MADAGASCAR - FIANARANTSOA - A FAMILY CELEBRATION

The preparation for this celebration began in the month of November 2014: a team, composed of members of the communities at Sahalava and Ampopoka, was responsible for the organisation and commissions were set up.

An abundance of ideas were offered and two proposals from all these were retained: 

  • A thanksgiving Eucharist on the 15th of August at Sahalava, our "Madagascan mother house";
  • On the 23rd of August an after-noon when the Tsidika group would present the history and encounter of Etienne Pernet and Antoinette Fage as well as our mission today. 
The first celebration at which Father Etienne Ratalata (AA Provincial in Madagascar) presided was marked by the presence of many of his A.A. brothers from Tuléar, Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa and the Congo and also by the participation of many groups in the animation and the liturgical dances; the presence of friends, collaborators, families from the neighbourhood as well as some members of the families of the young women who are in the novitiate who came to give thanks with us. 
 
After the traditional kabary (speeches) by the representative of the parish, the Commune and the Congregation, the gathering was prolonged by refreshments. Conversations, reunions, laughter and joy marked this time, with songs from the Friends of the Assumption and the young people.
 
Some expressed their friendship and their wishes for blessings, on hands cut out in cardboard which, when brought together, formed a tree: 
  • A sign of the Reign, "the seed of the Spirit implanted in the heart of Etienne Pernet and of Antoinette Fage".
  • A tree that is pruned but which, each season, renews its foliage; 
  • A tree that spreads its branches so that "the scattered children of God" may shelter there and come together. 
On the 23rd of August we gathered together once more. The group Tsidika and the Friends of the Assumption helped us to enter into the history of the foundation and the mission that is shared today, and to savour once again the joy of coming together. 
This celebration also preceded by a few days the return of Colette Normandeau to Québec after eighteen years in Madagascar.
The community of Ampopoka 
 
 
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(1) In Madagascan life, each ceremony (request for marriage, birth, death, etc…) is the occasion for a kabary. First, he begins by requesting to be excused so that tsiny (blame) will not fall on him. He then continues with expressions of thanks (to God, to the ancestors etc.), before extending greetings to the persons present at the ceremony, and finally reaching the core of the subject. 
 
The 15th of August is the day when all Catholics throughout the world celebrate the Assumption of Mary. It is a historic day for us LSA because this year, 2015, the Congregation is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its foundation. To mark this feast, we celebrated the Eucharist in the parish Eugène de Mazenod at Sahalava. Father Etienne Ratalata, provincial of the Asssumptionists in Madagascar, presided. The Fraternity laity participated in a liturgical dance as we ourselves did and the group of women from the "Kintana" workshop. The presence of many Assumptionists was a sign of our family unity. The Friends of the Assumption and local Christians helped in the animation of the liturgy. After the Mass there were refreshments that brought together many persons having links with the Little Sisters. On the 23rd of August, the Tsidika group presented the history of the Congregation as well as its mission today so as to help the people to know the congregation and also to show the great solidarity of the Assumption family through the singing by the Friends of the Assumption. The day ended with expressions of gratitude to all those who had contributed to its success. 
The group of young women in formation
 
It was my first experience of a celebration in the Congregation. Fr Etienne, in his homily, expressed his pride that we are his sisters.
Emilienne

The number of priests present was an agreeable surprise for me: it marks the unity of the family. The theatrical presentation helped me to know and recognise the history of our founders in a different way. 
Thérèse 
 
There were many Assumptionists at the celebration of the Eucharist. All the children from the nutrition follow-up programme and their families were invited to the refreshments that followed. All these people with us: a mark of our charism. 
Perline
 
Your presentation for transmitting the message is at once relaxation and evangelical information. I liked it very much. 
Mr Joro, a friend from the locality 
 

First we learned to sew and then, when we had acquired some skill, we were able to earn some money to help us improve our standard of living. So, all our children are continuing their studies and we can support our family and help one another. Each of these sisters has helped us: at the beginning it was Sr Danielle and then Sr Ghislaine, Sr Marie-Céline and the two Malagasy sisters: Sr Louisette and Sr Charline. 
In our group « kintana » (star), we pray together, we are in solidarity, we respect one another and we help one another. 
On the occasion of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, we are happy to give thanks for all that we have experienced. Our wish is that the number of Malagasy sisters would increase and that the Congregation of the Little Sisters may continue in Fianarantsoa. 
We were happy to get to know the history of the Congregation through the play presented by the group Tsidika on the 23 August 2015, in the big hall of the school ’Fomasin’i Jesoa’ at Talatamaty Fianarantsoa.
To conclude, the good that the Little Sisters have offered to our group Kintana is incalculable. 
We who are speaking are a group of women, mothers of families: we have grown little by little and dreamed of acquiring skills, of working. And now that is happening thanks to the immense help and support from the Little Sisters. 
We, the Kintana group at Ampopoka, are happy to give thanks and to thank the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. 

I find that the short history you shared at the beginning of Mass is a true description of what you are living. You are really plunged in our midst. Thank you very much! We cannot respond to all the good you do in our parish. Our wish is that your congregation will develop and spread in the Diocese. 
M. Fernand, member of the parish team in Sahalava 

The 15th of August was a beautiful day for us. What struck us most was that all we experienced was authentic and revealed our mission as LSA:
  • Celebrating 150 years of life in an apostolic community in an international congregation: our two communities are a good expression of that international aspect: Madagascar, Canada, Argentina, Tonga, France.
  • The life of the LSA linked with the other congregations of the Assumption family: the Mass was celebrated by Father Etienne, the provincial of the Augustinians of the Assumptions (A.A) in Madagascar. There were eight AA concelebrants with him (they had just finished a seminar and had chosen to remain a day longer so as to celebrate the 150th anniversary with us). 
  • Involvement in an apostolic missionary life with other persons: many families and children from the nutritional follow-up programme and from the school support programme were there with the teachers, and also the women from the sewing workshop. There were also local people and representatives from various associations, relatives of Little Sisters and, naturally, representatives of the local religious congregations. 
In the midst of all this diversity nevertheless great joy and unity due, I believe, to the fact that each one had in the past, or still had, a link with our mission. Openness to the other occurred spontaneously through joy, words, smiles, little gestures etc. 
I think that Father Pernet and Antoinette Fage must have been happy to see us celebrating that day with so many people, just as they must have been during the celebrations that took place in other countries.  
Sr Marie-Céline 
30/11/2015
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