Recognition and gratitude

As part of the jubilee year marking 70 years of the presence of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit in Cameroon, a pilgrimage and a Mass of thanksgiving were organised on Thursday 30 May in honour of Sister Anne-Marie VOLANT and of all the missionary Daughters of the Holy Spirit who have died. Anne-Marie VOLANT, Sister Thérèse-Célestin, is one of the pioneers of Cameroon who died in 2002 and is buried in the parish of Notre Dame de Lumière in Touloum, diocese of Yagoua -.

Several Daughters of the Holy Spirit, lay people associated with the congregation and the faithful of the Touloum parish gathered on this occasion to give thanks to God for the self-giving life of Sister Anne-Marie VOLANT, what she did for the people of Cameroon in general and in a special way for the people of the Toupouri ethnic group of Touloum. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by the vicar general of the diocese of Yagoua, Father Nicolas NGARTONANG OMI, assisted by Abbés Christophe BARWANG and Jean-Baptiste TAPGA, respectively parish priest of Touloum and Kalfou. In his homily (Mt 25, 31-46), Abbé Christophe reminded us that Sister Anne-Marie lived love to the full. According to the testimonies gathered, Sister Anne-Marie’s loving presence in Touloum, her simplicity, her welcome, her closeness and her attention to everyone, made a strong impression on the people. She was a woman of peace, prayer and sharing with all. She made the promotion of women her hobbyhorse. All the sisters in the community welcomed girls forced into marriage and battered women and taught them to read and write, sewing, embroidery and small trades for young girls who did not attend school. Sister Anne-Marie VOLANT’s commitment and dedication to the poor and vulnerable earned her the nickname ‘Maî Heng’ in the Toupouri language, which means ‘an attentive and wise person’.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, several people who had known Sister Anne-Marie, including a young girl who had been in the ‘Saré’ (dwellings forming an enclosure) and Father Jean-Baptiste TAPGA, parish priest of Kalfou and originally from the parish of Touloum, gave a testimony of what she was like on a daily basis. For the young woman, it was the memory of an attentive mother, tender and caring for her children that remained with her. She ended her speech by saying: ‘God took our biological mother and gave us another mother who surpasses the one who gave us life. Sister Anne-Marie became our mother and we were filled with all her love and affection, and we never lacked anything.” As for Father Jean-Baptiste, he owes her everything because, he says, “Sister Anne-Marie saved my life. I owe my life to her, because when I was a child I had tetanus, and it was thanks to her intervention that I was saved.”.

Sister Angèle SILIKAM, Vice-provincial of the DHS in Cameroon, then took the floor to thank everyone and give thanks to God for the evangelising work and missionary zeal of the pioneers of Cameroon: Anne-Marie VOLANT, Marie-Cyprien KERBAUL, Rita OUELLETTE, Yvette QUILFEN and Hélène GUILLEMET. She also expressed her gratitude and appreciation to all the missionary DHS for the spiritual and human heritage – the charisma and spirituality of Marie BALAVENNE and Renée BUREL – that they have brought to us. She urged all the DHS lay associates and all Christians to follow the exemple of Sister Anne-Marie VOLANT and all her companions who were women totally given to God and to others, channels of love.

At the end of the mass, a prayer was said on the tomb of Sister Anne-Marie, followed by the blessing of the tomb. Afterwards, we went to the Centre de Formation de la Jeune Fille de Touloum where a gift of sewing equipment was given to the ‘apprentices’ of the Centre by Sister Angèle SILIKAM in the name of all the sisters of the Vice-Province. It was a beautiful celebration full of emotion, fraternal love and gratitude in honour of Sister Anne-Marie VOLANT, her companions and all the other DHS.  Over a glass of friendship, everyone continued to share on various subjects. For many, it was an opportunity to find out more about the DHS, their charism, their spirituality and their various works that put all men and women on their feet.
Thank you to all the first DHS and to those who continue their work in Cameroon.  For us DHS today, it is a challenge: may the Holy Spirit precede us on the path of mission.

Sister Jermé BAVA, Doukoula community. Published on 7 June 2024