Sisters Germaine, Theodora and Joan O’Gorman recently enjoyed an invitation to Sabah to celebrate with the Sisters the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the Franciscan Sisters of The Immaculate Conception.
The time in Sabah was a privilege and a blessing. There was so much to give thanks for. We were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome – first by Sister Grace and the Sisters who greeted us at the airport with garlands and then from every friend of the Sisters, parishioners from so many parishes and former pupils of our Sisters. The hospitality eas generous and unstinting and we lost count of the breakfasts and dinners they hosted. A truly gracious people with an attitude of celebration. The Sisters gave so generous of their time and no effort was spared to provide a full programme which included visits tp laced significance to us all.
We enjoyed some wonderful traditional entertainment, provided by so many children and young people and what was so striking was not only their giftedness but their team work which was so much in evidence. The depth of the spirituality of the parishioners wherever we went was so impressive. So many families in Church together, such active participation in the liturgies even at 6am in the morning and again so many young people involved in music ministry.
The 13th August was the Celebration Mass at the Sacred Heart cathedral and it was magnificent with a group of Sisters forming a wonderful choir. the Sisters are so well thought of and valued and the Cathedral was overflowing as well as the hall afterwards where we enjoyed refreshments and entertainment. Outside the Cathedral was a huge billboard with our Sister Rose Charnley FMSJ and the first four FSIC Sisters whom Sister Rose supported and guided for ten years after the abduction of Mgr. August Wachter a Mill Hill Missionaries by the Japenese. the Sisters see Sister Rose as their co-foundress. Her photograph has pride of place in every community of the Sisters.
For me too, to begin to recognise Mgr. August Wachter MHM as part of our history has been so enriching. Fellow participants of the celebration were the Kraft family who had travelled from Austria. they are the direct descendants of Mgr. August Wachter MHM and again we were so enriched by their presence.
Everywhere we went the people were thrilled to see Sister Germaine and Sister Theodora and I witnessed some very moving reunions. It was a privilege to be associated with them and I felt proud too of all of our FMSJ Sisters who had contributed by their service to the lives of the peoples of Borneo. So many memories were shared about our Sisters both the Sisters and the people.
On the last evening we had a celebration with the Sisters and the members of the SFO. We received many gifts and then Sister Germaine presented the Sisters with a framed photograph of herself and Sister Rose together with two of the first Sisters which delighted Sister Grace and the Sisters. On behalf of all the FMSJ Sisters I presented Sister Grace with a beautiful San Damiano Crucifix together with the following inscription:
The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception are in our thoughts and prayers on the occasion of the 75th Annniversary of your Founding.
We join with you in giving thanks for the abundant blessings which have been poured upon you as you have made Christ known through the witness of your lives.
We are proud to be, not you Mothers but your Sisters.
Let us pray for one another as we continue on our journey as followers of Francis.
Love form all the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph
When we were leaving so many Sisters came to see us off at the airport presenting us with a final gift of a necklace.
If I could only use one word to describe our visit – it would be INSPIRATIONAL.
Written by: Sister Joan O’Gorman
Registered Charity No. 1135474 Registered Company No. 7010772