On 30th September 2023, in Kigali community we celebrated the silver jubilee of Sr. Gisèle Ndekezi Umurerwa. The celebration began at 11.30 am with the Holy Mass presided over by Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Goma in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), His Lordship Faustin NGABU together with the vicar of the Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Kigali, his Lordship Casimir Uwumukiza with six other priests some diocesan and others are our Brothers Salesians of Don Bosco from AGL Province. This celebration involved everybody in the mission and around it: various religious congregations’ men and women, parents, children, teaching and non-teaching staff, families and friends of our sister especially the biological sisters and the brother of the jubilarian.

Sr. Gisèle was born on the 16th of April 1973 in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She is the 3rd born of 5 children in her family. The parents and her elder brother have already gone before us, may they rest in peace! She has 2 sisters and one brother who are all married.

After her secondary school in Goma diocese in DRC, Gisèle joined the Salesian Sisters but came to Kigali, Rwanda, to start the first experience of candidate aspiring to religious life, in the community of Rugunga in January 1994. Unfortunately, the genocide against Tutsis started on 6th of April 1994 and she was lucky to be evacuated to Belgium on the 13th of April 1994. From there, a couple of days later she went to Lubumbashi in Katanga, DRC to start her initial formation, and after 5 years God began to realize her dreams, she made her first profession on 5th August 1998.

After the first profession, Sr. Gisèle received the obedience to go to Rwanda and start her apostolate as Salesian Sister of Don Bosco in the community of Rugunga. She was asked to start the Nursery school; she and the community opened the school called Ecole Maternelle Akanyoni, and the parents requested to have also primary school. She started also gradually the primary school called Ecole Privée Marie Auxiliatrice. After six years, she was asked to go for further studies in Rome for five years where she got a Bachelor Degree in Education and Management of Schools. Then, after her studies, from 2009 to 2014, she was requested to go and start a secondary school, Saint Mary Dominique Mazzarello in Gisenyi where she stayed for five years. A surprising phone call came from Mother General of the Congregation, Mother Yvonne Reungoat who requested Sr. Gisèle to serve the Province of AFE, Our Lady of Hope as Provincial Superior for Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. With faith and trust in God and in the Superior General who promised to accompany her in this challenging task, Sr. Gisèle said yes and served for 7 years from 2015 up to 2021. After this service at the provincial level, she was asked to come back to Kigali, to Rugunga to be the Superior of the community. Last year 2022-2023, she was asked also to be the headmistress of the school she started, “Ecole Privée Marie Auxiliatrice” (EPMA) which today has become a big school. Today, we are here in the same community to celebrate the wonders God has done in her life after 25 years of religious profession and 50 years of birth.

Sr. Gisèle spent the whole year preparing spiritually for this great and unforgettable feast, guided by Fr. Fabien Rutangira. The community also took the initiative of preparing a special novena to accompany Sr. Gisèle in thanksgiving for the 25 years of her fidelity to the Lord. At the end of the retreat done during this spiritual preparation, Sr. Gisèle shared with Fr. Fabien that the cross had characterized her experience as religious. “ I feel strong deep within me, she said, because I always consider Jesus on the cross to be my strength and this word of Saint Paul encouraged me during the journey: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal. 6: 14.

Fr. Fabien Rutangira, SDB who gave the homily at the thanksgiving mass, made a comment saying that God has done great work in the life of Sr. Gisèle, who in His mercy has journeyed with her throughout her life even through the midst of challenges. The Gospel which accompanied Sr. Gisèle is this Word of God: Luke 9: 23-24: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. The cross has been the symbol of the life of Sr. Gisèle according to her experience and she has seen the hand of God always throughout her experience of 25 years of religious life. In fact, celebrating the silver jubilee of Sr. Gisèle in this community where she started her experience and apostolate as a sister has not been taken for granted by the jubilarian; she considers it to be a special grace God gave her to find herself back in this mission after 16 years.

During an interview with Pacis TV, Sr. Gisèle was asked to share her vocational journey, when she began feeling that God was calling her to give herself to Him. She responded that her first and foremost  dream came when she was in form three and attended the mass of the first profession of some Ursulines Sisters who had invited the group of young people of the “Focolare movement” to sing the mass. During that eucharist celebration, Gisèle felt a voice telling her “Why not you?” and she went to share this experience with her Spiritual Director Fr. Louis Quintard (Missionary of Africa, “White Father” ) who told her to pray and to study well; this is what was needed then for her, to live well the present moment.

What supported this dream? She answered: Daily prayer, the word of God lived with the companions in the Focolare movement in the group of young people called GEN 2 (Generation Nouvelle) and her family who encouraged her to move ahead with her dream if it was God’s will.

In preparing the jubilee, Sr. Gisèle had the theme which guided her with a thankful heart saying to herself that the grace of God has been sufficient throughout these 25 years,’ 2 Corinthians 12, 9 My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in the weakness   and this has helped her to remain faithful to God who has trusted her and called her to love and serve Him.

After the Holy and vibrant Mass which nourished our souls, we also entered into the other special moment of entertainments prepared by the students of St. Mary Dominique Mazzarello from Gisenyi, pupils of EPMA, the Acrobats of SDB young people, Staff members, Sisters and parents. It was wonderful to share life together around our jubilarian. Thanks to our provincial Sr. Agnes Ngosa who has followed the preparation very closely to make sure that everything was well taken care of and for sending some of our sisters from Kenya to participate in the celebration. We also thank in a special way the provincial of FMA in DRC, Sr. Clarisse Ngoie Mongyumba who sent the FMA from Goma to come to celebrate with us, and to all who supported us spiritually and materially. May God bless you all abundantly.     

Sr. Hilarie Nyiramariza, FMA Kigali.