Juba, South Sudan — The practical living of the joy of the Gospel in consecrated life is first of all rediscovering our call to be light and salt of the earth. Then it is to discover again the fire within us to respond to this call.
This is what our founder, Fr. James Alberione, meant when he spoke of consecrating our “all” for the service of evangelization. What is life if not giving to others, all that we are, and all that we have, including our very lives? This is the secret of our inner joy and fulfillment as consecrated persons with the Daughters of St. Paul. This is how Pope Francis, in his encyclical, indicates for us to live the joy of the Gospel.
We therefore burst toward life with the same fire and enthusiasm reaching those to whom we are sent. In this process, we also discover the magnitude of the life we have to share and let the Gospel joy possess us fully. Hence we will be able to embrace the society of today that is so much deprived of the true meaning of life, and of its dignity, and to participate in mending its torn and rugged edges.
At this moment the republic of South Sudan is a beehive of activities after the political unrest that began in December 2013. Many organizations are actively providing medical care and donating food in the camps for displaced people. They also help those who want to go outside the country for further studies, instead of wasting time and energy in camps with no defined activities whatsoever.
We Daughters of St. Paul, as Pope Francis asserts in the Joy of the Gospel, have been very much involved in helping people to be healed or to die in peace. We have been present to those enslaved by different addictions, even by war. We have taken time to educate the children and youths, especially through radio programs that in this hostile environment seek to communicate the values of life and the value of peace, reconciliation, justice, non-violence and conflict resolution.
It has been very encouraging to see different religious communities offer their expertise for the radio programs. Even the students of Catholic University of South Sudan, who are participating in programs to help youths grow out of violence, are not left behind. This has been a deep experience of love for humanity inspired by the Gospel. We recognize and appreciate all your efforts to encourage and accompany us in all these moments of great faith and grace.
In our journeys to the camps I have discovered the joy of the Gospel in my life and shared this with those who are estranged from their families and homes and with those denied their human rights and dignity, especially women and girls who have had to face the heavy weaponry of rape and other abuses. There are many children who have been born within the camps and many we have given the names Mary, Emmanuel, Noel and Emmanuella.
On Ash Wednesday, while visiting the patients in the U.N. hospital inside a camp, I encountered three newborn babies without names. The parents asked me to name them. One I called Annie, another Esther, and the third girl, Angeline. These are angels coming to plead for peace and reconciliation in this country through their innocence.
This has also been a moment to rediscover the lively and active Christian faith lived by the laity in the town of Juba.
Many of them have shared their food and clothing with displaced people. This is a proof that there is more joy in giving than in receiving because this keeps us always ready and open to change the world within us and the world around us.
Like the sunflower which follows every movement of the sun to draw life, we too are invited daily to draw ever closer to the Divine Master, to draw life from him and unreservedly share this life with our brothers and sisters. Then we will be attuned to the needs of our society and respond to these needs by doing sometimes very little things with the right disposition. This definitely changes the conditions of our people’s lives.
Therefore, let us live the joy of the Gospel by giving our “all” and living every moment for others. We too have discovered and lived the joyful mysteries of life in South Sudan and we continue to count on your prayers.
[Sr. Anne Kiragu, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul, Kenya and serves secretary General of the Religious Superiors’ Association for South Sudan (RSASS) while ministering there.]
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