In some parts of Africa, children who are born with disabilities are considered evil and often killed. Rev. Sister Terese and her Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love dedicate their lives to rescuing, caring for and loving these children who are rejected by their own families. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been helping the sisters, and recently funded the construction of a new convent.
She calls herself Sister Stan Terese Mario Mumuni, but to the more than 130 children she has rescued from certain death over the past 15 years, she is more than a sister, she is a mother and a saviour.
Rev. Sister Terese was a religious sister in Nigeria for 15 years before she decided to act on God’s call to return to her home country of Ghana. At the invitation of the then Bishop of Yendi, she raised a little money and rented a house from a Muslim family. This would become the first real home for the children she began to gather.
In many parts of Africa, including these areas of northern Ghana, children who are born with mental or physical disabilities are considered bewitched, or “evil”, and are often abandoned to die, if not outright killed. This is where Sister Terese steps in, taking custody of the children and giving them a home where they are loved and cared for by the other 15 members of the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love, and the 35 staff members who help care for the 120 children currently living there.
“It is terrible to see a beautiful child, and just because they cannot speak people think they should be condemned to death. Just because they cannot walk, just because they cannot see. If you have a child who cannot see in the community, the woman cannot go to fetch water with the other women, or to farm, because they tell her she has an evil child. And if there is any misfortune in the village they blame it on the child, and they kill it”, Sister Terese explains during a visit to the international headquarters of ACN, in Germany.
“Your God is powerful”
Northern Ghana is a mixed region. Around 35% – 40% of the population is Christian, according to Sister Terese. There is a roughly equal number of Muslims in the area, and the remaining 25% of the population practice traditional African religions.
“The traditional beliefs affect the children. If a child is born blind, they are considered evil; if they cannot speak, they are considered evil. If a mother dies in labour, the family rejects the child because they are considered evil. Even if the child is in the hospital the mother will run away and leave the child, and the hospital has to call us to go and save them. They kill these children they consider evil.”
In some cases, families refrain from killing their children directly, and take them to the Nazareth Home for God’s Children. Sister Terese recalls one time a family informed her that the child they were delivering was responsible for killing over a dozen people in their community.
“I asked if she had used a knife or a gun. They said no, that she was evil, she cannot see. I said: ‘OK, then you are bringing her here, and now she will kill me and all the children here’. But they said: ‘No, your God is powerful, she cannot kill you’. This means that they know that we serve a powerful, and ever-living God”.
The sisters’ work is also pastoral, even if the seeds take time to blossom. “I said, if you know that my God is powerful, come to my Church, join us, but they said no, they cannot come”, she recalls.
Leading an army of prayer
The work done by the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love continues to bear fruit, but is only possible because of the help they receive from outside Ghana, a country which is facing a financial crisis, made worse by the war in Ukraine. ACN recently supported the construction of a new convent for the religious sisters. Still, they seek more help, and have new projects. At the moment, for example, they need a vehicle, especially to be able to take children to hospital, which is an hour-and-a-half away from the home, in cases of emergency.
There are also other needs, such as clothing for the children and the sisters, and university tuition for some of the novices. “We don’t want to be having to ask for money for every little thing. We want help to establish projects, and we can get funds from there. For example, we can start a school, and then we will get money from the families who send their children to the school; or a clinic, where we can also have paying patients”, Sister Terese explains.
To those who seem surprised by the sisters’ energy, confidence and optimism, she explains that she has an army of prayer working behind the scenes. “My children are prayer warriors. At meals, even though they are very hungry, they stand and wait until everybody is served, and pray before they eat. They say the rosary every day. When I am away, anytime I call them they say they have been praying for me, and for this person or that. They are very prayerful.”