, exceeded our expectations. It was a very simple, but very generous, welcome.”
Besides Sister Mirian, the community is formed by Sisters Ana Cláudia Melo and Rita Nascimento, as well as the postulant Agnélia Porto. They have been charged with pastoral work, such as catechesis and formation, for over 100 community leaders, some of whom are based very far away.
“We are here to serve in whatever way we can, and we are eager to bring the good news and the joy of the Gospel to these simple people who thirst for God. We count on everybody’s prayer and support,” Sister Rita explains.
There is great poverty in Dómuè, and the sisters have not yet been able to take stock of the community’s more urgent needs, but they know that they are going to need help. “The parish is poor and has over 100 communities. We need a vehicle, for example, to be able to reach the more distant people. We know that this will be difficult work, but we have faith in God, and we are aware that this is His mission, and that we are just fragile instruments in His hands”, says Sister Mirian, who is originally from Brazil. In her message to ACN, she asks for everyone’s prayers for the success of this new mission.
The sisters’ presence in this part of Mozambique is a sign of the importance of international aid in keeping the Church alive. Even though Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) does not yet help the Little Missionaries directly, it has supported 20 projects in Tete over the past five years, which the bishop says are very important. “ACN helps in many ways: in the formation of seminarians, supporting the restoration of infrastructure, building chapels, purchasing vehicles and, very recently, in the purchase of equipment for our diocesan radio station, so that we can improve our broadcasts,” he explains. “Thank you to all the benefactors and to all those who make the mission of Aid to the Church in Need possible.”