6 September, 2018
Clarence N. Uzogara, SHCJ, is a contributor to Global Sisters Report’s The Life, a monthly feature about the unique, challenging and lives of women religious around the world. Recently Sister Clarence contributed to the theme, “Ecumenism in experience, sisters share their spiritually enriching encounters.” Her essay is below:
In my seven years as the headmistress of a school in Delta State, Nigeria, I worked with parents and teachers of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Within two years, our congregations’ two schools and a hospital were part of the local community that included Urhobos, Christians of other denominations, and Muslims.
We had a Grotto of Our Lady of Nigeria in front of the school, and we prayed the “Catholic way,” as did our teachers and students. I was staying late at school one day when a teacher who had already gone home came back to tell me that one of my teachers who was pregnant was asking for me. When we arrived at her home, she had already given birth to a baby boy. A group of people from her church, the Celestial Church of Christ, were present (we called them “white garment people”).
The teacher had come to school that morning — even though she was on leave — and visited the grotto to pray for a safe delivery; she had been in labor for two days. As soon as she got home, the midwife helped deliver her baby. I was lost for words seeing my teacher’s faith in Mary. The church members expressed appreciation for the Catholic sisters and the good work we were doing for their communities.
I also had some Muslim friends, a beautiful couple married for years, but with no child of their own, with nieces enrolled in my school. Our school was known for the love and attention we gave to children from Muslim backgrounds, so many attended Our Lady of Nigeria School.
On a routine visit, once my friend Halima asked me to pray with her. What prayer would not compromise my faith or hers? So I said, “Allah God who knows us more than we do, bless Halima and give her what she needs from you.” After that, we would pray together, either in my office or in her home.
To my joy, later she did conceive and bore twins, two girls. On the day of their naming ceremony, she and her husband invited me over. Guess what names they gave the twins? Miriam and Mariamo, both after Our Lady.
These two experiences are sacred and treasured memories. What a beautiful world we could have if we let go of what divides us as God’s children, like denominations and religious differences.