Burundi: “ACN trained me and accompanied my mission like a mother”

We bring you the testimony of Sister Joséphine Toyi from Burundi. Born into a context of political crisis, with the help of ACN, she was able to study and became one of the first Burundian religious to obtain a Doctorate in Theology. She is currently the superior general of over 400 religious of the Institute of Bene Tereziya Sisters. According to Sister Joséphine, consecrated life in Burundi would not be what it is now without the support of ACN, who has trained the apostles of a new evangelisation in the country.

I was born in Mugera in December 1970, two years before the political crisis that resulted in the death of many members of my family. I was always guided by Jesus’ words: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John15:12). Saint Therese of the Child Jesus said: “In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be the love”, and also “the more I am united to Jesus, the more I will love my brothers”. This is a love that goes all the way: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, as Jesus said!

Sister Josephine Toyi in her pastoral work
Sister Josephine Toyi in her pastoral work

I have been answering this call as a consecrated person since August 1996, with the Institute of Bene Tereziya Sisters in Burundi. To give love for love, allowing myself to be “consumed” like a small loaf of bread given to those who Jesus places in my path! Because, as long as I live, I feel obligated to love people and guide them to Jesus. That is why I felt a strong urge to study theology, but that was impossible in Burundi!

Aid to the Church in Need came to me

Seven months after my first vows – on 14 March 1997 – I was given a special dispensation to go and study philosophy, and then theology, in the major seminaries of Bujumbura and Guitega. God is true, and He “does not give us impossible dreams”, but I needed a scholarship. After praying a novena to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, I approached Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which approved my request, first for a degree in philosophy, and then to study theology in Burundi.

Knowing that there was a shortage of trained evangelisers in Burundi, Aid to the Church in Need exceptionally also agreed to fund my specialisation in spiritual theology, which led me to the Pontifical Theresinium University, where I obtained a degree and a doctorate in spiritual theology, as well as training in bioethics consulting. ACN was there to support me through it all, and that is how I became one of the first woman in Burundi to obtain a doctorate in theology.

Sisters of the Institute of Bene Tereziya Sisters in Burundi
Sisters of the Institute of Bene Tereziya Sisters in Burundi

Aid to the Church in Need allowed me to acquire the tools necessary for this apostolate. How would I have been able to fulfil the mission entrusted to me after my studies, between 2011 and 2019, to oversee the initial and continued formation in the Institute of the Bene Tereziya Sisters, as well as other religious institutions in Burundi? How would I have been able to run over 50 sessions and several retreats, a centre for consecrated religious and retreats, without this training funded by Aid to the Church in Need? The quality of consecrated life in Burundi today is also due to Aid to the Church in Need, which trained the apostles for a new evangelisation, who you will only meet in Heaven. How many vocations were awoken, strengthened and illuminated thanks to you, dear benefactors of ACN? “Nothing is lost with God; your reward will be great in heaven!” 

God never ceases to surprise

When we are happy in our vocation, all we want is to make others happy also! Through my deep desire to serve and train others, I have felt a calling from the Holy Spirit: Watch over this flock, of which Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd! In July 2019, I was elected superior general of our community of 430 religious.

This is a joy that I share with Aid to the Church in Need, which sees its “children” grow and set off to help others grow also! And ACN not only trained me, but also continues to accompany my mission, which faces numerous challenges. How could I have served God and the institute without the pontifical foundation’s training and patient accompaniment, like that of a mother who hears the suffering of the People of God, the sick in the hospitals, the uneducated young people, the catechumens, the troubled in need of rest and replenishment, and the missionaries in Chad, Cameroon and Tanzania? How great is the reach of your efforts, my dear friends from the Church in Need!

Sister Josephine Toyi with the children in the pastoral care she provides.
Sister Josephine Toyi with the children in the pastoral care she provides.

And now, trained and strengthened by Aid to the Church in Need, let us put out into deep waters! Our hearts are set on working for love and reconciliation, like small sparks that shine in the night of the world! The Lord’s love never runs dry, His compassion is renewed each morning. Thank you for helping us keep our lamps bright so that, with you, we can bring God’s Kingdom closer.

Thank you, dear benefactors who sustain Aid to the Church in Need, for allowing Jesus to carry out this miracle of resurrecting the world! Your reward is our daily prayers!

 

By Maria Lozano.

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