Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Ceremony for a New Nun

This week I was invited to go with a group from my village to a ceremony in a town near Ouaga where the daughter of my community homologue was to take her final vow to become a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Ouagadougou. I have some pictures of the event and I will try to describe it as I understood it.  I expect all you good Catholics who read this will be able to correct my errors about what I think I was seeing.  

As with a wedding here, there was a special pagne that had been selected for those going to see Lucy make her commitment, which you are expected to buy and have made into something to wear. Here is a picture of Prosper and his son in their clothes for the event.
We were told that we would all travel together from the church, and were asked to be there at 5:30 AM.  I knew that did not mean 5:30, but I did not know how much later the actually time would be, so I left the house at 5:15, in the dark. Unfortunately, because I could not see clearly, I fell when my bicycle hit a place near my house where the water had washed out part of the path. By the time I went back to the house to wash off my scrapes and bandage them, it was light enough to see.  I should have waited the extra 15 minutes and I would have been fine.  Ah. that American compulsion to be on time!

When I arrived at the church there were only a few people standing around. Eventually more folks arrived, and a number of them went into the church for the morning mass. At 7:00 our transportation finally arrived and I was appalled. It was a truck, usually used for hauling goods and animals.
The way they made it possible for over 60 people to ride in it all the way to Ouagadougou was to take benches out of the church and put them in rows along the sides and down the middle of the cargo area. 
Peace Corps volunteers are not supposed to ride in such places and I was debating about what I should do when the mother of the Sister-to-be grabbed me by the hand and lead me to the cab of the truck where I was to ride.  Four of us shared the bench behind the driver and his helpers: a nun, the mother the woman taking her final vow, the mother's best friend, and me. I felt a bit guilty taking the comfortable place when all the other folks climbed into the back, but I don't know if I could have ridden back there without getting car sick, so I was glad to be riding in the cab. I gave my camera to Prosper and asked him to get a picture of the back when everyone was seated.
Along the way the truck was stopped four times for various police checks. Everyone in the cab was speaking Moore and I did not always know what was going on.  The only important thing was that we started late because the truck arrived late, and the police checks just made us later.  When we arrived at 9:15, the ceremony had already started.  Because I was with a Sister and the mother of one of those making her perpetual vow (and also, maybe, because I was a foreigner), I was admitted to the seating area near the platform where all the priests were seated. I shared a low stool with a man who was taking a lot of pictures.  A choir was singing and a group of 14 women who were becoming novices were introduced.  They were dressed in matching blue tops and pagnes. After saying they wished to join the order, they each received their white head-covering from the cardinal and entered a building.  Prosper managed to get the ushers to let him in to hand my camera back to me, so I have a few photos of the rest of the day. In a short while the novices reappeared, dressed in the white habit of the order. Here are some of the novices kneeling and reciting their vows. There were 14 all together, so they did this in groups of 3 or 4. The little boy held a microphone in front of each woman as she said her name, so all could hear. 
After they signed a paper on a table behind the officiating clergy, they were each given a crucifix by the Cardinal.
Then the cardinal gave a homily in very slow, clear French and I followed most of what he said.  It was, of course, all directed at the women who were joining the religious order, as it should have been. He summarized his remarks in Moore and made some further comments that drew laughs from the assembled group.
The women taking their perpetual vow were introduced by the choir singing something which included the name of the woman and the woman named sang a response. Here is Lucy, singing her response.
There were 15 women in this group, so they knelt in groups of three to recite their vows.
Another part of the ceremony was when the 15 women prostrated themselves.  I had heard that this was a part of the ceremony, but had never seen it.  Perhaps it is irreverent to mention it, but I did notice that they all had on new shoes of the same style.  You can see how clean the soles are. 
After the mass, the people who had come to see each new sister gathered under various awnings.  You figured out where your group was assembling by looking for others in clothes made from the same pagne. Here you can see some of the folks assembled to share refreshments with Sister Lucy.
Here is a picture of the proud mother and the new full member of the order.
As we were leaving, I realized that packing a group of people in the back of a truck is the standard way to get folks to an event like this. Here is another example, and they don't even have sides on their truck.
On the way home we were stopped five more times for various police checks. At each of the stops the driver took a set of documents to be checked by the police.  On one of the stops on the way home the driver had to produce his fire extinguisher and reflective emergency triangle.  He had them, but I have never seen the triangle warning signs displayed when a truck was stopped for repairs along the road.  Usually the driver and his helpers cut some brush along the side of the road and put 6 or 7 pieces of it at about 10 foot intervals behind and in front of the vehicle as a warning to oncoming traffic.

A second stop lasted over a half hour.  The police wanted to fine the driver for transporting people rather than goods in his truck.  They wanted him to pay a fine of about $50 but he thought that was excessive.  He offered to pay $25 and the negotiations went on and on.  I don't know what really happened, but some folks thought the police eventually let him go with no fine because of the event we had gone to. Between the police stops, stopping for gas, and waiting while the driver ate a meal, it took 3½ hours to make the trip that took less than 2 hours in the morning.

Lucy is now at home for a month's vacation with her family before she leaves again for more training with the Order in Italy.

No comments:

Post a Comment