The Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul have chosen one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s poorest and most isolated regions to establish their mission alongside the most vulnerable. Kalehe, where one of their houses is located, was in fact the epicentre of last month’s disastrous floods.
A lively gaze, a smile that never yields to resignation, a sign of hope, even in the face of tragedy. From the mother house of the Angelic Sisters in Rome, Sister Yvette Lwali Zawadi maintains constant contact with her sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (drc). “Many of them have lost relatives and acquaintances because of the rockslides and mudslides”, she explains, adding that it is “a tragedy that unites them even more to the local people, all of them searching for their loved ones’ bodies. You could say that those who are able to bury their loved ones consider themselves lucky”.
The Generalate of the Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul is located in Rome’s peripheries, on Via Casilina. And it is in the peripheries of South Kivu’s capital, Bukavu, that the sisters carry out their work.
“In South Kivu”, recounts Sister Yvette, “we have a presence of about 55 sisters and three houses. The first, in Murhesa, is only 30 kilometres from Bukavu, but you mustn’t think of kilometres the way you would in Italy. A few miles in the drc could mean hours of travelling”. The other two houses are a little farther away, in Kavumu and Kahele, to be precise. The latter region — in part because of the recent floods — has suffered numerous cases of violence caused by political instability and which have especially affected women.
Through our projects, continues Sister Yvette, “we have chosen to prioritize school and education. In the drc public school is often a chimera, and most people are unable to pay the rates of private institutions. Our schools welcome some 900 students and we seek to especially support the education of girls and young women, who often face discrimination in the world of education. It is not easy, also because costs are high. This is another reason why we started a programme of long-distance adoption some time ago now, through which anyone can help us in our mission”.
Alongside education, the Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are active in hospitals and orphanages, including through actual apostolate work in the most remote regions, where they support families who cultivate small plots of land, in particular women who are alone and who have to provide for and raise their children.
“Every month”, Sister Yvette shares, “we meet mothers and children, we seek to provide them with what they need. At the orphanage in Kahele there are many cases of severe malnutrition, and the sisters do whatever they can to support the little ones in need”.
Decisions regarding the type of work to be carried out and the beneficiaries to be assisted are overseen by the Archdiocese of Bukavu. However, the Congregation’s presence in South Kivu since 1963 is in itself the first guarantee of the projects’ effectiveness. “After all, relationships with local institutions are generally under the banner of trust and collaboration”, Sister Yvette underlines. “One of the most delicate problems in the whole country, not just in South Kivu”, she adds, is the payment of teachers, who often do not receive their salary for long periods of time. In this sense, the presence of our schools represents a breath of fresh air, and the people see us as a point of reference and of hope”.
“Our commitment”, Sister Yvette concludes, “is founded on our congregation’s charism, the renewal of Christian zeal, the zeal that accompanied Pope Francis’ visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 31 January to 3 February of this year. And although the Pope was unable to visit Goma, the capital of North Kivu, as was originally planned, the mere fact of having made the Apostolic Journey to drc after it was cancelled in July 2022, was a sign of hope and of renewed Christian zeal for our country’s entire population”.