A woman of disconcerting and mysterious words
· Blessed Maria Clementina Anuarite Nengapeta recounted by Rita Mboshu Kongo ·
Bl. Sr Maria Clementina Anuarite Nengapeta was born in 1939 to pagan parents on the outskirts of Wamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Baptized together with her mother and sisters, she knew from an early age exactly what she wanted: one day, at elementary school, she went up to the teacher and told her “I want to do God’s work”. No sooner said than done: not only did she do this work but she carried on doing it to the very end, giving her life for Christ.
Like all African girls, Anuarite was closely bound to her family and was eager for fecundity. Indeed, motherhood has a dominant place in African culture. A spiritual motherhood too: feeling herself to be called by Christ to the life of celibacy, Anuarite’s answer was “yes”. So it was that once she had completed senior school she became a religious in the Belgian Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family in which she carried out various duties. She was school teacher, sacristan and assistant cook.
The drama began on 29 November 1964 when – together with other sisters – Anuarite was captured by the Simba rebels. Taken to Isio by lorry in the night of 1 December, she was slaughtered solely in order not to betray her vocation. Indeed, when Captain Olombe claimed “a beautiful girl” for himself, and the choice fell on Sr Anuarite, the young religious had no doubts. “I don’t want to, I don’t want to”, she screamed, “I’d rather choose death than be his”. Her only answer was that the man saw red: he punched, slapped and hit every part of her. And in the end, he grabbed a pistol and killed her. Maria Clementina Anuarite Nengapeta was beatified by John Paul ii on 15 August 1985, during his Apostolic Journey in Africa.
Anuarite is an example to us all: to Christians, to non-Christians and to government leaders, in her ability to stay ever faithful to her commitments, even to the point of martyrdom. In the dreadful apprehension of seeing her purity impaired, before the threat of her life itself, she found in Jesus, her Spouse, the strength to say with him, “My soul is now distraught”. Furthermore, in order to defend her superior, threatened by death because of her refusal, Anuarite addressed these words to the soldiers: “Kill only me”. And when they arrived at the mortal blows, she added, “I forgive you, because you do not know what you are doing. This is what I wanted, this is what I wanted!”.
Anuarite was a woman of disconcerting and mysterious words. She belonged to the great ranks of African women who have proven to be witnesses, educators, teachers of life and heralds of the local culture. Like so many other Congolese girls, she had been brought up in accordance with the purest spirit of her people, she never let anyone impudently take pleasure from her flesh. Some people joked about black Africa, proclaiming to the four winds that the only virginal and pure thing there is there is the equatorial forest. This means that very little is known about our Africa.
Anuarite and her history tell us that virginity before marriage must be respected because it is an almost absolute value and a guarantee for the increase in fecundity, in happiness in marriage and in every calling. The martyrdom of this young woman religious invites us to fight against tribalism, ethnicism, regionalism and all the separations that ravage the world every day. In her environment Sr Anuarite was a herald of forgiveness, peace and communion. And it was precisely in the context of everyday life that she learned to sanctify herself, giving herself entirely to the Lord in humble service to her brethren. She did ordinary things with an extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and for humanity.
Although Anuarite was rooted in a culture which attached great importance to the communion of clans and tribes, she was able to go beyond this kind of communion, surmounting every kind of discrimination. Her spirituality was a spirituality of communion, of “being with”. It was a spirituality open to the reciprocal transparency of the sensitive and the spiritual.
Rita Mboshu Kongo, a Congolese theologian born in Luebo in 1966, is a member of the Daughters of Mary, the Most Holy, Co-Redemptrix. After studying medicine at the University of Kinshasa she earned a licence in spiritual theology and a doctorate at the Pontifical Institute of Spirituality “Teresianum”. She teaches at the Pontifical Urban University and is on the editorial staff of women church world.
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