Our Life at Bobo-Dioulasso

The Spirit blows and sends where it wishes so that the work of God in the world be continued. Today the Lord says to us as he said to Abraham: "Leave your country, your family and your father’s house for the land I will show you." (Gen 12:1-3). With these words, the Lord invites us to widen the space of our tent. After a time of seeking, reflection and discernment about the new foundation, the Congregation took the decision to go to Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is a country of West Africa that used to be known as Upper Volta. That name came from the river and its three tributaries (the red, black and white Volta). It is a very poor landlocked country, having Mali to the west and north-west, Niger to the east, Benin to the south-east, Togo and Ghana to the south and Ivory Coast to the south-west. The capital is Ouagadougou, situated in the centre of the country. The population of Burkina Faso is 69.2% Muslim, 15.4% animist, 12.8% Catholic and 1.9% Protestant. The population is approximately 13.9 million and is made up of 65 ethnic groups that are differentiated by their language, their traditions and their customs. The main groups are: Mossi (49%), Peul (8%), Bobo (7%), Gourounsi (6%), Dioula, Sénoufo, et Seamou (2%); the other groups represent about 8%. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. 

The people’s livelihood is from agriculture and raising animals, and from little mobile businesses: selling fruit and vegetables in the street, from house to house and in the markets. Most of the mer-chandise like notebooks, cloth, hygiene products etc. comes from neighbouring countries. The people are generally very creative in finding ways to survive. They are very hardworking. 
The people do not have sufficient water for daily life and there is also a lack of public transport. Each family travels by bicycle or motorbike, or else on foot, even for long distances. In spite of these precarious conditions the Burkinabé people have great strength in their life. They constantly practice their African values such as kindness, welcome, sharing and, above all, hospitality. 
"The whole universe is open to you" (Fr Pernet)
Animated by our missionary assignment and the call of the Lord for us Little Sisters of the Assumption at this moment in the history of the Congregation, we arrived in this country with the desire to share and plant our charism here. "To procure the Glory of God by the Salvation of the poor and little ones." (Fr Pernet).
In Burkina Faso, our community is situated in Bobo Dioulasso which is 350 kilometres from the capital Ouagadougou, a bus journey of about five hours. Bobo Dioulasso is the second largest city of the country with a population of 1,643,103.
Since the 13th of September our community has consisted of four sisters of different nationalities. 
Three have made their final vows and there is one temporary-professed sister. Maria Teresa (left) and Maria José (right) are Spanish. Ágda (2nd from right) is Brazilian and Vandaline, the temporary-professed sister 2nd from left), is from the D.R. Congo. 
M. Teresa et M. José were the first to arrive in Burkina, in December 2010, when they were welcomed by the Religious of the Assumption. The time they spent with these Religious helped our sisters to become immersed in this culture that is different to our own and which is full of riches that we are gradually discovering. It was a time temps for entering into close relation with the people, the local Church and the religious congregations, and also for discovering the different public spaces e.g. the market, the town hall, the police etc. It was also a time for beginning to learn Dioula and buying what was necessary for the community. 
The district where we are is called "sector 24". It is a new zone that is still being constructed with houses that are unfinished and unpainted. The majority of the persons who live in the area have moved in from different towns of Burkina. Others are Burkinabés who were working in the Ivory Coast or in Mali and who have returned to their country. 
We are in the St Dominic Savio parish which is served by the Salesian fathers, and the Christian community where we are is known as Saint John. This is a dynamic community. There is great animation at Mass. Every Sunday the chapel is full and for that reason many persons participate in the mass from outside the church. 
From the time we arrived the Christian community was happy with our presence in the area. Given how close they are to us, we began by seeing how we could work together. In the parish, Maria Teresa began a ministry with the sick. Every Sunday, accompanied by a catechist, she visits the sick and brings them Communion (the Body of Christ). Agda is involved in the youth ministry. Vandaline has a catechetics ministry in French with a group of children every Thursday evening and Maria José is going to start a family ministry. In addition to this mission in the parish, there is a group of children that comes to us on Thursday for handcrafts. There is also another little group that comes three times a week for some out-of-school coaching with Maria José. We are very conscious of what Fr Pernet says to us: "You must take society by its root, the family. That is how you will refashion a people for Jesus Christ!"
Our way of entering into relation with the local families is through simple actions such as: treating minor injuries, visiting the families, venturing to say some brief phrases in Dioula – something that helps us in our relations with them, etc. The door of our house is always open to welcome people. We are very happy in the midst of this people because we feel we are welcomed by them and they never let us feel isolated. 
Every Sunday afternoon there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel. Some of our neighbours come to pray with us, be they Catholics, Protestants or Muslims. During the prayer they often say: "You are a gift of God for us because we felt the lack of a religious community here in our area. Having Jesus with us is a grace." 
There is a little garden with flowers and trees in front of our door. Every day some children come to say: "It’s time! We’re here to help water the plants." All these actions of love and friendship speak to us of the presence of God in the midst of this people and gives us hope for the future of the Congregation. 
We are sent to the poor, our option for them is a grace of our foundation". This certainty stimulates us to a commitment that is demanding. It reminds us that the mission is not our work: it is the mission of God which we live out in an International Body.’ (2011 General Chapter, pg. 3)
The sisters of the community in Burkina Faso
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