Island in the Sun
By Sr. Andrea Cabunilas, AR
Bonthe, Sherbo Island was where the first Filipino Recollect Sisters went to Work. This place could be mistaken for a Filipino Town since the climate is the same as ours. The houses are not big and most of the rooves are of galvanized iron. The town is just beside the river with breakwaters or cement walls. Mangroves, coconut, palm and cotton trees grow around the town. Our means of transportation is wooden launch or speed boat.
How we got here
In 1986, Mother General Eufemia Lauzon. A.R. receives a letter from Cathedral Sin asking if our congregation could send sisters to Sierra Leone, a country in the West Africa. There is a need to work in an island where the Cluny sisters of St. Joseph were leaving due to lack of personnel. The first volunteers were Srs. Rachelda Liorando, Cristina Versoza, Teresa Bauitista, and Natalia Oliver. They left for Africa last May 15, 1986.
Poorest of the Poor
The nature of our work is divided into four: teaching in the secondary schools, running a clinic, a feeding program and the pastoral apostolate. The people are so dependent on drugs. The poorest of the poor are abandoned by their families. We feed, clothe and tend to their sickness. It they die without relatives we are the ones who bury them. When the parish priests leaves for three four months, we take charge of the liturgy and even perform services especially for funerals.
The religious aspect of the town in very encouraging. Bonthe town is a model of ecumenism which is rarely seen in other dioceses and parishes. There is a yearly Easter reunion with religious heads: Catholic priest, the Muslim Eman, and all the pastor of the different Protestant sects leading the thanksgiving celebration. During Christmas and Easter vigil, masses, the church is full. There are Protestants, pastors and many Muslims.
The culture of the Sierra Leonians is very different from ours. Most of them the girls as soon as they reach adolescence have to join a secret society preparing them for marriage. Marriage is always arranged by parents and usually not a church marriage. Polygamy is so rampant. Fathers do not care for the education of their children. Poverty is everywhere. The girls easily enter the flesh trade due to poverty. Job opportunities are very scarce. Parents do not teach spiritual and moral values to their children. Nor are these include in the school curriculum although Bible knowledge is a subject in the secondary and college.
Our school apostolate is particularly challenging because we have to use it to instill moral values in the students. We have a lot to do and pray for in the vineyard of the Lord.