Four new nuns have joined the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny in Seychelles 33 years after the Vice-Province received its last member.
The nuns, aged between 22 and 31 years, all from Tanzania – took their first vows at the St Joseph of Cluny convent in Victoria recently and have been formally accepted in the Order. This follows a training process after their arrival to the islands two years ago.
Before that, they had done their postulancy – the time for a candidate to assess her vocation and commitment to join a religious order – training in Tanzania with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny there where they joined five years earlier.
They took their vows to live a life of obedience, poverty, chastity, to commit their lives to the Congregation of St Joseph of Cluny, living in a community and a missionary life to serve God and to do his Will. The vows were taken before the Vice Provincial of the congregation of the island nation Sister Anne Faure, and the Vicar General of the Catholic Church of Seychelles Father Eric Leon.
“The integration of the young Sisters to the Order is a great achievement and a great boost to the Order whose members are ageing and have been dwindling over the years due to diminishing interest of young people to commit themselves to religious life over the years both locally and globally,” said Sister Anne.
She added that the Order is encouraged by the interest shown by young girls in Tanzania to join the congregation, expressing the hope that more will be encouraged to commit their lives to the Order.
But in the 115 islands archipelago in the western Indian Ocean things are completely different.
Seychellois Nita Servina will be 65 in August. She took her vows and joined the Order of Saint Joseph of Cluny in 1988. For the last 33 years, no other Seychellois has joined the congregation. Sister Nita started her postulancy in June 1985 and left Seychelles one year later to start religious training in the Novitiate in Ferbane, Ireland.
“I was very active in my parish but I did not feel that my life was complete; there was a desire to do something more. I talked about it to a Sister and she lent me a copy of a book on the life of Anne-Marie Javouhey – a French nun who founded the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny – the book was entitled: ‘The Woman God Loved’ and I fell in love with this woman and wanted to consecrate my life as she did and I had the desire to be a missionary as she did,” Sister Nita had recounted in a previous interview.
After her training, Sister Nita returned home in November 1987 and made her first vows in the congregation in April 1988. Apart from being a nun, she also took up teaching, where she taught in different schools and institutions including lecturing at the former National Institute of Education.
“I consider my work as a teacher as my career, and a religious Sister as a vocation, a way of life, an answer to a special call from God.” Sister Nita saw her work with the children and young people in schools and college as her way of serving the Lord.
In February 2008, she took the leadership of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny in the Vice Province of Seychelles/Tanzania. The Tanzania part was founded in 1998, by Sister Claire Houareau, the then Vice Provincial of Seychelles.
Sister Nita’s responsibility as the Provincial leader was to see the welfare of the Sisters in Seychelles and in Tanzania. The nun finished her mandate as leader of the Vice Province in May 2020, and is presently on sabbatical in Arusha, Tanzania.
But why is it that no Seychellois especially the younger generation has joined the convent in the last three decades?
“What I think is happening is that there are too many distractions, too much ‘noise’ that they don’t take time to listen, to go deeper into themselves, to connect with their inner being and listen to the inner call,” explained Sister Nita.
The nun believes that young people need to take time to pray, to talk about their choices in life with someone they feel comfortable with. “It is important to have a time of silence to hear what God is telling us. He always talks to us in our hearts.”
Speaking to SNA last Thursday, the nun said that she is very happy that she and her vice-provincial team embarked on an intense formation program for the young women in Tanzania who were showing interest in the congregation and “the Vice-Province is now reaping the fruits of this hard work.”
Sister Nita hopes that “young people in Seychelles will follow the example of the young Tanzanian women and will in time turn and say yes to God. We are grateful to the Sisters on mission ad-extra from India, France, Madagascar and Sierra Leone who are helping us in our missionary work.”
Currently, the Congregation of Saint Joseph of Cluny has 11 ageing Seychellois Sisters. Two are working in Tanzania where they have two convent houses.
“I thoroughly enjoy my life and my work as a Sister and I am very happy. I live a very normal life, doing things that I like doing, reading, listening to music, surfing the net, playing games on the computer, writing poems, going for picnics, meeting friends. If one senses a call from God it is a very special gift which should be received and answered by a generous ‘Yes’ as it will be one of the roads to a life of happiness,” concluded Sister Nita.