The Core celebration 150 years of the Holy Family of Bordeaux in Lesotho

As stated earlier, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Holy Family Association in Lesotho was in three phases; the first phase was celebrated at Maryland on the 18th April 2015 and the theme was to commemorate the arrival of the six pioneers of the Holy Family Sisters in Lesotho. The second phase was on the 24th April at St. Mary’s in Roma. The aim of the day was to reward the best teachers from seven Holy Family schools, best nurses from six Holy Family health centers, old students of St. Mary`s High school, all unit leadership from the time of Sr. Mary Joseph Angot to the present moment, missionaries who worked in Lesotho for a long time and attended the celebration.  It was also to commemorate our deceased sisters who founded some of the Holy Family institutions in Lesotho and who were pillars in the Association and  who worked hard to put Holy Family association in Lesotho where it is now.  The core celebration was the third phase that took place on the 25th April 2015 at Roma to mark the summit of the Jubilee Year activities.

The Holy Mass was concelebrated by Reverend Bishop emeritus Mohlalisi OMI and about 25 priests.  After the penitential ceremony, Sr Sheila Wasp, the Unit leader of South Africa passed  the burning Jubilee candle to the Unit of Lesotho, by handing it over to Sr Hyacintha Moopisa who is the Unit leader of Lesotho.  This symbolized the same light of Christ that was brought to South Africa 151 years ago by the sisters of the Holy Family from France.  This was the same Jubilee Candle that was first lit in South Africa in 2014 when the South African unit celebrated their 150 years. The symbol of light showed  how the sisters came to Lesotho to bring light of Christ through their different apostolic services, such as building schools and health centers.  At the end of her presentation Sheila wished the sisters of the Holy Family to continue to be the light of Christ in the Nation.

During his sermon Bishop Mohlalisi pointed out that it was not easy for the first oblate missionaries to evangelize women in Lesotho.  That is why  they,  decided to send  letters back to France asking for the Holy Family sisters of Bordeaux to come to their rescue in the ministry.  It is significant that the sisters arrived in 1865, three years after the arrival of the oblates.  He also pointed out that Religious life came as a big challenge to the mentality of the Basotho people.  In their culture a woman’s role was only to get married and bear children.  Religious Life was not easy for them to understand.  They found it more difficult to allow their daughters to join the Religious Life because it also meant that they would not get cattle for lobola.  Most of the girls who wished to join the sisters had to do so against the will of their parents and they were severely punished.  In spite of all that God continued to call girls for his service and they responded to God with great courage and dedication. That is how the Holy Family sisters in Lesotho grew from six to multitudes during the course of this 150 years. They grew in numbers and in works to spread the word of God in Schools, clinic, hospitals and in the villages. This made the work of the priests to be more simple and more fruitful because sisters have more access to meet people at their own homes and in the different services they offer.  They help them to understand the word of God and refer them to priests when necessary.

The Bishop went on to borrow the words of St Paul who thanked God for what he did for him and said;  “We thank and highly appreciate the Mercy of God demonstrated through the sisters of the Holy Family in Lesotho.”  He also remarked on the scarcity of religious vocations these days and reminded people that God continues to call people for his service, even though people are so busy with riches of this world and turn a deaf ears to God’s call.  He finally encouraged all to follow the examples of Christ as he was humble and prayerful man who always listened to God and went about doing good to all.  To the Holy Family sisters he said we should keep on praying with trust and faith because it is only God who calls. At the end of his sermon, he asked the congregation to ask God to open our eyes to see God’s plans in our lives by singing the words of the blind man of the Gospel: “What do you want me to do for you?  Lord, that I may see.” These words were sung as a mantra that took the place of the Prayers of the faithful.

For Offertory Procession,  Holy Family works were symbolically presented in a form of four dancing groups lead by the sisters and the Associates.   Sr. Regina Ramaoko lead a group of Catechists and Counselors who presented the Bible, as symbol of the Gospel values shared through their Pastoral Ministries.   Sr. Mary Theresa Mokhothu and Sr Theresia Selete lead a group of students and teachers from the seven schools and they presented chalk and a duster symbolizing education.   Ms Teboho Lebusa lead a group of nurses and they presented their Nightingale lamp as a symbol of Health workers.

At the end of the Mass, 150 pairs of shoes were distributed to seven Holy Family Schools.  The shoes were wrapped in such a way that each school receives a parcel which will be opened at their own place and distributed to the identified students who are disadvantaged. After that all member of the Holy family association present for the celebration sang their Jubilee Song. The song expressed cries of jubilation and cited the story of how the first six Holy Family Missionaries came to Lesotho and how they were welcomed by the Great King Moshoeshoe I. After the song Sr. Eleanora Molai presented the History of their arrival and the beginnings of the Religious Life Lesotho.  Presentation of the sisters’ arrival together with the succession of different styles of religious habit and students dresses and uniforms were shown as open vehicle floats passed one by one across the play ground where the festive ceremony was held.  This gave the idea of the progress achieved by the missionaries among the people from the time they arrived to the present moment.

After this some of the students of Mary’s high School gave their speeches.   First came a former student with a group dressed in animal skin attire from olden times. These were joined by another group  in a multi-coloured uniform with red, white and black stripes.  She explained that how the sisters helped Basotho to make woollen and cotton clothes, starting with the students in their boarding school.  Their borders came to be known as “makhoali” because of their multi-coloured uniform.  Even today this name is given to boarders everywhere in the country, even though the uniform has changed.  St. Mary’s girls were proud to sing their school song together with all generations of old represented in the Jubilee gathering.  Then Sr. Alix-Maria Lekhooa, the principal gave her speech and explained that School celebrates together with the sisters because St. Mary’s High school was opened as soon as the pioneer sisters arrived in Roma.

Then Fr. Anthony Lisema Matsoso OMI spoke on behalf of the priests and the religious of the Country.  He presented the historical events that brought the Holy Family and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate together for close collaboration in the mission of the Church.  He also pointed out that from the arrival day, the sisters worked hard to empower the Basotho nation, and expressed gratitude  for the gift of the Holy Family as pioneers of the Women Religious  in Lesotho.  Now Lesotho has more than ten Congregations doing different works.  To the sisters he said, the celebration of the jubilee should be a source of new strength and courage because, even though vocations to religious life are, now, scarce they will remember that when the pioneer sisters started, they were only six but they did great things.  It is now time to look back and to restructure ourselves in order to move forward with a new vision for the Holy Family in Lesotho.

Sr. Sheila McGowan spoke on behave of the missionary sisters who worked in Lesotho.  She thanked all Basotho for welcoming them with love and understanding as fellow humans with both strengths and weaknesses. The minister of education expressed her gratitude to the Holy Family sister for their support as partners to the government of Lesotho in many areas for the welfare of the nation. They work hand in hand with them to build the bright future of Basotho especially in education. She believes that education is one of the essential needs of the country. She expressed her admiration the sisters’ compassion expressed through works such as their Kananelo Centre for children with Speech and Hearing impairment.  She showed appreciation of the management skills which have kept the institutions they opened for the nations running and maintaining standards until now.   She said that it is a great pleasure for the government of Lesotho to have the sisters in the country empowering the nation and continuing to be a sign of hope in the country; they have sacrificed their lives for the good of all.

Sr. Hyacintha Moopisa spoke on behalf of the Holy Family Association in Lesotho, giving a vote of thanks, firstly to God who has been with the association from the beginning to this moment.  Secondly she thanked God for the missionaries who left their countries to empower and develop the bright future of Basotho. Thirdly she thanked the Bishop, priests, religious men and women and the whole congregation for the support they showed to the Holy Family association for many years, but in a special way during the time of the preparation of the jubilee where all contributed and with their presence made the celebration a success.

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