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VALIANT WOMEN

25 May 2016 – (By Bill Firman) - I write today of two women in South Sudan, one a missionary whose life was tragically ended in unprovoked violence last week; and one a young woman who, against the odds, has just graduated from Loreto School in Rumbek: two women of great character from very different backgrounds, whose own words convey strong and moving messages.

Students’ assembly at Loreto School, South Sudan - Photo: Paul Jeffrey

The first is Sr. Veronica SSpS, a Holy Spirit Sister, a medical doctor and hospital administrator well known to many of us. I attach a brief summary of the event of her tragic death last week, as written by her congregation. In early 2014, not long after violent conflict erupted in South Sudan, Veronica herself wrote the following, faith-filled words:

“Recently somebody asked me why I am staying here under such circumstances. Why - Because Jesus continued his way and did not give up when it became difficult. He accepted suffering, hardships and carried the cross till the end. He remained obedient to the will of the Father. He was always with the people. He did not abandon them. He was even ready to accept the death, because he loved them. Being a woman disciple of Jesus I am following the footsteps of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. I cannot leave the people of South Sudan because I love them. They are happy that we stay with them, pray with them and work together building this young and fragile country. The people need our support, prayer and help. At this junction I would like to thank to all who supported us with their prayers, sacrifices and finances. We are called to be a sign of hope especially in the time of darkness. God will never abandon us because he is he is our Emmanuel=God with us”.

Sr. Veronica

The second young woman, whom I have met on my visits to Loreto for School Board meetings, wrote as follows. I have changed only her name.

“I am Mary Theresa Legge. I am the first born in a family of quiet a good number of children, six stepmothers and several aunts and uncles. The size of the family made it too hard for me to attend my studies regularly. This was because I had to do my domestic duties which at times prevented me from going to school. This was worst especially when I was in primary because I was in a day school.

My stepmothers with whom I stayed wanted me to sit at home doing domestic work as my young step siblings went to school. My mother got pregnant when she was a young girl by my father. Her father did not want my father so he gave her to another man as my father took me. He gave me to my stepmothers with whom I stay today.  These women were not good to me and kept pushing me from one person to another working for them. Sometimes, I would go to school late because I had to first sweep a large compound, wash the dishes, fill the pots with water and prepare breakfast before going to school. I would find the school gate locked and would receive a lot of beatings from my teachers. This made me cry bitterly because nobody understood what I was going through.

If I go to school without doing any one of my domestic duties, my stepmother would beat me and refuse me from eating lunch and supper. Lunch was not a problem to me because I was used to life without it. In the morning when I go to school, I had to carry the money with me so that I pass by the market to buy what to cook for supper after school. I would drop my school bag on arriving home and go straight to the kitchen to prepare supper. I only rested at night where I shared one thin mattress with my two cousins. My father use to leave very early in the morning and come late in the evening. He did not know much of what I was going through and I did not make any step to tell him because he would even beat them. That was the last thing I wanted, so I chose to keep it for myself.

Most of my age mates who experienced life almost like mine looked for husbands and advised me to do the same. They said it was the only way I would find peace and love but I refused. My father struggled to make sure I stay in school though I was academically poor. Resources to educate me were also a huge problem with all the number of children he had. I struggled to finish primary school.

I miraculously passed my exams. This gave me more hope and interest to further my studies. After my primary school, I had no idea of what I would do next. My father would not manage to further my studies because he lost the only lumbering machine which was the only source of our income. It was stolen by the co-workers of my father.  God with mighty works opened another way as I was almost giving up. He got a job and I also heard of Loreto which my father suggested immediately when he got a job. I prayed so hard to God so as I get an admission and God answered my prayers. The first day I arrived at school, I was taken to the dormitory by my ‘school mother’. The fact that Loreto was a boarding school made me so happy. As I stood there that day, I knew it was my next home. A home that I had loved so much and longed for.

The school made me discover my very self that God had given me but did not know. As I stayed in school doing my studies, I started doing very well academically. I discovered that I only needed a place like this to resurrect.  I have discovered that boarding school is the best for girls to wake up and discover themselves like I did. Today, I have finished my secondary education and working with my school, getting experience as I wait for God to open a way for me to continue. I believe that even in the darkest hour of life, God can still show his might and power.” 

Loreto School’s girl student, South Sudan - Photo: Paul Jeffrey

So much can be achieved if opportunities are given. There are currently just over 400 missionaries in South Sudan. Each would say with Sr. Veronica, ‘We are called to be a sign of hope especially in the time of darkness’. What hope would other girls have, in similar situations to Mary Theresa in this polygamous society, if the Loreto Sisters had not chosen to go the Rumbek and, with the generous support of many donors, develop a quality boarding school for girls? It is not easy to be a girl or woman in South Sudan but missionary sisters certainly bring genuine hope that life can be better.

Sr. Veronica wrote: ‘He (Jesus) did not abandon them. He was even ready to accept the death, because he loved them.’ Veronica, an immensely talented woman gave her life so that others may come to know, as Mary Theresa said, ‘that even in the darkest hour of life, God can still show his might and power,’  a might and power, not imposed by soldiers with weapons, but delivered with the profound tenderness of one who cares for others.

We salute these two valiant women in their resolute belief, and in the power of their love.

- Br Bill

SOLEMN REQUIEM MASS FOR SR. VERONIKA

23 May 2016 – (www.worldssps.org – 22 May 2016) - Dear Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and Friends, we thank you for sharing in our grief, in the past days, at the painful and tragic loss of Sr. Veronika, Theresia Racková, SSpS.

Sr. Veronika was born in Slovakia on 08 January 1958.  She made her first vows in the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit in 1987 and final vows in 1994.  She was a medical doctor with specialization in tropical diseases.  She has worked as a missionary in Ghana.  She served as Provincial Leader of the Province of Slovakia from 2004-2010.  Upon completing her term as Provincial Leader, she was assigned to Yei, South Sudan in 2010, thereby pioneering the SSpS mission in that place.  From 2010 to 2016, until her death, she has served in various capacities as SSpS community leader, medical doctor and Director of St. Bakhita Health Center, Yei.  Sr. Veronika was a committed, generous and joyful missionary.

Around midnight of 15 May 2016, Sr. Veronika was returning, after taking a patient on an emergency call to Harvest Hospital, Yei, when she was attacked by suspected group of soldiers.  The St. Bakhita Health Center Ambulance that she was driving, was shot several times and Sr. Veronika was gravely wounded on the hip and in the abdomen.  After two surgeries in the Hospital for Women and Children in Yei, she was airlifted to Nairobi Hospital in Kenya on Monday 16thMay for further treatment and surgeries. Despite the best efforts of the doctors, she passed away on Friday, 20th May 2016.  Her death is an irreparable loss for us, for her family and for the people she served especially in Yei.

A Solemn Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Monday, 23 May, 2 pm in Nairobi.  Due to the complexity and legal implications of the situation, we cannot, at the moment, confirm the place and date of the funeral.

We sincerely thank all of you who have expressed your solidarity and support through your condolence messages.  It is our hope and prayer that the self-giving of Sr. Veronika will herald a new beginning for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

SSpS Communication Office

Sr.  Marides SSpS – Communication Coordinator                                                             

Sr. Mary John SSpS – Assistant General

http://worldssps.org/solemn-requiem-mass-sr-veronika/


 

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