Maryknoll, NY – On Monday May 1st, 2023 four Maryknoll Sisters (Lourdes Fernandez, Norma Pocasangre, Claudette LaVerdiere and NgocHa Pham) departed from our Maryknoll Residence in Monrovia, CA to their new mission presence in the country Chad! In deciding on this new mission presence location, the Congregation brainstormed countries with three main focuses established from their general assembly in 2021: climate change, migration and discrimination of all forms. There’s an interconnectedness between those three subjects in Chad, which is one of the most isolated, neglected and marginalized countries in the world. Years ago the Bishop from Chad approached the Maryknoll Sisters asking if any Sisters would be able to come serve there, but at the time there were no Sisters available. Today, the Sisters did not want to forget this request when searching for a new mission location and also wanted to go to a place where they have never been before and accompany people in dire need.
The focus of the Sisters mission work in Chad is unknown. They were welcomed by the Bishop in the Diocese of Moundou in the South of the country who told them to come see what the reality is there and serve and accompany the people. The Sisters will be accompanying and collaborating with the people, exactly what they will be doing we don’t know yet. They are open to all possibilities and with the recent development of the thousands of displaced refugees from the war in Sudan, they have the desire to go and assess that situation. Their faith will guide them as they enter the unknown, this is the first mission for the sisters in which they really don’t know where they will be living or with whom they will be working with and in which part of the country. All they know is they will be picked up by the airport by somebody and the rest is in God’s hands.
The Sisters are fully aware of the dangerous path that lies ahead with the civil war that is happening in the neighboring country of Sudan. They have their concerns, but they are walking in faith which gives them the strength and openness to go there. The collective prayers of their community and presence of God in their lives inspires and pushes them forward. These Sisters also have skills in trauma work and they themselves have lived in dangerous places before, they bring both that professional and personal experience to any danger they may encounter.
The four Sisters relocating to Chad are part of the Maryknoll Sisters Presence Entity Group, which is comprised of seven Sisters: (Lourdes Fernandez, Magreth Mkenda, Norma Pocasangre, Peg Dillon, Claudette LaVerdiere, Charlotte Hobler and NgocHa Pham). Four of the seven Sisters will be relocating to Chad while the other three will be based at our Maryknoll Residence in Monrovia, CA.
Sister NgocHa Pham says, “The way mission is witnessed now has changed tremendously as it was viewed many years ago, where we would go to a country bring our ideas and agenda with the mentality to help the people as the savior of the world. But, now it’s more of a collaborative effort with a deep listening, the Presence Entity is focused on collaborating with the locals to discover what their needs are”. They work with NGOs and different religious communities in order to make the world a better place, not just by themselves, but together as a community. Before mission work was focused on the doing and now the Congregation has shifted to accompanying the people, building relationships and being present with them, that is how the “presence entity” came about.