Kenyan Novices Reflect on Pope Francis’ Visit

At the end of November, Pope Francis visited Africa for the first time and our Sisters and Novices in Kenya attended a mass and an address to those in religious life. Novices Agnes Aketch, Juliana Khaisia, Magdaline Mikwa and Doris Sumbati shared their experience in this heartfelt account:

“Pope’s Visit in Kenya”

When we, the Novices of Kenyan Province, heard that Pope Francis would be coming to Kenya between 26 -27 November, 2015, we were filled with joy and happiness.  Aware of insecurity in Kenya, we made a Novena to the Sacred Heart for his safety and security of everybody who will attend the event.  We also prayed that the government and the people of Kenya would listen to his message.  We also prayed that we the Novices would be allowed to go to see him.  We indeed had an opportunity to attend Pope’s Mass at the Graduation Square of Nairobi University and also his address to the priests, Religious men and women, Novices and Seminarians on 26 November.

The spirits of Kenyan SNDs and other attendees of the Pope's Mass on November 26, 2015 were not dampened, despite the rain and mud. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
The spirits of Kenyan SNDs and other attendees of the Pope’s Mass on November 26, 2015 were not dampened, despite the rain and mud. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Since we were eager to see the Pope, we left Novitiate at 3.00am because we wanted to get into the arena on time.  When we reached the arena after many hours of driving through the rains  we saw an unimaginable number of people, everyone pushing their way through the mud and the rain to gain entrance into the venue.  On getting to the arena we were all wet, cold and filled with mud.  We did not mind it all because we were more interested in seeing the Pope and listening to his message.

After many hours of waiting, the Pope entered the arena and everyone began to cheer as the car took him around to greet the people.  After greeting the people he celebrated Mass asking God to bring unity and peace to the Nation.  During his homily he emphasized the importance of respecting and honoring young people who are the future leaders of the Nation as well as those living in poverty because they are equally created by God.  He reminded us to care for the mother earth because it is a home for all of us.

Immediately after the Mass, he wished everybody well, blessing the people and all the religious articles that people brought.  We proceeded to St. Mary’s Musongari where he addressed all Priests, Religious men and women, Seminarians and Novices.  In his speech he emphasized the importance of prayer and encouraged us to serve not to be served.  He encouraged us to persevere in our prayer even when we are tired rather than spending a lot of time watching television and to use the language of inclusion in our ministries and communities.  He also advised that we value solidarity and togetherness.

Pope Francis greets Kenyan children on November 27, 2015 (L'Osservatore Romano /Pool Photo via AP)
Pope Francis greets Kenyan children on November 27, 2015 (L’Osservatore Romano /Pool Photo via AP)

Listening to the Pope’s messages, we felt affirmed and encouraged in our prayer life.  We no longer feel bad when we are distracted in prayer.  We found his message resonating with what we are learning in the Novitiate especially in the area of solidarity, togetherness and the use of language of inclusion.  We as the future of the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame,  took the message of Pope seriously.  We commit to respecting the dignity of each person and to care for mother earth.  While we pray for ourselves to be faithful to Pope’s message, we pray also that our government and entire nation accept, commit and practice what our Holy father advised us.