Madagascar: New presence in the diocese of Antsirabé

For several years the region of Madagascar had thought of a new foundation in this young diocese, situated at 160 kilometres from the capital, between the provinces of Fianarantsoa and Antananarivo. The desire was to establish the pre-novitiate there. This latter had been at Tamatave since the 1990’s. Tamatave was a suitable place for this stage of formation, but our young sisters did not benefit from it as it lacked possibilities for an inter-congregational postulancy. On the other hand, Antsirabé, where the earth is volcanic and very fertile, has become in recent years a diocese which is rich in everything...and especially from the point of view of formation for initial and professional stages. One of our motivations was also that this place is favourable for finding work to earn one’s living.

The bishop of Anstirabé welcomed us with open arms and at our first meeting we were able to begin looking for a suitable site, in collaboration with the Episcopal vicar for religious and people we knew like the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
With the agreement of the Congregation we launched into all the preparations.
Sisters Maria Luisa Antolin and Huguette who was visiting Madagascar in April 2006 came to look at the land which is situated 2 kilometres from the city and extends for 2 hectares. On this land we found a small house which had been renovated and which would be our provisional home. It is a four- roomed house which includes an oratory, kitchen, dormitory and bathroom facilities.

After the formalities, on 10 May 2006, we were given an official welcome by the Bishop, Monsignor Felix, of the Congregation of Our Lady of La Salette. We are the 54th Religious Congregation to be established in Antsirabé, the majority of which are novitiate and pre-novitiate communities.

Blessing of the house
February 22, 2008 was the date chosen for the official opening of the house. Eight Marie Réparatrice sisters went there with a lay associate who was also our driver for the occasion.

On the eve we gathered in the oratory for a service of thanksgiving. We began our prayer with a hymn of joy based on Ps. 121 and the reading was from number 13 of the Letter of July 2nd. We spent some precious moments sharing what was in our hearts.

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains a single grain”
This was the theme of our morning prayer, reminding us of Blessed Emilie and her entrance into heaven. A time of spontaneous sharing replaced the intercessions. As is customary with us a moment of silence united us at 12.30 in memory of this date.

At 18.00 hours the Eucharist was celebrated by the vicar general, Father Clement. (the diocesan priest designated by the Bishop who was absent from the country at that time) Also present were Father Jeannot, provincial and vicar for religious and Father Honore, parish priest, both of them priests of the Congregation of Our Lady of La Salette. Mr. Steve, our contractor, who is of another Christian confession, was present with his wife and two children and also a little family who had welcomed us for a few days. The corridor and the dormitory were used to accommodate all these people.

Here are some echoes of this celebration:
After the apostolic greeting and some words from S.Marie Francoise, the vicar general read a letter from the Bishop of the diocese welcoming us to Antsirabé. This was followed by applause. In the prayers for the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the celebrant mentioned the name of “Mother Mary of Jesus” each time. After the Gospel on Peter’s profession of faith, (Mt.16, 13-19)which was read by the Father Provincial, the Parish Priest gave the homily and spoke about the death of our Mother Foundress, asking the question of Jesus “And you, who do you say I am?” He made the link with our presence in this place, which will undoubtedly provoke questions in people’s minds: Who are these sisters? What do they do? If the Christians respond themselves they will say you follow Christ Jesus, that you will take part in the evangelisation and pastoral work of the diocese. You will live with us to feed the sheep as Jesus requested of Peter.

To end this Eucharistic celebration we sang the hymn about our charism and congregation. This was our prayer of thanksgiving and was accompanied by spontaneous gestures.

A simple, self-service family meal was shared in the small kitchen and corridor. Everyone seemed at ease and soon the traditional songs of Malgache folklore burst forth spontaneously.

We are happy to tell you that the community is dedicated to Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo, the first Malgache woman to be beatified by John Paul 11 in 1989 during his first visit to Madagascar. We thank the Lord for all that he has done for us and through us during this time. Blessed Emilie and Blessed Victoire have interceded for us. We are grateful for the prayers and interest of the congregation, and to the sisters from far and near who have supported us in realising this new foundation. At present the outer fence is being put in place around the site of the future house!

Soeurs de Marie Réparatrice
Lot 302 D 510
Route de Betafo
111 Antsirabé 11