Preparing for First Mission

Newly professed Sisters complete Intercultural Living Programme in Benin ahead of first mission ad extra in diverse corners of the globe.

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Sr. Kathleen McGarvey pictured at the missionary monument in Ouidah, Benin with newly professed OLA Sisters. Sr. Kathleen this week gave some input to those attending the Intercultural Living Programme.

Eleven recently professed OLA Sisters took time from their intercultural living programme this week to visit an important missionary memorial in Ouidah. A special monument was erected in the year 2000 to honour SMA and OLA missionaries - the first in Benin. The site which lies directly on the shores of the Altantic Ocean, was the point at which the first missionaries arrived in Benin (then known as the Kingdom of Dahomey).


The missionary monument. Image courtesy of Luise Illigen.


The text on the memorial notes that "Frs. Borghero and Fernandez [both SMA], messengers of the 'Good News'.." arrived in April 1861. It also commemorates the first three OLA Sisters to arrive in 1877. They are named as Srs. Monique, Cyprien and Dominque.

The monument lies directly on the beach close to the 'Door of No Return', another poiginant reminder of the past. The name was given as it marks the last place slaves walked through before boarding a slave ship. It was one of principal gates through which slaves passed - the others were in Elimina [Ghana], Albreda [Gambia] and Goreé Island [Senegal]. The practice was outlawed during the 19th century.

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The Door of No Return. Image courtesy of Luise Illigen.


Both monuments now form part of the UNESCO sponsored 'Slave Route' which notes that SMA-OLA memorial remembers 'the lost diasporas and traditions of the Transatlantic and beckon their return to Benin.'

Presently there are 26 Sisters in the OLA Province of Benin with communities in Cotonou, Ouidah, Djougou, Parakou, Save, Tanguieta and Pobe. Education and healthcare are central parts of the Beninese mission.