COVID-19, Race Demonstrations, Travel Restrictions, a Presidential Election and Learning about the Congregation Made for a Exciting yet Somber Year for Sr. Maurine.

BY SR. MAURINE CHEMNUNG PANGALE, CCVI

My International Experience, which took place close to a year ago, was very enriching. On 28th November 2019, I left Kenya for the U.S, with Sr. Agnes Njoki Njeru where we arrived the following day. We were happy to be met by Srs. Mary McHale and Mary Patricia Driscoll with the driver, Howard Gordon, at the Airport. After that, we went for dinner at Villa de Matel where the Sisters including the rest of the Leadership Team were waiting to receive us. I was grateful although tired and sleepy.

What marked the beginning of our international, intercultural, and inter-generational experience in the new communities and ministries is described in a summary matter in the following. I was happy to join Casa De La Paz Community where I had been welcomed earlier by Sr. Marisa Revert Font who was the community leader at the time, but had moved to Ireland by then. I was also privileged to live at De Matel Community when I was taking a National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) online program which was enriching. That experience gave me an opportunity to live in a bigger community as well as getting time to interact more with the Villa Sisters, especially during time for meals, community meetings and prayers.

My community members and the Sisters at Villa played a major role by ensuring that my International Experience was a success. Through their support, I managed to visit almost all the communities, both within and outside the Villa, as well as the Beach House and Lake House. I was also engaged in important congregational activities like ARC Meetings, our corporate stand on the care of the environment, and new normal community prayers in the Villa Chapel which enabled our senior Sisters to join us online. I was privileged, too, to visit our Sisters in Saints Ann’s and Placidus communities. I also benefited from regular coaching sessions with Mary Lynch, and participated in prayers and a walk against human trafficking and the death penalty. I was also present for the funerals of five Sisters who died while I was there. These experiences filled me with different feelings. I felt happy, inspired, encouraged, and empowered because of the given opportunities. At the same time, it was sad and disappointing to learn about unfavorable events. But I am hopeful that lasting solutions can be reached especially on care of our mother earth, human trafficking and the death penalty. I was challenged to start from within by playing my part as an individual in my small way.

In connection to that, working in different departments was one of the most exciting parts of my international experience. I enjoyed observing, listening and doing different types of work with different people. All the Sisters and our associates who oriented me and who worked in Ruah, Dietary, Housekeeping, Maintenance, Library, St. Mary’s Clinic, Social Concerns, and the Archives among others, were ready and willing to take me through everything that they do amid their busy schedule. All the good memories are still fresh in my mind. It was encouraging to see the CHRISTUS Core values in the Associates’ Job Cards speaking loudly through action in all the departments.

That experience made me feel comfortable and I looked forward to working anywhere with anybody every day. These experiences exposed me to understanding and gaining knowledge and skills, knowing the congregation in a deeper way, interacting and working with our associates easily. The staff meetings enabled me to know how to approach things differently.

I also noticed that there were similarities on some things they address with what we have in our ministries in Kenya. Job rotation, delegation, teamwork, flexibility, effective communication, hard work among others were common across all the departments. I considered all these important organizational attributes as food for thought.

The Sabbatical Program at Mercy Center in Colorado Springs was one of the most important exercises for my International Experience. Our competent presenters used tools to develop personality and to promote healthy living. Some of these include Mercy Life-line, Genogram, Myers Briggs, Enneagram, Dream Exploration, Conscious Celibacy, The Mountains and Hills Retreat, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, Life Transition, among others. I was happy to be part of the process because it helped me to look deeper into my life and connect with my family background, thus increasing my self-awareness. That understanding helped me to continue thanking God for the wonder of my being. The holistic approach helped me, too, to use the content to connect my inner world with my outer reality, hence understanding other people, considering the factors that contribute to human personality. The transition also helped me to release what could be holding me back by accepting and letting go of some things in my past, appreciating my present moment and hoping for a promising future.

Besides the relaxing but very important program, I enjoyed the company of the twelve colleagues from other continents especially during group work, community living and during Mass and prayers. Although Colorado was extremely cold during winter, I was happy to see snow for the first time and have the opportunity to visit the beautiful historical sites. The same applies to when I was in Houston where the Sisters were generous and kind to bring me out for different Church functions and other sites.

During my first few months in the U.S, all was well and peaceful until COVID-19 struck. It spread throughout the country and broke a world record on confirmed positive cases. The loss of lives was also high. Another challenge was the loss of lives and property following the protests and demonstrations caused by the death of George Floyd. Looting and use of excessive force by the police resulted in increased tension. In addition, natural disasters like Hurricane Laura that hit Lake Charles among other places caused much damage. Finally, lead-up to the 2020 General Election, especially the Presidential Election, created tension and concern in the country. This sad news reminded me that life has its ups and downs and the importance of changing what I am able to change and accepting what I am not able to change.

Otherwise, I am very happy to have successfully completed my international experience despite the challenges of COVID-19 that prevented both Sr. Agnes and me from going to Ireland. I express my sincere gratitude for all who played different roles to make the above possible. In a special way I thank our Leadership Team, the Formation Team, our Sisters and the associates for their generous contribution. May the good Lord continue to bless you in your respective ministries.

PRAISED BE THE INCARNATE WORD. FOREVER!

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