December 3, 2022- Sr. Agnes Njoki Njeru pictured with her immediate family members in front of Bishop Ndingi School where her Perpetual Profession was held.
By: Sister Agnes Njoki Njeru
December 22, 2022-Perpetual Profession
Profession held at Bishop Ndingi Secondary School, Baraka, Molo, Kenya
Call me Agnes, also known as Njoki, daughter of Saraphina Muthoni and Silvano Njeru. I am the fourth born of five siblings, four ladies, and one gentleman. I was born in Meru South, Tharaka Nithi County, in a small village called Kiego in Gantaraki. I am from St. Charles Lwanga, Muthambi Parish in Meru Diocese, Kenya. I am blessed to have been born of staunch Catholic parents who brought me up in an upright manner and with a Christian faith foundation.
My parents worked for religious congregations, Consolata Fathers, the Franciscan Elizabethan Sisters, and diocesan missionary clergy from Italy. Both worked as cooks and housekeepers for the priests and sisters. As early as the age of five years, I interacted with religious sisters daily since we lived in the parish servant’s quarters. My siblings and I went for morning Mass most days before going to school and this was the foundation for my deep love of the Holy Mass. The Sisters were very fond of us and often invited us to share in their ministry of caring for physically challenged persons. During the weekends and school holidays, we assisted the Sisters in recreation sessions for physically challenged children. I loved engaging in the artwork with the other children. I admired what the Sisters were doing for the physically challenged. I remember often making the remarks, “When I grow up, I want to be like Sr. Adriana or Sr. Elizabeth” these were the Elizabethan Sisters from Italy who were running the home for the physically challenged and a parish clinic by then. I admired their love, care, and concern for the sick and less privileged in society.
The Sisters also had time and space for us. They were concerned about our progress in school and often checked how we were faring. I always passed by the dispensary to report to Sr. Elizabeth how my day at school went. Anytime one of us got sick, we received tender loving care from the Sisters at the clinic and, at times, home visits. Their relationship with us, their way of life, and their ministry touched my heart in a big way.
In 1993 my parents had to move back to the village to take care of our ailing grandmother, who needed full-time health care. This meant leaving our beloved home and embracing a new environment. Back in the village, there were no religious sisters around. I missed the Sisters and the good times we had with them. The church was miles away from home and we had to walk for hours to get there. We lived in a village where our family was the only Catholic family in the middle of the Protestant denominations. This, however, did not stop us from continuing to be committed to our faith. We continued to attend Mass every Sunday and at home, we had daily prayers in the evening before sleeping. We also prayed the rosary for and with our ailing grandmother. From our commitment to prayer, I developed a pattern of personal prayer as young as I was. My parents insisted on the need to live a virtuous life. Discipline was highly instilled in us, especially by my father who was and is still a strict disciplinarian.
I went to schools sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa from grade two to high school. I had great teachers who continued to support me in my academics and faith journey though they were not Catholics. My teachers capitalized on my potential and encouraged me to work hard to be the best version of who God has destined me to be. I had close ties with most of my teachers with whom I still have connections. A good number of my grade school teachers graced the occasion of my final profession of vows, a true sign of love and continued support for my vocation. They were and still are true gospels of love despite being non-Catholic. As I grew up, they informed my morals and value system. I will forever remain grateful to them.
During my third year in high school, I began thinking deeply about what I wanted to commit my life to in the future. At the time, in my high school, I served as the chairperson of YCS- a group of Catholic students in my school. We received invitations from the Holy Family Sisters in Meru for seminars at their convent. The YCS patron encouraged me to attend the seminars. During that time, we were provided with numerous magazines that had vocation stories of various religious congregations. Among the magazines was “The Seed Magazine” by the Consolata Missionaries. Through this magazine, I came to know many religious congregations and interacted with their vocation directors. Lastly, I found the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word address and contacted Sr. Maureen Costello who was the Vocation Director then. My first experience of being received and interacting with Sr. Maureen Costello made me desire to know more about the Congregation. I felt at home and the desire to discern religious life was stronger than before. Little did I know that my journey to becoming a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word had just begun. I often attended seminars while I continued with my studies at college where I trained as a teacher.
During my college life, I was blessed to meet and study together with many religious women and men. I had the opportunity to interact with them, ask them questions, and listen to their vocation stories and missionary life. I had very close friends who were honest enough to share the ups and downs of religious life. I was inspired by many of them, and they helped me to make a well-informed decision. Upon my graduation, I immediately got a job in a government high school where I worked for one year before joining our Congregation. I enjoyed my teaching profession where I taught Christian Religious Education, English, and English Literature. By coincidence, I worked with the Franciscan Elizabethan Vocations Director in the school. We became close friends and most of the weekends she invited me to accompany her to visit their aspirants and for vocations promotions. I, however, did not join them as my heart was already with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.
In 2011, I officially began my live-in experience at DeMatel Community in Nairobi where I had the opportunity to experience the life of the Sisters and later in the same year became an affiliate. In the following year, I began my postulancy in Molo. As a postulant, I had an opportunity to understand the history of the Congregation, learn the dynamics of community living, and had a part-time ministry in a school and a hospital. I had my novitiate years at St. Bhakita convent in Nairobi. This was a time to continue deepening my relationship with the Incarnate Word as well as being initiated into the life of the Congregation. I made my first profession of vows on December 13, 2014. Since then, I have had opportunities to live and minister in various ministries in and out of the Congregation. In all these areas I have strived to be the healing presence of the Incarnate Word by being a gospel of love to all. As part of my formation journey, I also had the chance to have my year of international experience at Villa de Matel, our motherhouse in Houston, Texas. During my international year of experience, I was blessed to interact with many of our Sisters at Villa de Matel and got to work in various ministries. I also attended a vitality program at Mercy Center in Colorado. This was an enriching program that helped me rejuvenate, heal, broaden my horizons, and find new ways of living a happy life in the midst of the daily challenges of life.
This year, in July-August, as I made my thirty-day retreat at Mwangaza Jesuit Retreat Center in preparation for my perpetual profession of vows. I had quality time to reflect on major questions that many people have asked me in my interactions with them as well as reflecting on my motivation to remain a religious Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word. One of the major questions is, “Why did I choose to follow religious life or rather why do I still want to be a religious Sister?” When one of these questions is asked in an African setting, it carries more weight than one can hear. There are many other questions implicitly embedded in it such as, “Why not choose to have a family? Why not choose to pursue a career, and make money? And not to mention, why not choose a life where you can be “free” to make personal decisions, and do as you wish?” John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear much fruit that will last, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” I do not have direct answers to the questions but the gospel of John answers it all. I am also convinced that my vocation to religious life is a mystery that transcends my conceptual limits, hence defying definition and explanation. In this day and age, I still want to be a religious sister because my vocation is a response to a particular situation that God wants to solve through me.
December 3, 2022-Sr. Agnes Njoki Njeru (center) pictured with Sister Celeste Trahan-Congregational Leader (R) & her Council-Sisters: (L-R) Joyce Susan Njeri Mbataru, Kim Phuong Tran, Betty Campos Arias, Ricca Dimalibot
This does not mean God would not have used someone else or used me in a different vocation. The call is from God; He chooses whomever He chooses to accomplish His mission and gives the grace to overcome all the worldly inclinations and desires that seem to be more appealing and profitable than following the chaste, poor, and obedient Christ. From a personal point of view, my vocation is a call to respond to God’s love that I have received throughout my life and continue to receive. Matthew 10:8 “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost, you are to give.” I truly see my life as a gift from God that I have freely committed my life to the service of God and his people through the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Today, as I reflect on my own vocation journey, I view vocations to religious life as fragile, especially with the millennial generation who has been observed to have the inability to make definitive decisions in their lives. The turnover of young adults in workplaces and religious houses has reached new heights.
There is a form of immaturity that comes from a weak sense of identity leading to self-denial. In this age that is rocked by individualism, materialism, secularism, societal crisis, and various scandals that have hit the church, the question of identity is key for consecrated persons to reflect on. There is an identity crisis whereby individuals focus on “What I do” rather than “Who I am,” forgetting the ideals of our consecration which are a personal and intimate relationship with God, commitment to a life of service, a radical following of Christ through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and finally a commitment to community living. In my view, considering the societal crisis and from a personal concern for the 21st-century vocations, there is a need for formation guides who can deal with the complex reality of human maturity and helping young people to form a new conscience. Young people discerning religious life need to be helped to deal with the superficiality, neglect of, and inability to honestly deal with their life stories, embracing their strengths and weaknesses. More so, formation guides need to know that they are instruments of God who have no favorites. Hence accompany every individual with utmost honesty, utter care, mentorship, and guidance accompanied with patience and firmness which will help bring up healthy religious persons.
My perpetual profession of vows was a culmination of a journey of love. It is a journey of love that I have walked in the company of the Incarnate Word and with the help of many people who have touched my life in different ways. Firstly, it is a love from my parents and family, who have closely walked with me in my vocation journey, offering me moral and spiritual support. Secondly, my formators in various stages of formation have also guided me into the awareness of God’s love and care for me. Thirdly, my spiritual directors who throughout this journey have played a significant role in helping me be aware of the movements of God’s Spirit. I am most grateful to Sr. Celeste Trahan, my Congregation Leader who received my vows on December 3, 2022, the Council, the international formation team, and all the CCVI’s for gracing the occasion, their support, and prayers.
May our vocations be rooted in Faith, based on Grace, and perfected in Charity. May the Incarnate Word continue to fill us with His infinite goodness to share His Love and healing in a world burning up with the internal combustion of fears, worries, hate, and problems of all nature. Most importantly may we be aware that our vocation to religious consecration is quintessential in today’s world.
Praised be the Incarnate Word! Forever!