Water brings new life for contemplative nuns in DRC

"We didn't know how we were going to survive after the collapse of our old well a year ago,"

By Murcadha O Flaherty

A CONTEMPLATIVE community of religious Sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—whose charism includes prayer for persecuted Christians—will have their future ensured by a new well. Chronic shortage of water had almost been the community’s undoing.

“We didn’t know how we were going to survive after the collapse of our old well a year ago,” Sister Mahele Mwamini, Prioress of the Discalced Carmelites at the Glorious Saint Joseph Convent in Kinshasa, the DRC capital, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The charity came to the Sisters’ aid by deepening the well and giving it access to a new source of water. This year, during the dry season, the well’s reach will be extended by another 100 feet, for a depth of 160 feet.

Water is plentiful again.A.jpg

Mwamini described her community’s devotion as follows: “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.”

The prioress had sent an urgent plea to ACN, saying :“our well 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 to help the community be more self-sufficient and to support unemployed mothers and their children, providing them with money to cover school fees, for example.” The water shortage cut off the source of income.

The lack of the water from the well also made it difficult for the Sisters to bake Eucharistic bread and to overall maintain their small farm. Sister Mwamini said: “It was difficult [without water]… to prepare the unleavened bread for Communion and tend to our small barn with pigs, our chicken coop, our rabbit hatch, our small vegetable garden and ourselves – it was a 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 could no longer offer spiritual retreats: “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,” the Sister said.

Today, Sister Mwamini exudes new optimism: “the new well will ensure drinking water, our resource-generating activities and retreats as well as provide for our water needs” for domestic use. Also benefitting will be “mothers without work who can buy our vegetables, chickens and pigs for re-sale to enable them to support the needs of their families.”

Father 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 are no longer troubled by the lack of drinking water—so they can continue to support the Church with their prayers.”

Thanking ACN benefactors for their support, Sister Mwamini said: “May the Lord bless you and fill you with abundant grace.” Speaking on behalf of the community’s 12 Sisters—whose ages vary between 32 and 81—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.”

Water is abundant again; ACN photo


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