Marie-Concilie U. (*1966)
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." (From the Gospel according to St. Matthew 9,12)
Nitwa Marie Concilie, ndi imfura mu bana b'iwacu, ababyeyi banjye ni abakristu gatolika.
My name is Marie Concilie and I am the eldest daughter of a couple of practicing Catholics. Three boys and five girls were born after me. The primary school I attended was run by nuns. Their love and attention to each student has always touched and impressed me – rich or poor, we were all treated equally.
A traumatic experience...
In the 5th year of primary school, I became ill and had to be treated in hospital. My parents should have accompanied me, as I was then only ten years old, but it was not possible. My father searched everywhere trying to find work and earn a living for us, and my mother had my small brothers and sisters to care for. We were born in quick succession, so she always had to look after three small children at the same time, because there was no one else. That was why, as the eldest of her children, I was already regarded as an adult in many ways. Therefore, I had to go to hospital unaccompanied, which was none too easy in view of the way our health centres used to work. At that time, the order of arrival did not matter. There were always people preferred by the staff (rich, important personalities, friends, relatives ...) and I, crying from misery, exhaustion and hunger, told myself: If my parents had accompanied me, I would already have been admitted in the hospital!
... as the beginning of my vocation?
Then suddenly a quotation from the Bible came to my mind that I had liked without really understanding it: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." And I said to myself: Yes, Jesus could do this – but he is in heaven; so how can he come to our aid? And in my heart I began to feel the desire to become a nurse and to receive all people in love, without exception. This wish kept coming back in all the stages of my life that followed. When I learned that there were nurses among consecrated people, this seemed to be the way for me. To become consecrated to God in order to love and serve the poor and the little ones, throughout one's life and without restrictions. I began to participate in prayer groups – just to ask God to grant my wish.
Obstacles never come singly
Then the moment had come to make a decision. I was very scared, and I did not know how to tell my parents. To make matters worse, there was this: an eldest daughter who did not marry so that her parents could get a dowry – that was considered a family failure. In addition, my friends and other people discouraged me, telling me that communities did not accept first-born children – precisely because this was causing so many conflicts between them and the parents. I was utterly confused. Yet the less I knew, the more I walked everywhere to prayer meetings.
My mother was watching carefully how one young man after another seriously asked me to marry him, and I never gave my consent. So one day she asked me to sit down and told me to do what I wanted to, and not to be afraid. But there were other obstacles: I failed my exams, so I couldn't go to secondary school. However, many communities only accepted graduates from secondary school! One fine morning my mother got up, without saying a word to me, and left to ask advice of an aunt who was a nun. When she came back, she comforted me and told me how I could still achieve my goal: with an education in a school for housekeeping. However, while I was attending these courses, the idea of leading a consecrated life had disappeared from my heart and head, nor did I want to go to the priest who had been accompanying me, but I still participated in prayer groups.
Hiding doesn't help either
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." One Sunday, at the end of Mass, a message was read: a sick person who was very bad urgently needed a blood donation. With my girlfriends, I immediately decided to do this. When we arrived at the hospital, however, they had already found another solution. On the way back, I saw the priest's car and tried to hide, but he had already seen me, stopped the car and invited me to visit him the next morning. This meeting brought back to life my earlier desire; the matter became more serious, and finally I found the Institute of St. Boniface, whose charisma corresponded to my ideals of loving the poor and helping them in their concerns.
I had only read a brochure about this community before, but had never seen or visited it. After a lot of correspondence with them, they invited me into the community for a few days. I got there, and who opened the door for me? An "Umuzungu", a European! I got the shock of my life! In my heart, I wondered how I could spend my whole life with them – being unable to speak any other language than my mother tongue! Yet I decided to try – I was 19 years old.
I've entered, I've stayed – and I'm staying.
And why am I staying?
- because there I found the one I was looking for – or rather the one who never stopped looking for me: God!
- because it is beautiful to live together in the diversity of cultures, languages, races, without having chosen each other
- because they receive every kind of poor people and serve them
- because I believe that it is possible – and I see that it is beautiful – to live in the world and for the world without being of the world, like the yeast in the dough, like the salt in the food, like the light in the darkness
- because their way of praying and working makes me happy and joyful,
- because I found my place there,
- because, because, because …
Quite different from what I thought
In the end, I did not become a nurse as I had thought. Since, I have discovered that this is not my talent. I am happy however to be an instrument of God wherever he needs me in the various ministries of our community, because for us "everything is for the greater glory of God".
There were ups and downs, doubts and discouragements; but even in the moments of darkness and crisis there was one word to encourage and strengthen me: "Lord, you have seduced me and I have let myself be seduced, you have overwhelmed me, you were the strongest, you were the strongest".
I've entered, I've stayed, and I'm staying.
And what does that word about the sick that was the beginning of my vocation mean to me today?
We'll see ...