My name is Mary Usifoh. I am a native of Nigeria and a member of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles.
Our Congregation was founded in 1876 in France by Father Augustine Planque, the Co-Founder of the Society of African Missions (SMA)
From its inception our Congregation was international. Nineteen young women, two of whom were Irish, one from Dublin and one from Cork, came together to answer the challenge of the West African missions. We were founded specifically for primary Evangelization and the formation, education and betterment of the life of the African woman and girl child. (As you can imagine at that time, as in many parts of the world the education of young girls was not a priority.) This was carried out through education both formal and informal at all levels, Primary Health Care, Catechesis and all forms of Pastoral work were undertaken by the Sisters in the earlier days. Later as time progressed, there were other calls for their missionary service as the need arose in issues relating to inter-religious, inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue, justice and peace, care of the earth, social work, etc. Whatever or wherever the service, the focus remained the same, bringing gospel values of love, compassion and justice into the lives of others through our apostolates and always reaching out to women through education at all levels and empowering them to take their rightful place in society and in their church.
‘Educate a woman and you educate a nation’
One of the sayings of Fr. Augustine Plaque the Founder of the Congregation that spoke to me from the very beginning and still speaks to me today, is ‘to know and love God, so as to make Him known and loved’ this statement helps me in my ministry having worked in Schools and Children Care Centres in my country, Nigeria, before coming to Ireland and from my short experience in Ireland I can see it is very relevant here too. People are searching for and reaching out for love, love of self, love of others and love of God in their lives. Pope Francis says it all in ‘AMORIS LAETITIA’ – the Joy of Love. People are searching for joy, hope and love in their daily life. I am challenged in my work to bring some of that love, joy and hope into the lives of others especially the abandoned, lonely and marginalized. Modern day life is complex and has its share of difficulties it is only love, hope and joy that will somehow ease the pains and struggles of life.
‘The harvest is plentiful and the labourers are too few’ (Luke 10:2)
My prayer and hope is that God will continue to inspire young women to devote their lives to bringing His message of love, hope and compassion into the lives of others through their personal witness and more especially their own personal encounter with the Risen Lord nurtured by prayer and expressed in their ordinary daily activities.
‘To know and love God, so as to make Him known and loved’