Sister Marie Claire Silatchom is a Dominican missionary of the Rosary, from Cameroon. With obvious enthusiasm, she tells us about her journey as a religious.
My religious and missionary vocation burned in my heart from an early age, fruit of the spiritual heritage received from my parents. With their life testimony, they taught me the way of faith. One day when I was still in elementary school, the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary arrived in my village. I was immediately smitten and wasn’t afraid to say, “This is just what I need.” I wanted to become a Sister.
Actually, I didn’t know what religious life was, but I liked what they did: talking to others about God’s people and the life of Jesus. I liked their way of welcoming and bringing people together and visiting families. I was so taken by them that I wanted to leave school and start immediately but the nuns stopped me. They encouraged me to study, which I really did not understand. Just a few years later, I joined the congregation.
I had to leave my country, which wasn’t easy as it meant speaking another language and following a new culture… I had to adapt to the rhythm of community life with people I didn’t know and whom I was discovering little by little, with their weaknesses and their way of being, sometimes with misunderstandings that had to be overcome. It was a different way of life from that of my family. Above all, it was difficult to leave my parents who at first did not accept my religious vocation and whom I didn’t see for six years until I returned home to my country on holiday. I was their first child, and they had been married for six years before they had me. After me came my brother who is now a priest.
I had my first missionary experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where I learned the language. I was a catechist and I also helped in the hospital where I discovered, together with my vocation to religious life, my personal desire to help the sick. It was my way of preaching like Jesus and touching people’s hearts.
After my first religious profession, I was sent to the Pygmies in the north of the DRC. It was a very powerful experience living among a marginalised, exploited and humiliated people.
Our presence was also a way to denounce their situation. We taught them who Jesus was and their identity as God’s beloved children. We helped them with their studies, with medical care and with the improvement of their living conditions. I learned much because I discovered in them a simple, human, close life, where values such as sharing, love and acceptance stood out.
Then I left for Peru in South America where I prepared myself to be a formator. I later studied pastoral theology in Spain and did missionary service in Angola, Mozambique and the Philippines. All these were unforgettable moments in which I was able to go around the world talking about God as I had dreamed since childhood.
Finally, after a period of training, I was able to fulfil my passion as a nurse to give relief to those who suffer most. I attended not only to suffering bodies but to the whole person. For many years I gave the best of myself in our hospital in Cameroon, a project established with the help of so many people. Today, it is saving many lives.
Looking back on my missionary experience, I believe it was a journey of learning; of sharing with my community and with people everywhere; of discovering, little by little, human reality, with its limits and its fragility, with its greatness and its struggles, all this as a path of sanctification, for the people and for myself. I have tried to convey my love for Christ to the people I have met along the way, and I have done it with all my heart. These are experiences that confirmed my missionary vocation as a Dominican of the Rosary, following the spirituality of Saint Dominic.
In all these years I feel I can safely say that there is nothing more beautiful than bringing the message of Jesus to every corner of the world.