Heritage and Spirituality Group
Sr Marie France Correau rscm, Sr Rosemary Mwagarezano rscm
In September, the “calendar” of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary commemorates one of the “Six foundresses” * of our Institute: Rosalie Gibbal, in religion Sr St Stanislas.
Born on September 11, 1825 in Puimisson, Rosalie Gibbal was orphaned at the age of 16. She is a young girl very sensitive to situations of poverty.
Inhabited by a deep faith, it is Christ himself that she serves by visiting the poor and sick. It is Him that she wants to follow by asking to enter the Sisters of Charity. Her brother, who has become her tutor, refuses her request. She will have to wait for her majority (21 years) and the realization of the founding project of Jean Gailhac, of which she is aware, to realize her desire: to become a nun. So on February 24, 1849, with Appollonie Cure and Eulalie Vidal, she arrives at the Good Shepherd and become one of the members of the first RSCM community.
Father Gailhac was responsible for the formation of this group. But from the first vows pronounced on May 4, 1851, the founder appointed Sr. St Stanislas Mistress of the novices. **
In his book Vie du Révérend Père Gailhac, Father Maymard writes about her: “Formed in Religious Life by the founder himself, she perfectly possessed the spirit of it and could better communicate it to her novices… good, gentle, affable, she instructed and trained them more by example than by words”. Sr. Rosa do Carmo Sampaio RSCM adds: “She exercised a marked influence on the first generations of the sisters” ** When, in September 1851, the Institute became international, it was Sr. St Stanislas who formed the first vocations to come from Ireland. She died prematurely on December 15, 1859.
Today in 2021, it is Sr. Rosemary Mwagarezano who “took over” from her elder sister, Rosalie Gibbal. Called to this service in 2014, she left her native country, Zimbabwe to join the international novitiate which has been established in Brazil since 2008. She tells us about her mission:
Internationality is a gift for our Institute. I have been formed by two great Irish women, Joan Larissey (RIP) and Catherine Gough. Throughout the ages we have witness of hundreds of dedicated RSHM who lived, and continue to live the spirit and mission of the community. We
have had great women who are role models, women who did not give up but remained faithful in their consecration. I know our founder´s words were not only for formators but for all of us who love and trust in Jesus. God never fails! God was with our Institute in the beginning, He is with it now and will be with it in the future! Novitiate is always a place of new life for the Institute. Originally it was French women then Irish, English, Portuguese and American. 170 years on, the vocations are coming from the other side of the world Brazil, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.
I get a lot of inspiration from Fr Gailhac´s letters. I feel him very near to me and I hear him talking personally when I read…… « My dearly beloved daughter » I would like to comment a little bit on the letter dated GS/18/1X/72A.
« But he who tells us, « come to me » gives us his grace, prediposes us ; he will never fail you, if we want his help ; he does all in and for us, if we sincerely wish to be his ».
In this ministry of formation, Fr Gailhac reminds me that God never fails. Formation in the 21century has it´s challenges as did that of the first sisters. We struggle with different cultures, languages and life experiences. Our novitiate in Brazil has both sisters and novices who come from different backgrounds Discerning God´s will together and reaching a compromise is not always easy. Fr Gailhac´s letters help me in times of doubt in what needs to be done. In challenging times, especially during this Covid- 19 pandemic I have often run to Jesus for advice and support. When faced with challenges arising from culture, language or experience, we run to Jesus. In our founder´s letters I find inspiration, guidance and strength to go on
« Oh, my daughter, let us therefore go to Jesus ; may nothing stop us. We must posses Jesus no matter what the cost ; let us not count the pain, the fatigue, the crosses, the sacrifices. Once again, no rest until we find Jesus. »
I would like to repeat our founder´s words to the novices as they endeavour to acquire the spirit and charism of the Institute. Let us go to Jesus running and may nothing stop us : language, culture, not even Covid-19 should stop us. Mother Stanislaus did not let her youth stop her from offering her life to Christ. May she be a model for us as someone who waited for the right time but never gave up!
*A journey in Faith and time Sr Rosa do Carmo Sampaio RSCM vol.1 Ch3 The foundresses: who where they ? ** vol.1 p 157