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c 13 01Sr. Margie Ferri, Sr. Adelaide Link, Sr. Rose Margaret Delaney, Sr. Benedicta Scheidweiler, Sr. Bernadette Sullivan and the Oblates c 13 02Sr. Benedicta Scheidweile, Sr. Mary Maloney, Sr. Margie Ferri, Sr. Rose Margaret Delaney, Sr. Adelaide Link

 c 13 03Sr. Margie Ferri, Sr. Bernadette Sullivan
c 13 010Sr. Francesca Atorino, Sr. Maria Chiara
c 13 04Sr. Diane Moroney
 
c 13 011Sr. Barbara Fiorentino
c 13 09Sr. Annunciata Marino in the dispensary

In the early 1970s the Congregation explored the possibility of starting a mission in Africa. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, good friends of the Sisters in Italy, already had an established presence in Africa.

c 13 06Sr. Benedicta ScheidweilerSisters Rose Margaret Delaney and Benedicta Scheidweiler visited the Oblate’s ministry in Cameroon, Africa in 1975. The Congregation ultimately decided to establish a mission in Senegal.    

Sisters Mary Maloney and Benedicta Scheidweiler were the first two pioneers. They arrived in the village of Koungheul, Senegal, in late 1978.

They opened several medical clinics, and Sister Mary started Maternal Childhealth Programs in five villages.

c 13 05Sr. Adelaide Link This program eventually spread to many more villages.

Pregnant and post-partum mothers, along with their infants and young children, were provided with pregnancy related medical care, pediatric care, and health and nutritional education.

The program later included treatment of potentially fatal childhood diseases.

They were soon joined by Sisters Bernadette Sullivan, Adelaide Link, and Diane Moroney.

Soon after arriving in Koungheul, Sr. Adelaide began working to empower women and people with disabilities.

 c 13 07Sr.Adelaide Link, Sr. Marie Martin Smith
 c 13 012Sr. Tiziana Longhitano

She moved about from village to village on a motorbike and helped people obtain orthopedic care and even designed wheelchairs.

In 1984 Sr. Marie Martin Smith joined the community for a year. She and Sr. Adelaide held sewing classes for women and girls, a ministry first established by Sr. Benedicta.

In 1985 Sisters Annunciata Marino, Francesca Atorino, and Elisabetta La Manna arrived from Italy and the other Sisters returned to the United States.  

By 1988 the mission in Senegal was struggling. The government in Senegal required a nurse at the clinics in Koungheul, yet a Sister-nurse was not always missioned in Senegal.

The Congregation collaborated with other orders and lay volunteers to provide nurses, but this was not a long-term solution. That year, at the Italian Assembly, the Sisters renewed their desire to support Koungheul and committed to a new mission focusing on social services in Dakar.

c 13 08Sr. Elisabetta La Manna, Sr. Barbara Fiorentino, Sr. Annunciata Marino, Sr. Teresa Lamparelli, Sr. Maria Chiara, Sr. Francesca AtorinoEnergized by this new plan, several Sisters began preparing for a move to Dakar. Among them were Sr. Barbara Fiorentino, Sr. Tiziana Longhitano, Sr. Laura Cantello, Sr. Maria Chiara and Sr. Teresa Lamparelli. On February 11, 1989, the new community and mission opened in Dakar, Senegal. Sister Francesca Atorino opened a sewing and embroidery center for women, which became the Françoise Schervier Center for the Promotion and Formation of Women. In the same year, Sister Barbara Fiorentino opened a preschool in the Parish where one hundred and thirty Christian and Muslim children, ages three to six, began their schooling.

Sister Tiziana Longhitano was involved in parish ministry and offered one-day programs and retreats for young people. Soon a house was purchased in the neighborhood of Parcelles Assainies.

The property included a large house and a smaller one that the Sisters envisioned using as a youth center to host girls who wanted to get to know the charism of Mother Frances.

c 13 013Sr. Annunciata Marino, Victoria Moore, Brenda LevineA new fundraising program to support the mission in Senegal was developed in 1992. Named “Into Africa,” this program was a collaboration of the Congregation, Foundation, and Health System. Working together, they raised money to support the mission in Senegal, encouraged support through prayer, and shared the skills of Health System employees. Health care professionals were recruited to minister in Senegal. Nurses Brenda Levine and Victoria Moore from St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio, spent a year in Senegal in 1994. Through the combined efforts of the Health System, the SFP Foundation, and the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, the volunteers received their full salary during their service. Into Africa also explored ways to help the Senegalese people in the long-term. Sr. Daniel Marie Meade made several visits to Senegal to set up laboratories and train local people to run the labs. Community members working in the labs were trained in the identification, treatment, and prevention of parasites.

c 13 016Sr. Daniel Marie MeadeIn 1993 the “Benedicta Center” for Formation of Women opened in Koungheul, to support their dignity and better their conditions of life.

At the center women developed their skills in dyeing cloth, producing soaps and coffee, transforming fruits and legumes, and skills to help them sell what they made or engage in microcredit projects.  

By this time the mission was attracting the attention of Senegalese women interested in joining the Congregation. The Sisters had offered days of recollection for interested women, but a dedicated house of formation was needed. The new house, named Agape San Damiano, opened on October 3, 1997.

c 13 021Sr. Vincenzina Raimondo, Marie Madeleine Thioubane, Rose Ndong, Agnese Diene, Silviane Boissy, Mathilde Tior, Sr. Jeanne Glisky, Sr. Maria KlostermanSister Vincenzina Raimondo was commissioned as the person responsible for the House of Formation, located in Parcelles Assainies, connected to Alleluia Community. 

On the next day, the Feast of St. Francis, the House of Formation was dedicated and five women were received into Agape San Damiano Community amidst the sound of drums and song. They began discerning their vocational choice in the days that followed. These young women were: Mathilde Tior, age 36; Rose Ndong, 24; Agnès Diene, 21; Marie Madeleine Thioubane, 21; and Silviane Boissy, 22. The Agape San Damiano house of formation moved to Keur Mbaye Fall, Rufisque, on October 9, 2006.

c 13 023Sr. Jeanne Glisky, Sr. Marie AugustineMarie Augustine N’Dione, from Senegal, had already started her pre-Novitiate with the Sisters in Italy in 1990. She began her Novitiate on September 17, 1991, and pronounced her first vows in 1993.

On May 24, 2001 she made her perpetual vows in Dakar, Senegal, as the first Franciscan Sister of the Poor from Africa. Beginning in 2004 the Congregation began to welcome girls from Burkina Faso on their journey of vocational discernment.

Published: September 29, 2017

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c 13 020Sr. Laura Cantello, Sr. Jeanne Glisky, Sr. Maria Chiara, Sr. Carmelina Di Bella, Sr. Elisabetta La Manna, Sr Francesca Atorino  c 13 019Sr. Elisabetta La Manna

c 13 022Marie Madeleine Thioubane, Silviane Boissy, Agnese Diene, Mathilde Tior, Rose Ndong c 13 015Sr. Annunciata Marino, Brenda Levine