A time for renewal to celebrate 25 years
Sr. Yvonne Clemence Bambara from the Bobo-Dioulasso Community in Burkina Faso, part of the Communities of West Africa, arrived in Ireland in September 2019 to commence the Religious Formation Ministry Programme, offered by the Irish Missionary Union at Loreto House in Dublin. During the year, she lived with the sisters at the community in Goatstown, Dublin. Sr. Yvonne chose to study the program as part of her renewal and discernment as she celebrates her silver jubilee of religious life this September.
How has the program changed your vision of formation and leadership?
I have come to have a new vision of formation. Before, I thought the formator had to do everything to draw the person from A to B, but I now understand that the formatee is the primary leader in their own formation. Formators are only guides, helping them to reach a destination. I also came to see how leadership has more to do with respecting the individual, giving value to the person, than it has to do with completing the task at hand.
Given current realities, how were you challenged by the program’s focus on those to whom you may be called to minister and on your growth?
Learning about the new cosmology brought me into a new way of thinking. This was challenging for me since my catechism had taught me that God had created the world in seven days. But this new reality taught me how the smallest atoms evolved over billions of years to become human or a flower. This was a real learning process for me. The other great challenge for me concerned LGBT issues. Coming from Africa, from a different reality and cultural context, I had to journey through a process of normalization with this. Of course, this was difficult for me. Still, I welcomed the challenge to learn how to embrace and minister to those who belong to this community – we are all creatures of God.
You did a three-month placement at Bray Women’s Refuge. What did you discover that was different from your temporary shelter in Burkina Faso?
The most significant difference was the standard of accommodation. In Bray, each woman has a private room for her and her children. In Burkina Faso, accommodation is shared. I was also struck by all the rules and regulations and by the extensive network of outside partner agencies. Of course, in Burkina Faso, we work in partnership, but we often act spontaneously to support the women to access training or to extend their stay. We don’t need to wait for permission from external agencies, such as the police or the courts. One thing I found common to both countries was how a lack of education and employment opportunities can make women more vulnerable to domestic violence.
How was your experience of being part of an internationally diverse group of 20 students?
I was surprised and amazed by the richness of each person’s culture and by how our prayer life was brought alive through music, song and dance. Different liturgical expressions were weaved together to create something new. This authentic prayer became a way of life in relationship with the Divine.