First African Elected

First African Elected to Lead the Society of the Holy Child Jesus

Mayfield, England – Sr. Veronica Openibo, SHCJ was elected as the 13th Society Leader (Superior General) of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) on Saturday, April 10, 2010. Sr. Veronica is the first African ever elected to lead the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. In addition to Sr. Veronica, Sr. Monica Adigwe of Rome, Sr. Carmen Torres of Philadelphia, and Sr. Carmel Murtagh of Dublin, Ireland were elected to serve as members of the Society Leadership Team. They will take office this summer and serve for a term of six years. They will be based in Rome.

First African Elected
The first Holy Child Sisters from America stepped onto the continent of Africa in 1930 and have been serving there ever since. In 1962, the first African woman entered the Society. In 1985, Africa became its own Province within the Society, just as there is a European Province and an American Province. Today, with the election of the first African as Society leader, the SHCJ are rejoicing.

In a speech to the sisters, Sr. Veronica said, “Thank you for placing this trust in me. The good feeling I have is of how we shall accomplish all the tasks ahead of us. I am encouraged by the promise of your being there for the unity and mission of the Society. The tasks may be enormous, but we will do it together for I believe in that community spirit of doing things together.”

Sr. Veronica is no stranger to leadership. After the African Province was established in 1985, she was the first African to serve as Leader of the African Province (1986-1992). She was also the first African to serve on the Society Leadership Team of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus from 1992-1998. Additionally, she was the President of the Nigerian Conference of Women Religious, which is the leadership conference of women religious in Nigeria, from 1990-1992.

Sr. Veronica entered the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in 1973 and professed her vows in 1975. Since 2001, she has served as the On-going Formation Coordinator for the Society’s African Province. She facilitates chapters and meetings for other religious congregations, diocesan seminarians, priests and their bishops, lay groups, as well as having done spiritual direction, retreats, counseling, and chaplaincy work and work with Catholic women in the Bauchi diocese. She has also been a part-time lecturer at the Institute for Formators in Jos, Nigeria. Sr. Veronica holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Religious Studies from the University of Jos, Nigeria and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry and social work from Boston College.

Carmen S. Torres, SHCJ
Sr. Carmen Torres of Philadelphia, Pa. is a member of the Society’s American Province. She has served as the Vocation Director for the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus since 2004. During this time, she has established a Regional Vocation Team, as well as developing bilingual resources for discerners whose native language is Spanish. Sr. Carmen served as the Assistant Director (2000) and then the Director (2001-2004) of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization, an organization dedicated to serving the Hispanic community in North Philadelphia parishes for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She also taught faith formation courses for Hispanic young adults. From 1996-2000, Sr. Carmen was the Director of Catechesis for Hispanics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Sr. Carmen holds a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and her Masters of Education in Religious Education. She also earned a Post-Masters Certificate in Formative Spirituality from Boston College.

Monica Adigwe, SHCJ
Sr. Monica Adigwe of the Society’s African Province has served as teacher, administrator, facilitator, and counselor, in addition to being involved in spiritual direction and serving as a retreat director. In the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, she has worked in initial formation with those preparing to live as vowed religious in the Society. Most recently, she served as member of the Society Leadership Team and will now continue with the new team. Sr. Monica was educated at the University of Ghana and received her bachelor’s degree from Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pa. where she studied psychology, business administration, and accounting. She also holds a master’s degree in social sciences from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Carmel Murtagh, SHCJ
Since joining the Society, Sr. Carmel Murtagh of the Society’s European Province has worked with the Irish missionary union as Projects Officer (1994-96) liaising with the semi-state APSO which provided funding for Irish personnel working in projects in developing countries. Following that, she worked as a school chaplain for seven years in a secondary school in Dublin. In 2004, she moved to London to undertake study in theology. Since 2005, she has been a member of the Leadership Team for the Society’s European Province. A significant part of her work has been in the area of securing future trusteeship of Holy Child Schools in Ireland. Sr. Carmel holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Heathrop College in London.

SHCJ General Chapter
Sr. Veronica and her team were elected during the Society’s 26th General Chapter which is being held in Mayfield, England from April 6-17. All religious orders hold general chapters–meetings during which the congregation reflects on its life and spirit and determines its vision and focus for the next six years. The last SHCJ General Chapter meetings took place in Rome in April 2004.