by Sister Helena Adaku Ogbuji
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step, says Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. The journey of forming the International Novitiate Community (INC) began when the six members (Sister Maria Otilia Guerra Chinchillá from the Central American Region, Sisters Helena Adaku Ogbuji, Benedicta Chidinma Ohaeri (Novice), and Immaculata Chinonso Ugoeze (Postulant) from the Kenyan Region, and Sisters Ita Harnett and Cecilia Lich Thanh Tran (Novice) from the U.S.A. Region) arrived in Houston to begin orientation to the newborn INC. A prayer service which marked this humble, but wonderful beginning was organized by the Leadership Team on the May 19, 2017, followed by a festive meal. This celebration was truly colorful and delightful! The experience of the celebration made us feel at home and gave us a sense of belonging. We were thrilled by the hospitality of our Sisters and we experienced this CCVI core value in action.
As we settled down at the Villa, we enjoyed our wonderful space for prayer, for faith sharing, and for recreation. We thank the Leadership Team, Sr. Rachel, the Villa staff, as well as Ruah staff and De Matel Community for making spaces available for us. We visited our Sisters at the St. Placidus, St. Anne, Marian, Dubuis, de Matel, and Annunciation Communities. Listening to the stories of our Sisters as we prayed with them and played bingo and joined in physical exercises with them inspired hope in us. We enjoyed their jokes and humor and learned how they trusted God in difﬁcult situations; how they served with gladness, and above all, how happy they were to welcome us.
Our orientation to the beautiful Villa chapel, archives, literacy center, social concern ministry, library, heritage center, St. Mary’s clinic, St. John’s community, Shalom community, Ruah Spirituality Center, etc., was remarkable. We loved and admired the passion with which our Sisters explained their ministerial experiences to us.
Furthermore, we traveled to many places within and outside of Houston. However, the trip to Galveston, guided by Ms. Linda Macdonald and the trip to San Antonio, prayerfully guided by Sr. Deenan Hubbard were incredible and amazing. Sitting quietly in the tiny St. Louis Catholic Church that Bishop Dubuis built with his own hands in Castroville, brought alive the readings from Serving with Gladness, written by Sr. Loyola Hegarty. We esteemed and valued the joy with which Ms. Linda guided us through the city of Galveston, Texas, and how she told the 1900 storm story with sincere love and passion. We were enriched and enlightened on hearing again the history of our Congregation.
Our orientation also included workshops on: thriving in a new culture, communication skills, as well as centering prayer and spirituality by Ms. Mary Lynch and Ms. Rachel Rodriguez respectively. From these workshops, we learned more about American culture, the importance of respecting every culture and person, the signiﬁcance of trust, honest-but-gentle feedback, clarifying misunderstood communication, listening without judgment, and how these values are foundations for effective community living. The centering prayer helped us to learn how to surrender to God and enjoy the serene, calm, and tranquil presence of God.
In the midst of all these activities and excitements, there were also the challenges of letting go of our comfort zones as we embrace the new, as well as some culture shocks. On the other hand, our weekly day of prayer, faith sharing, and community prayer made us stronger and bonded us together. We enjoyed walking and praying at the labyrinth and in the cemetery as we connected with our ancestors who had gone before us.
As we complete our orientation process at Villa de Matel, we thank God who has begun this good work in us and pray that He may bring it to perfection. We are deeply grateful to our Leadership Team and our Sisters for their hospitality and accommodating spirit. The Villa staff and volunteers are exceptionally wonderful! We appreciate their care and support. They are truly serving with gladness. Our journey toward forming an International Novitiate Community is not the ﬁnal destination because we must keep developing and growing together; we need to continue understanding, respecting, and accepting each other, and we must remain in the love of the Incarnate Word as we deepen our relationship with Him. PRAISED BE THE INCARNATE WORD. FOREVER!