Teaching the lessons carved out from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ is gradually gaining ground in schools run by the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis (tssf) in Cameroon. The proposal that Laudato Si’ be taught in-depth in tssf schools was recently introduced in a program dubbed Walking Together with the Gospel of Creation (watogosc). It was initiated by Sister Alphonsa Kiven from Cameroon, the Congregational Representative for Synodality. The program was funded by the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (jpic) through the help of Sister Sheila Kinsey, then Co-Secretary of the jpic in Rome. Introduced in March 2023, the program aims to raise awareness and understanding regarding Laudato Si’, and to provide practical training regarding ecological conversion for the students. The initiative is a response to Pope Francis’ call to rekindle the dedication towards the young people in renewing their passion for an inclusive education.
Led by facilitators Sister Wiysahnyuy Ilyn of the tssf , Brother Konyuy William, and Brother Mbiydzenyuy Bill Collins of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, lessons focused on the importance of care for the environment and the impact of human activities on the planet. Speaking about the relevance of ecological conversion, Sister Wiysahnyuy, who is also head of the midwifery department of the school, said, “Our planet is facing numerous ecological challenges, and it is our responsibility to act as stewards of the environment. Through education and practical action, we can inspire a new generation to care for our planet and work towards a sustainable future.”
Unlike their normal school lessons, the program was introduced as an outdoor activity, beginning with reflections under a large shade tree in front of the school. The students were told to sit quietly and listen to the wind, to breathe in and out, to take a close look at every natural thing around them, to look at the soil and reflect on what life would be without it, and how it has been abused. They also visited the school garden to harvest some carrots. This dynamic was the core to getting their complete attention, and helped them to connect with nature and Mother Earth.
Given that the cshs and the St. Elizabeth’s Catholic General Hospital in Shisong are both in the same vicinity and run by the tssf provided students with the opportunity to carry out practical training or internships in the Hospital. The students took some of the practical lessons learnt and shared with the women expecting children and new mothers, in the Hospital’s maternity ward, the effects of some of their activities on Mother Earth and how it negatively affects them and their children.
In addition, an overview of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ was made and emphasis laid on listening to the cry of the poor and of wounded Mother Earth. The students were told about the lifestyle of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of ecology and encouraged to engage in sustainable practices like the planting of trees, composting, the growing of flowers, conserving energy, and reducing pollution. Participants drew pictures on cardboard depicting the environment they want to live in, and which they want to create for future generations. In her opinion, student Fon Catherine said, “we will talk about care of the common home to all the patients in the hospital and everywhere we go”.
Shisong is located in Kumbo of Bui Division in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. cshs is a space provided by the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis, for those who want to become State Registered Nurses, Laboratory Technicians, Midwives and Nursing Assistants. The tssf , whose founding charism is the education of underprivileged girls, have been in Cameroon since 1935. Their early involvement in education targeted women and girls. They run and own 12 Secondary schools and the cshs . In the field of health, they run several health facilities and own 4 hospitals including the St. Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital in Shisong. Reading the signs of the times, they have extended their mission to include pastoral and social ministries, with particular attention to the care of the elderly, refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, orphans, agriculture, and more. The Cameroon Province of the tssf carries out these ministries in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Morocco.
By Munyuy Mercy Vernyuy