The story of a vocation / ’You have seduced me O Lord, and I was seduced’.

It is in Spain that Sr Annie Kibolo, Little Sister of the Assumption, is fulfilling her charism as a missionary religious in the service of the poorest and of the workers. From her native country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to these new apostolic horizons, she has often been able to feel the strength of this beautiful adventure of following Christ.

’The first, and the principal, gift that I received from the Lord, and for which I give Him thanks, is and will be my family. I would say like Saint Thérèse: "My family is the springtime of my vocation." 
I was born into a simple, working-class, Christian family, in the region of Bandundu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is where I received the Christian faith and my family has helped me to keep it alive up to today. It was my parents who brought me up and trained me for what was to become my gift to the Lord. They were very committed in the life of the parish and they always sent us to Catholic schools for our studies. They also participated in the activities organised by the various parish committees. They used to tell us that, when they were young, they used to walk eight kilometres on foot every Sunday to participate in the Mass and afterwards they shared this experience with those who had not been able to go. Before receiving the sacraments of confirmation and marriage they stayed for a year in a Catholic mission, sixty-two kilometres from their native village. My mother was a catechist. They used to say to us, "For us, all that was the way of living our faith in Christ." As for my father, the prayer he murmured and the sign of the cross he made a few moments before he died are a real treasure that he has left me: a testimony of the fidelity of the believer who in that acted as a disciple of Christ. 
 
To be all things to all people. 
 
The desire to follow Christ came to life in me when I was 13, during my first year in secondary school. There was an orphanage in the mission where I was studying. One evening, when we were out walking beside the river, I saw a religious sister with about fifteen orphan children who were bathing in the pool that was assigned for that. The way she looked after them struck me: her availability in responding to their needs and her attentiveness towards each one of them. In those faces I could see the face of Our Lord. From that moment I felt a call to be ’all things to all people’. This deep desire remained quietly within me while I was finishing my studies and obtaining my final school diploma. I was faithful in going to Mass every day and it was the personal encounter in the daily Eucharist, the intimacy with the Lord that began to grow. My family was happy with my choice. 
 
 
Unexpected paths 
 
However, at the age of 19, with my studies completed, I rejected that idea. Like Jonas, I took another direction, looking for a profession. But when I arrived in Kinshasa for my university studies, a long strike by students made it impossible for me to follow my dream. During that time I continued my activities in the parish as chorister and reader. I used to participate in a vocations group but without being motivated to make contact with religious congregations. Then, thanks to Fr Jean Makaya, a diocesan priest at Kikwit, I became acquainted with the Little Sisters of the Assumption. He had studied in Tours (France) where he had met them and, at his request, the Congregation was in the process of discerning about a foundation in the Congo. It was in December 2000 that I first met Sr Lucie Licheri who, with Sr Catherine Dunphy, was making a first visit to the country. In the course of our conversation I was marked by their simplicity during the dialogue we had and, when we talked about the Congregation, I was attracted by their way of leading a family life in simplicity, and by their love for the poorest and for the workers in the reality of their existence, that is, in direct contact wit the family. I understood then that nothing in our life happens by chance. The Lord uses situations to lead us along his path. So, God wanted my vocation to be fulfilled in this family. My decision was taken. 
 
 
The beginning of an adventure of love 
 
Troubled with the doubts linked to the uncertainty of the arrival of these Sisters in the Congo and yet with a great thirst and desire to follow Jesus, I set out on this great adventure of ’giving myself to Christ’. As aspirants we were accompanied over a period of two years by the Religious of the Assumption, particularly Sr Générose Muteba. We received frequent visits from Sr Lucie Licheri. As soon as the Little Sisters arrived in the DRC I began the postulate, on the 29 September 2002; two years later, I began the novitiate. This was a time to listen to God because, before being able to talk about Him, we must have listened to Him for a long time. And this conversation is not a matter of days nor even of a year. So, it was on the 3rd of September 2006 that I pronounced my "yes" publicly: it was the beginning of the history of the love of God. Yes, I can say that God prepares and directs the one whom He chooses because, in the end, it is He alone who traces out the path. Through everything, His fidelity can be seen more and more clearly in the absolute nature of His call. 
 
From my first contact with the LSA I experienced simplicity, a family way of life through the testimony of fraternity, the desire to place Christ, Servant and Saviour at the centre of our life through giving an important place to prayer, and being identified with Him through service, using simple means "so that His reign may come". The contact with the working world trains us to discover the values of each person, values that are often concealed by a life that is hard and inhuman. I said to myself that we can serve, whatever the work and the means; the important thing is to bring much love to it. I had the conviction that, in following our God who lives in what is hidden, in simplicity, who has a preferential option for the impoverished, and who gives Himself, my vocation would blossom according as I gave myself in daily life through humble service. 
 
Discovering Spain 
 
Our vocation, as LSA, is a missionary vocation. God, who breaks down frontiers and sets us free, gave me the boldness to respond to his call, like Moses, breaking down my frontiers, having me leave my country, my habits, and open up to the reality of a new land, Spain. For me, it has been a gift to experience the way of embodying the charism here, to learn a new language, to get to know a culture and to discover a Church reality that is different to mine. At the moment I am a temporary-professed sister. It is five years since I set out on the beautiful "adventure of love" offered by this religious family. This "adventure" is continuing in a process of discernment towards final commitment, with all the realities of the human person but with the confidence that, as in a boat, the wind of the Spirit is blowing and will guide this voyage. It is God who led me to encounter the LSA so that among them and with them I might encounter Him in the midst of those whom He prefers. It is God who continues to broaden the space of my tent so as to make room for those whom He places at my side, loving them.’ 
 
’Thank you Lord for having led me to share my life with those who are ordinary. Make me an instrument that would be capable of being docile in your hands so as to go towards those whom you place at my side, but, above all, to accomplish your will, what you want of me, there where you send me.’ 
 
Sister Annie Kibolo, Grenade, Spain
29/08/2011
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