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Experience Testimonies from the International Formation Gathering



In part two of a three-part series, our Sisters share their experiences of the International Formation Gathering in Lusaka.  Here we present ‘Experience Testimonies’ from Ireland, Latin America and New Zealand.


Mary Whyte, Anne Codd, Mary Hoare and Marie Wall from Ireland

Greetings from the Irish delegation at the International Formation Gathering in Lusaka!  All four arrived in time for the beginning of work here, having visited the Sisters in Zimbabwe en route. Our short time there was made most interesting and enjoyable by the welcome and hospitality shown us in both Borrowdale and Marondera.  We now have a new appreciation of all that our Sisters have lived through and contributed to the development of the mission in Zimbabwe, even in times of war and shortage, since 1949.

It is wonderful to be part of this intercultural, intergenerational group.  On Saturday it was our turn to lead the Morning Prayer on the call (CG 2012) to acknowledge and befriend our blessedness and brokenness.  We connected this with the Irish custom of going on pilgrimage for healing.

We are now into the fourth and final day of Fr Mick McGuire’s time with us.  So far, this has been an exciting, challenging, holistic experience, full of surprises.  His new perspective on formation includes much that is of personal benefit … such as simple practical exercises which promote wellness. We have now begun to apply these new insights to the draft Formation Directory

Dance group Bare Feet, entertained Sisters on a rare day off.

On Sunday, we were taken to Mass at a local parish, where we were welcomed publicly and enjoyed a vibrant and colourful celebration of the Liturgy.  En route to Lusiwasi Road, we visited a Sunday market! Then, we experienced the wonderful hospitality of our Sisters.  No effort was spared to make our visit memorable. Following a beautiful lunch we were entertained by an energetic and humorous Zambian dance group. We returned to the Centre refreshed and full of gratitude.

Submitted by Mary Whyte, Anne Codd, Mary Hoare and Marie Wall from Ireland

Latin America

The Group from the Americas with Eileen Quirke from Latin America, centre


Greetings from Lusaka. On my arrival here on 14 May I was warmly welcomed by two New Zealand sisters, Sue McGregor and Veronica Casey, linking with New Zealand of earlier days.  I experienced heartfelt hospitality and generosity of the Sisters of both communities here in Lusaka.  We spent precious time meeting up with others who had arrived earlier, or were still to come, Saturday and Sunday being enriched with the warm hospitality of PBVM, variety of cultures and various travel experiences on the way here.

We were invited to join local people at Sunday worship.  Such an experience of beauty at all levels! Sunday liturgy at its best, spirit and participation of laity as well as glorious voices from the choir.  Pope Francis could surely say ‘this is what I am dreaming of, come and see, it’s here in Lusaka.’

Monday saw us arriving from all parts of Zambia, Zimbabwe and the airport to the retreat Centre located in a lovely country setting. It sure is a glorious oasis for all kinds of people with its beautiful grounds, so well run and cared for by Sisters of Little Servants of Mary.

The opening ritual invited us to enter the uniqueness and of richness of African culture, offering us various aspects of wholesome living with drums, dance, colour which was greatly appreciated by all.

Sr Clare Stanley, our facilitator, presented us with a symbol of The Harvest Cycle, so apt in our location here with gardens and plant care at its best.  This symbol we visited, reflected on and checked on each day, enabling us to see the journey ahead and that travelled so far.

Liturgy and Prayer time together nourished and enriched our daily living here.

Gail Warcelo in her two days with us guided us gently into weaving a richer tapestry of “Being in Communion”.  She sow seeds of emergence, belonging, creative union, continued blossoming flavoured with song, Poems, Movement and Dance.

Fr Michael Maguire, offered us many gems during his four days.  His presentations were sprinkled and enriched with life’s experiences, dialogue and body movements ensuring the living of a more wholesome life.

Sunday was a real treat for us as groups.  We again joined people  in local parishes , dined together with Tahiso community  and  all our African Sisters were  entertained  by a special  youth group Bare Feet  known  to the sisters and of course a visit to the local market, again tasting  true African colour and culture.

A truly enriching experience.  For all that has been, THANKS.

Submitted by Eileen Quirke

New Zealand

The African Sunset

The African sky has appeared frequently in reading, music and poetry throughout my life and has always carried with it a mystical notion: one of ancient times, of myth and of civilisation history.  And now I have experienced it and I have not been disappointed: from the early morning golden light from the sunrise being sung into being by the birds to the clear crystal blue sky throughout the day to the fiery red sunset in the evening gently replaced by a golden moon, bright stars, a sky you feel you could reach out and touch.  With the trees silhouetted in that light like they were painted on it I can imagine the ancient peoples sitting under a tree in communion with all the beings of the land contemplating life and listening deeply to the earth, the Divine.  The richness of their harvest is evident all around us.


The African Land

And I think in awe of Nano born three hundred years ago in a very different far distant land and wonder what she now thinks that it is because of her and her deep listening, her courage and mission that we are gathered from the far corners of the earth to re-imagine formation as a co-creative process for mission.

This land can teach us much if we are prepared to do that deep listening: to keep reminding ourselves that it is God’s mission, not our mission and to learn from the African people to walk with the sun: not to walk against it and to remember what it is like to sit under that tree communing with the beings and contemplating the richness of the field and the harvest.

Submitted by Veronica Casey

You can read part one of the Experience Testimonies series here

Categories: Faith and Spirituality, Congregation