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"Dominican Sisters Africa" meet in Nairobi

Dominican Sisters Africa Assembly

Kenyan traditional dancers with school children and Dominican Sisters

(from left) Sr Valentine Dladla (Montebello) and Sr Phindile Mthethwa (Newcastle)South Africa

(from left) Sr Eva-Maria Thupatsogong (Oakford) und Sr Thobile Gumede (Montebello) South Africa

In early July, 34 voting delegates as well as moderators, translators and observers met in Nairobi, Kenya (Africa) for the seventh Continental Assembly since the founding of "Dominican Sisters Africa" (DSA) in 1998. Sr Alison Munro (Congregational Vicaress) and Sr Eva-Maria Thupatsogong (Prioress, Pietermaritzburg Community) represented the Oakford Dominican Sisters in South Africa at this meeting.

The theme was "Rekindling our Commitment to Collaboration for Mission"

The theme was "Rekindling our Commitment to Collaboration for Mission". There was extensive discussion on possible restructuring: broadening our horizons to reach more people, encouraging participation and collaboration, sharing resources and improving communication. The outgoing continental coordinator reported that there are six Generalates of different Dominican Congregations in Africa with 541 sisters, 55 novices, 138 sisters under 50 years and 118 sisters over 80 years. She gave an overview of the various workshops, meetings, congregational chapters and online meetings that have taken place over the past six years - despite the challenges of Covid and fewer new members.

Reports from the four zones - West, Central, East and South were presented

Reports from the four zones - West, Central, East and South were presented. Due to the diversity of languages - English, French, and Portuguese - as well as the great distances, Africa is divided into these four zones. Activities have varied according to zonal, regional and local circumstances and realities.

Over the past six years, there have been assemblies, various visits, workshops on human rights, annual meetings, meetings of congregational leaders and sisters. There have been face-to-face, online and mixed/ hybrid gatherings of Dominican Sisters on a variety of justice issues.

Challenges included Covid, the terrorist and refugee situations, long distances, limited resources and different realities

Challenges included Covid, the terrorist and refugee situations, long distances, limited resources and different realities. South Africa, for example, is a middle income country with good transport systems. The Sisters who belong to the Federation of Dominican Sisters use English as a means of communication.  The Dominican Family beyond FEDOSA includes lay Dominicans who meet and exchange visits from time to time. In several other African countries, the realities are different, distances are huge, French is the lingua franca. In addition, it was not possible to reach several Congregations in some countries because of distance and language challenges.

Despite all the difficultiesthe Sisters hear the call to turn challenges into opportunities

However, despite all the difficulties highlighted, the Sisters hear the call to turn challenges into opportunities and to become more provocative on social issues.  For some there is work among refugees and people who are trafficked.  Education of the young in the many Dominican schools regarding social issues concerning the poor is a key emphasis.
In the southern zone, the small number of active Dominican Sisters makes it difficult to engage in joint projects.

In South Africa and Zimbabwe, Dominicans can communicate in English with each other.  In Mozambique, however, Portuguese is the lingua franca.  Moreover, Mozambique is a huge country and travelling there is expensive and difficult.

At least once a year they met face-to-face, virtual or mixed/hybrid meetings

Nevertheless, the leaders of the different Congregations met a few times under the auspices of the "Federation of Dominican Sisters and Dominicans of South Africa" (FEDOSA). At least once a year, a working group had organised a face-to-face, virtual or mixed/hybrid meeting. A particular challenge in the Southern Zone is the inclusion of Dominican Sisters from Mozambique.
Dominican Congregations in South Africa are King Williamstown Dominicans (Schlehdorf in Germany), Oakford Dominicans (Neustadt) in Germany, Cabra Dominicans (Ireland) and Montebello Dominican Sisters (a diocesan Congregation with its motherhouse in KwaZulu Natal). In Zimbabwe, the Dominican Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Strahlfeld in Germany) are represented.

The continental and zonal coordinators for "Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation" (JPIC) highlighted in their report the good networks in some countries and the encouraging work with young Dominican sisters. Challenges included communication, violence, ageing, the fact that not all zones could be visited and language barriers.

There were projects to promote issues addressed in "Laudato 'si" in the areas of tree planting, recycling, gardening initiatives, human trafficking, peace and justice, and illegal mining of minerals. Delegates also reiterated addressing the climate crisis as a continental priority for the next six years.

There can be no cooperation unless there is a commitment to it

Sr Margaret Mayce OP, International Coordinator of the Dominican Sisters International Conference (DSIC), reminded delegates that there can be no cooperation unless there is a commitment to it. Collaboration is not only about implementing projects, but also about an attitude towards life. "We Dominicans are challenged to balance the care of our sisters with the needs of the mission and to carry our common Dominican charism into the future. We belong to something bigger than our respective congregations," explained Sr Margaret Mayce OP.

The goals set by the delegates at the International Conference of Dominican Sisters (DSIC) are:

  • To coordinate, assist and support congregations living the Dominican charism and affirm and promote sisters in their identity as preachers.
  • To facilitate communication and networking among the sisters and members of the Dominican family.
  • To promote a more merciful world order through the promotion of justice and peace, the integrity of creation and human rights, especially the rights of women.
  • To create and promote initiatives for collaboration among apostolic women religious.

The delegates elected Sr Rosemary Rushwayo (Zimbabwe) as Continental Coordinator for DSA (Dominican Sisters Africa). Sr Pelagie Pogue will be JPIC coordinator (Justice and Peace, Integrity of Creation). Sr Valentine Dladla (South Africa) was re-elected as Southern Zone Coordinator and Sr Sarudzai Mutero (Zimbabwe) as Southern Zone JPIC Coordinator.  
Two priorities for the new Dominican Sisters in Africa (DSA) team are raising awareness among the sisters about DSIC (Dominican Sisters International Conference) and DSA and activism in the area of environment and climate, following the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13.

The new leadership team will also need to update the DSA constitution and make decisions about how to handle DSA finances. A particular focus for the future will be to improve communication across the continent. This will involve collecting, updating and sharing information about the sisters' involvement and interests, setting up a Facebook page and the DSA website, and conducting virtual trainings.

Text Sr. Alison Munro OP