MAJOR SUPERIORS / MOTHERS WHO HAVE SERVED IN HOLLAND/KENYA – F. S.S. A. HEADQUATERS
- MOTHER JOHANNA OF JESUS-FOUNDRESS 1575-1648
Mother Johanna of Jesus is the foundress of the congregation of penitent Recollectines. She was born in 1575 and joined the third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi, in a Belgian community called Hospitalizes, whose apostolate was to care for the sick.
She became convinced that the life of the sisters during her time needed to be reformed through penance, meditation and prayer. These three were to be the main task of the sisters. She also felt that to do this, the sisters must be enclosed. Since her thoughts were not acceptable to most of the sisters, she decided to form her own Congregation with new constitutions, with the help of a reformed Capuchin priest- Fr. Marchant.
Her reformed Rule was approved by Pope Urbanius VIII in 1624. Her sisters wore brown habit and dedicated their life to prayer as well as caring for a small number of girls in Boarding school. Her reform was based on four pillars: Purity of heart, Poverty of Spirit Mutual Love and mortification of the body.
The sisters were called Penitent Recollectines, and lived in a small Belgian town called Limburg. Mother Johanna wrote her Charism and Rule after many years of contemplation on the spirit she inherited from her spiritual Father, St. Francis of Assisi. She was known for her steadfast character, straight forwardness and simplicity. She was a person of prayer and meditation. The Holy Eucharist and devotion to Mary Mother of Jesus were the center of her life. She admired the simplicity of the early Christians, and promoted their simplicity in her community. She said; ‘they were one in heart’.
Mother Johanna abhorred flattery and hypocrisy. She often said to her sisters; “Do not work to be seen or praised by men, the motivation of your work should be to express your love for God”. Mother Johanna founded fifteen more communities in Belgium. She died on 26th August, 1648. Her reformed Rule continued to be lived by all her communities which were established in Belgium.
- MOTHER ANTOINE JANSSENS 1838 – 1860
Mother Antoine was the first Mother General of Franciscan Sisters of St. Anne, following the separation of Oudenbosch Sisters from the Roosendal group of Mother Marie Joseph. Although she did not leave any writings she was a simple and a determined mother with great trust in the Lord’s providence.
She entrusted the future of the Congregation to Divine Providence. Hers was to provide help whenever she and her sisters were needed. During her time, six new communities were opened, within Holland, Mother Antoine died in 1877 in Oudenbosch.
- MOTHER ROSALIE VAN WEZEL 1860-1874
After Mother Antoine stepped down, Mother Rosalie greatly extended the physical facilities in Oudenbosch for the Sisters and the school for boarders. She was a gifted leader who gave a strong foundation to the work started by Mother Antoine. She was very motherly and greatly loved the Sisters and children. She died in 1874 at the age of 55 years.
- MOTHER HUMILIANA VAN GINNEKAN 1874 – 1905
She succeeded Mother Rosalie in 1874 and opened new communities. She was the first Superior General to delegate many of her duties since she felt she needed to give more attention to the spirituality of each sister and she also wanted to ensure that the sisters live according to the guidelines of Mother Johanna of Jesus. She was also the first Superior General to go outside the mother house for visitation.
- MOTHER ALCANTARA DE JONG 1905 – 1921
She was a gifted and radical leader who was well educated; she drew up an elaborate programme for formation and education of the young members of the society and congregation. She encouraged team spirit among her council. She brought education to highest level promoting a deep spirituality and material well being that led to the extension of the schools and communities. She introduced nursing as an apostolate in the congregation following a request by a local Bishop. She died on 24th July 1920.
- MOTHER THOMASIA FLASSCHEERT 1921 – 1944
During her time the church extended the novitiate period from one year to two in order to improve spiritual formation. In the same period, celebration of the Liturgy got special attention and different groups of young sisters studied Latin- the official language of church Liturgy. She took the initiative to send sisters to Suriname in 1925 to start a new mission there and she equally visited Suriname in 1930. It was during her time that the constitution was revised requiring delegates from different communities to be elected for the General Chapter. She built many new structures for the congregation like a house for the sick and the aged and a domestic science block. She took the initiative to address the need in the medical field at the time by training sisters as District nurse.
- MOTHER THERESIA PLASSCHAERT 1944 – 1906
She started her term of office when the Second World War was on. The congregation was faced with many challenges like; salaries of the sisters were cut, food became scarce schools were closed, government grants were cut, some towns where sisters lived were bombed while some convent schools were taken over by the German solders.
There were also many refugees who kept coming and were given hospitality in St. Anna
Mother Theresa opened her doors and her heart to all the people in need.
She did the same in 1953 for those who lost their homes during the terrible floods in some Provinces in the Netherlands. She ordered the sisters to open the doors of the convent to the Netherlands homeless. Mother Teresa had a great love for the Suriname mission and continued to send sisters there. She herself visited the mission twice and retired from office in 1956.
- MOTHER CONSOLATA ROERS 1956 – 1972
She was a broad minded, visionary leader with a burning missionary spirit. She was sent to Suriname as a missionary and worked there for 20 years until she was called back to Holland after being elected as superior General in 1956 in absentia. She had untold trust in the Lord whom she had given her life. Her main aim was that the congregation fulfills as many needs of the people as possible. She therefore started many new activities within the congregation.
Mother Consolata was approached in mid 1950s by the Mill Hill Fathers working in Kenya and the Bishop of Kisumu Right Rev Fredrick Hall and his auxiliary Bishop Otunga who visited the Generalate in 1957 to send sisters to Kenya. Bishop Kya Fredrick Hall and his Auxiliary Bishop Maurice Otunga. In her readiness to do so she traveled together with her Vicar Sr Getrude to Kenya in 1958 to see the mission stations by herself. She chose Lwak as the first station to send the sisters and the following year sent the first five sisters to Kenya who were Sr. Mechtilda – regional superior and teacher, Sr. Marie Louise – as teacher, sr. Brigida – as cook, Sr. Eymado as nurse and sr Catherine as teacher. The five sisters arrived at Kenya Port Mombasa on 3rd October. They first stayed at Bishops residence in Kakamega and were officially received in Lwak on 21st October 1958.
Between 1958 and 1972 she built four convents in Kenya with schools and health care units attached to address the needs of the pupils and local community. She continued to send more sisters to Kenya until 1972. There were four communities with schools and health care units which were well staffed. Mother Consolata is also the Founderess of our Kenya mission and Kenya represents one of her loving care for the needs of the people in the world. She initiated changes and adoptions of religious life according to Vocation II documents in the congregation.
The congregation witnessed many internal and external changes during her Generalate e.g. from habits to civilian clothing and renewal in spirituality and leadership structures. She lived for 95 years and died in ……….. Thank you mother Consolata for your gift of Kenya Province. During her generalate with her council within ten years of the sisters work in Kenya she realized that for the work of the congregation to continue they had to start admitting Kenyan girls. Within only fur years after the first five Dutch sisters settled in Kenya. Mother consolatat sae the need to continue fulfilling the many educational and healing needs in the country which the dutch sisters could not accomplish alone. So she pressed for starting a branch of the congregation in Kenya and the first girls were admitted to the aspirancy for formation to the consecrated life in 1962. soon after their first profession four years later she arranged for total integration in the congregation with permission from Rome. She chose to do this because she wanted to avoid racial discrimination which was common among religious congregations kenya at the time. Hence the white and black sisters of FSA together as community and shared all they had as sisters in the lord to date.
- MOTHER HOTENSIA 1972 – 1982
She was outstanding for promoting communication between the convents in our congregation in both Holland and Kenya. The integration of the Kenyan region into the congregation of Franciscan sisters of St. Anna took place during her time. She stipulated during her visitation to Kenya following the integration that Dutch and Kenyan sisters live together and both Kenyan and Dutch dishes be served at table as a sign of unity. The celebration of the 8th centenary of St. Francis was stimulated during her time and she sent a manifesto to all sisters with the words of St. Francis “I have done my task and may Christ teach you how to fulfill yours” she died suddenly on 12-9-1982
- MOTHER INVIOLATA 1982 – 1998
After her election as Superior General, her 1st message to her sisters was, “let us try to initiate Christ and his gospel inspired by St. Francis and through prayers to fix our mind on the salvation of the world, let each person ask herself – am I the answer to the call of others.” In this spirit Sr. inviolata and her new council guided the congregation to go back to the spirituality of our ancestors i.e. to the roots of the founders.
She was very concerned about the self governing of the Kenyan Region and took a number of structured changes to ensure the sustainability and self reliance (autonomy) of Kenyan region. She arranged for Kenyan sisters to be present in the general chapter in Holland for the 1st time inn 1986 and ensured that the Regional council in Kenya be fully Africanized, leading to election of the first Kenyan as Regional superior in December 1986.
In 1994 under her leadership the congregation was divided into two Provinces Dutch and Kenya, for better and more effective administration. This was done after the constitution of the congregation was revised and both provinces had their Directory (statutes) in place. Mother Inviolata made sure that all our convents and institutions which needed face lifting were done. She provided financial and moral support to many Kenyan sisters who were at the time taking up new responsibilities from our Dutch Sisters who left Kenya back to Holland in March 1987. During her leadership a new Noviciate was built in Kisumu on a land purchased in the name of FSA. She also allowed three new communities to be opened in Kenya by the provincial superior Sr. Gabriel i.e. Nyabondo, Awasi and Madiany. She also ensured Lwak complex, which was the original place where the sisters settled, was connected to the main electric grid in 1995.
She financed this covering the convent and all the other institutions within Lwak. In Holland she had to build a new smaller convent and sold the old St. Anne to Oudenbouch Municipality as the number of sisters in the Mother House declined and maintenance of the big house became expensive. She arranged to sell many FSA institutions to the government since sisters had retired and could not continue with their Apostolate. She passed on peacefully at St. Anna Oudenbouch in 2009.
- SISTER EYMARDO 1999 – 2006
A simple humble Sister who accepted to lead the congregation though she had little background knowledge and experience especially with regards to the Kenya Province which needed more care from her, though she lacked the fluency of English language to communicate. She started her leadership when the Dutch province had declined so much that most members needed full time pastoral care.
More lay nurses had to be employed to take up day to day duties in St. Anna and Maria te engellen to take care of the sick and aging sisters. She had also to arrange for purchase of some idle resources of the Dutch Province due to declining number of members. The number of lay workers in the Generalate almost out numbered the sisters due to specialized care many sick sisters needed. The apostolate of sisters in the Dutch province hence forth has been concentrated on pastoral care for each other. Following her re-election in 2002 it was decided that the general council consists of sisters from both Dutch and Kenya Province, which is the practice to date.
In Kenya province the following were initiated with the approval of her council, a new community in Musoma Tanzania for rehabilitation of street children which was a new apostolate for the Province.
During her Generalate another community was established in Nairobi, The Kolping community which manages the Regional headquarters of Kolping Movement in Eastern Africa. Rosa Mystica Spiritual Centre was built from the funds sent by the generalate collected by friends of FSA in Holland. It is a Spiritual Center with 40 self contained rooms with several conference halls and chapel to allow for spiritual renewal through seminars workshops and retreats for different Christian groups. Provincial headquarters was also moved from Lwak in a rural setting to a more central place in Kisumu using funds provided by the Generalate to purchase the house and land. She continued to visit Kenya regularly as her predecessors had done, visiting different communities and identifying other needs of the people served.
- SISTER VITA 2007 – 2014
Sr. Vita had been a member of Kenyan province for 25 years having come as a missionary to head the newly started Lwak Girls Secondary and Primary boarding before her election as Superior General. Later she was elected to serve as a regional superior of the region before being elected as a member of the Generalate in1986. Since that time she was the councilor in charge of Kenya province and therefore all the developments of the province have been associated with her efforts in collaboration with the superior General of the day and other councilors. When elected Superior General in 2006 the Kenyan Province was very happy, and felt a member of the province had been elected to that capacity.
She is a compassionate leader with a missionary spirit, giving herself and time fully to the people who need her. Because of her readiness to listen to everyone, all the sisters are free with her and whenever she comes to Kenya for visitation she makes sure she talks with each and every sister. Sr. Vita has a soft heart for the people of Kenya and has sponsored many poor children and youth including family members of the sisters in education institutions of higher learning. This is a way of empowering people educationally to later fend for themselves. She gives priority to the personal welfare of each sister and proper growth of the province as a whole.
Whenever there is problem of finance in our institutions, she is always ready to look for organizations and individuals from overseas who can lend a hand; Her sympathy for her fellow sisters in ill health and in sorrow is unquestionable, her insistent on social justice for all especially for low income staff in our institutions is well known to all of us. Due to her hard work, the congregation attained pontifical status within one year period June 2009 in collaboration with Kenya province
Of late during her recent visitation, she saw the need to expand Rosa Mystica S.C. by providing funds to construct a new convent of 10 rooms and renovate Aluor convent so that the sisters live happily in a good environment. As a top spiritual leader of the congregation she is very observant on areas of prayer, community life and inter personal relationships and will keep in communication with sisters by responding to individual directly who write to her without hesitation.
Kenya Province thanks you for readily responding to the Lord’s voice when He told you “My daughter, leave your native land and go to the country that I will show you.”(Gen.12:1)
Your generous response has made thousands of Kenyans find the Lord; including over 130 Kenyan girls now consecrated to the Lord.
Thank you Sisters!, Thank you Sisters!.
REGIONAL / PROVINCIAL SUPERIORS WHO HAVE SERVED IN – KENYA PROVINCE
- SR. MECHTILDA 1958 – 1982
Sr. Mechtilda was the pioneer and pace setter of the present Kenyan province. She is the one who laid foundation for most of what is presently seen within the FSA Kenyan province.
Together with the first 5 sisters, she planned and established all the first four communities i.e. Lwak, Aluor, Nyangoma and Rapogi together with all the schools and medical units in all those houses. With the help of the General Superiors of the time, the sisters and friends of FSA in Holland including the Dutch government, She solicited funds to put up all our institutions ranging from nursery, primary, secondary home craft and all medical units in the first four houses in Lwak Complex, Aluor, Nyangoma and Rapogi in Kenya Province.
It was under her leadership that the Generalate decided to start an African wing of the Congregation in Kenya and started with formation of Kenyan girls into the congregation. She traversed the entire Kisumu archdiocese and the neighboring Kisii Diocese consulting with the bishops where to put up convents and institutions that would serve the needs of the people at the time.
Being a creative and gifted person she laid out the building plan just like an architect for all the FSA institutions put up at the time. This made the province have unique and neat plans to date – Lwak Girls High School ground plan is a living proof of her personal creation. She was a hard working person who combined the responsibility of being the Regional Superior and Head teacher of Lwak Girl’s Primary Boarding.
After the decision to take up Kenyan girls into the congregation she saw to it that the Kenyan sisters were well formed and initiated to properly live their consecrated life faithfully according to the Franciscan Spirituality, that they were well prepared to take up their responsibilities, carrying out the mission of Christ wherever and whenever needed. She did this by educating and taking them for various trainings to meet the demands / needs of the various Apostolates of the Congregation.
Being a straight forward person who was self disciplined and open, she was highly revered by all who worked and often listened to her advice. Her high regard for strict discipline in carrying out spiritual exercises, her dislike of pretence and simplicity in dressing earned her many enemies even among her own sisters.
She was a strong woman who loved to lead by action, hence she worked tirelessly with her sisters and laity leveling the compound in the hot sun, she was swift in her movement which earned her a Luo nick name “Okuse”
Sr. Mechtilda was a strong willed person, very time conscious and wanted things to be done in an orderly manner. She used to say “what mother says, mother do,” hers was to say yes for yes and no for no. She wanted to see this also in her own sisters. This often made her lock horns with many people. We thank God for her firm nature especially when it came to matters of religion. Her loyalty to the leaders of the church and to her religious obligations was unquestionable.
After retiring from the missions she continued to work tirelessly in the motherhouse putting bits and piece together about the history of the Kenyan province. Thanks “Okuse” God bless your dream, your efforts of starting a new province for us in Kenya. May the seed you planted in Kenya continue to grow and yield abundant fruit for the Lord.
- SR. MARIE LOUISE “Minwa” 1979 – 1982
Sr. Marie Louise was the second Regional Superior of the Kenyan region. She was the first Novice Mistress in the province a job she did for over 15years. All the first Kenyan sisters went through her hand. When she became the Regional Superior she was known by all the sisters as “Minwa” a Luo nickname meaning “our mother.” This was due to her motherly love.
As Regional superior she continued to perfect what was already started by Sr. Mechtilda. She gave priority to strengthening spirituality of the sisters in the province in collaboration with the local ordinary of the diocese. “Minwa” will be greatly remembered for being fully human, A sister from Suriname South America, a distant continent from Africa who was an African woman in every sense of the word except skin colour. She was motherly, tolerant, empathetic, understanding, a good cook, loving, hospitable, generous and firm in her words who doubled as a good cook.
She was so accommodative and flexible that she could successfully handle junior and senior sisters, the weak and strong characters, young and aged, poor and rich. She was a very understanding and concerned person who could fire when necessary while at the same time console to help one see mistakes made.
- SR. VITA 1983 – 1986
Sr. Vita was the third Regional superior of Kenya Province. She was a courageous and determined young sister who effectively carried out three challenging roles co-currently. She was elected Regional superior while at the same time was the head teacher of Lwak Girls Boarding School and sister incharge of her community.’
She continued to develop some of our key institutions and health centers, putting more building and other required facilities. She is appreciatively remembered for her availability to whoever wanted to talk / see her. She was never too busy to listen to anybody who asked for her attention whether laity or her own sisters. Her concern for the poor from all walks of life was remarkable. Her energy to help her sisters and those who need her never dried up.
She had a way of managing her time in such a way that despite her busy schedule she would always find time to listen to others, for her prayers, to read books which was her great hobby, be punctual for recreation and perform all her administrative duties as Regional Superior.
- SR. GABRIEL JUMA 1987-1998.
She was the first Kenyan sister to be elected Regional Superior and later Provincial Superior. She was re- elected and led the Kenya Province for 12 years. During her time, together with her council, she contributed a lot to the development and growth of the province. At the time of her leadership the communities expended from four to nine. The new communities established were: Nyabondo, Awasi, Madiany, San-Damiano Noviciate, Bar-Korwa.
She also sent more personel from the province for training in the following fields’ pastoral care, Nurses, Teachers, Formators, Catechist. She encouraged unity in diversity and hospitality in our communities, within the province, and worked closely with the local church of Kenya. Sisters were encouraged to go for a week rest in other communities during holidays. She also encouraged and strengthened respect and cordial relationship with the clergy and other religious groups. She sent the first FSA sister to man and administer AOSK headquarters at Nairobi for 5 years. She moved Noviciate from Lwak to Kisumu as advised by AOSK to isolate novices for better formation. Sound growth and development of the province in all areas was her main concern.
Sr. Gabriel worked towards improving spirituality of all sisters through popular mission retreat for all. She was always available to the sisters and lay personnel in our convents. Any day, anytime was her office time even in the streets of Kisumu and through regular visits to the communities. She also put up many new structures eg new dormitory in Lwak, renovation of our convents, visitor’s houses for most communities, houses for convents staff in Lwak e.t.c. Her great concern for financial stability of the province led to establishment of; St. Anna Guest House and purchasing land for Rosa Mystica Spiritual Centre in Nairobi. Her period of leadership was marked by sound financial management with good transparency and accountability; the Kenya region also attained its provincial status with revised constitution.
The province experienced the highest growth in number of newly professed sisters whose vocation she highly nurtured. Sr. Gabriel is remembered for her focused, development mindedness, her motherly visits to communities.
- SR. BENIGNA AOKO 1999-2002.
Sr. Benigna led the Province for 4 years; a lot was accomplished in collaboration with her councilors, and the sisters of the province. When she moved in as a Provincial Superior, her main concern could be summed up as “need for self- reliance of the province in all aspects.” She encouraged and promoted soliciting of funds locally i.e. encouraged Harambee spirit in the province. With a view to using our own resources for expansion of our physical facilities every community was directed to start small projects to raise funds for a major Harambee where friends and well wishers were invited to help complete a big hall for St. Anna Guest House and Assisi Provincialate Informatory House for the sick and aged.
She avoided dependence of leadership from one group of sisters, by appointing younger sisters to positions of responsibility in houses. She experimented with different methods of solving / investigating problems and motivating sisters in communities so that they could better own the situation at hand, build more trust and live in our communities with less conflicts.
Sr. Benigna could be generally described as a risk taker and a woman of vision full of initiative ready for change, always ready to step in unknown waters (areas) while hoping for better results. Due to this, her leadership period achieved the following; The Provincialate was moved from Lwak to Kisumu Assisi House, a house and land was purchased for the building of Assisi Provincilate cum infirmary and construction was started with funds locally raised by sisters, friends and parishioners. Also, St. Anna Guest House was expanded, construction of Rosa Mystica was started, Milimani land purchased, health of F.S.A Sisters in Kenya was insured (AAR Health Service) for the first time in the history of the province and new communities were established e.g. Rosa Mystica and Nyamonye. She also took sisters for studies/training abroad and locally.
She was a leader who gave priority to the spiritual growth of her sisters through regular visits to all communities and institutions of learning where her sisters were.
- SR. IRENE 2003 – 2010
Sr. Irene is best described as a woman of prayer whose main focus is the word of God. Her main concern therefore was to uplift the spirituality of all her sisters first and then the rest would follow, summed up as “seek first the kingdom of God and all will be given unto you”. She did a lot to establish a formal and workable structure for the spiritual formation of the sisters, starting with formation houses up to ongoing formation of finally professed sisters.
This is evidenced by
- Documentation of the formation Programmes for the entire province.
- Sabbatical Programmes for many sisters both locally and abroad
- Establishment of formation team to look into spiritual development of the province
- Organized regular seminars and workshops for the entire province.
- Intensified training and upgrading of sisters at different levels and apostolate
- Encouraging, strengthening and monitoring of discipline in spiritual exercises in each community in the province especially personal and community prayers. She encouraged each sister to reach out to the marginalized of the society by challenging them to look for resources needed for this e.g. soliciting fund from within and outside the country through proposal writing for physical development of our facilities and other needs of those we serve. A lot of work was done and many needy people were reached through this.
A number of new communities were established during her time e.g. Kolping community in Nairobi, Uradi in Siaya, Musoma in Tanzania, together with new apostolate introduced and intensified e.g. HIV/ AIDs, homecare, street children rehabilitation in Musoma. Orphans support account has been established including those that belong to the families of FSA Sisters. Organized pastoral care supported by the provincial office and overseas donors, teaching of PPI in our own schools , and neighboring mixed primary schools. She brought a lot of discipline in the sisters e.g. simple but descent dressing befitting of a religious, the observance of spiritual exercises as stipulated in our constitution i.e. private and communal prayers, recollections, retreats. Generally a lot of spiritual discipline has been instilled in the sisters during her leadership, hence uplifting the name of the FSA sisters.
She is a team player as seen in her way of delegating work to other council members, establishing the office of Provincial administrator, and encouraging participatory leadership in the whole province through zonal coordinators and house Councils. She worked hard together with her council and sisters in the province to strengthen unity and introduced thorough chapter preparation whereby sisters at all levels took active part. She is a visionary leader who initiated many projects in order to make the province self reliant. She worked hard with her Superior General and her counselors to raise the Congregation to pontifical status.
Sr. Irene led the Province to interact, relate and work closely together with other congregations, the Franciscan family in Kenya and international congregations hence opened the province to new ideas for improvement of commitment and mission. Spirituality of the sisters and their formation was, given first priority. A full time Chaplin, more trained formators, and other priests and sisters were involved in the teaching at our formation houses. During her 8 years of leadership what was started by her predecessors were continued and intensified. Thank you sister for bringing us back to the drawing board, The roots of our vocation “prayer.”