M. Maria Madre de la Esperanza writes to us about the arrival of the Sisters in Suriname:
By the grace of God we were able to begin the mission in Suriname. God manages our paths and knows how and when to work things out. When we thought the mission would not open on the 13 or 14 of November, because we did not have our visas, suddenly, a telephone call came to give us the news that our passports were ready. God’s Providence made it possible that we were even able to get a flight for the very next day. It was a long but smooth trip; we passed through Aruba, Curacao, and we finally arrived to the long awaited Diocese of Paramaribo in Suriname.
The Bishop of Suriname, Mons. de Bekker, was waiting for us at the airport. He brought us to the house where Mother Anima was waiting for us. We slept little, but very well, and the following morning we went on a pilgrimage where Blessed Peter Donders attended the lepers for 27 years. It was a pilgrimage with many fruits. We went first by bus, and then took a boat to a place called Batavia. We prayed the Way of the Cross, and then had the Holy Mass with Mons. de Bekker and Mons. Van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam. It was very moving to see how the people have such a devotion to Blessed Peter Donders. For this occasion groups came from many different parts of Holland, especially from Tilburg where he was born.
The next day, the 13th of November, we had the Holy Mass in the small chapel of the Bishop’s house where the opening of the new foundation of the Institute was officially opened in Paramaribo, Suriname. The Bishop gave to the community an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patron of the new community. Historically this mission was given to the Redemptorist Fathers who brought the devotion of the Virgin Mary.
Later, in the cathedral they moved the relics of Blessed Peter Donders to a new monument. It was beautiful to witness. All were able to touch the box with Blessed Peter Donders’ remains and pray a long while in silence. In the afternoon the official opening of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, took place. It was a historic moment, in that for the past 22 years the cathedral was closed to the public because of disrepair. The Church is made completely from wood; one of the largest buildings in the world made from this material. For a long time it was thought impossible to preserve it, until the present Bishop invested himself in the project of its restoration. For this reason the opening and re-consecration of the Church was a great joy for all the people of Suriname. All of the civil authorities, the Bishops of French Guyana, British Guyana, Rotterdam, Trinidad and Tobaigo, and the Apostolic Nuncio were present for this great event.
On Sunday, the Mass included the rites of consecration of the altar and of the walls of the cathedral. The ceremony lasted three and a half hours and it was during this ceremony that our community was introduced to the people. It was a day of great joy and celebration. The liturgy was enriched by a beautiful choir of children who had been practicing for this special occasion. A band had come from Holland to partake in all the festivities and at various moments, their songs livened up the feast. At the end of the ceremonies in the cathedral they played in the plaza, in front of the main street of the city where we witnessed the great joy of the people at the re-opening of the ‘Mamakerki’ (Mother Church).
Suriname is a country that has a population of about 520,000 people. Of their population, 240,000 people live in Paramaribo. The principal language is Dutch and the creole language is “Saran tongo.” It is a multicultural society with people of many different religions: mulsims, hindus, protestants, and catholics. Thanks be to God they live together peacefully. The climate is tropical, very hot. In the streets many people have stopped us to express their joy at our arrival. Years ago many religious were dedicated to helping the community in education and health care. Sadly at the present time there are only two religious from the Congregation of Charity of Tilburg, a community of sisters of Paramaribo with six sisters, and one Fransican sister of Rosendal. We are in a Parish dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima which is located in a neighborhood in the outskirts of the city. We commend to your prayers the fruits of this new mission.
M. Maria Madre de la Esperanza, Sr. Maria Regina, Sr. Myriam ha Mushia
Sisters of the new community in Suriname
M.Anima Christi (General Superior), M.Joy of Martyrs (Current Superior of the Mission in Guyana), M.Immaculate Conception (Former Superior of the Mission in Guyana)
Visiting Sisters present for the opening