News from Rumbek
Tribute to Sr. Mary Mumu
On Monday, June 19, 2018, more than 1,000 women, men and children gathered in the new Holy Family Parish cathedral in Rumbek to celebrate the life of Sr. Mary Mumu. While the atmosphere was heavy with sadness and a sense of profound loss, there were also messages of hope and encouragement to carry on in Sr. Mary’s spirit of perseverance, strength and compassion.
Sr. Mary was born in Kenya on the 3rd August 1948, into a world that was still recovering from the horrors of World War II. She completed her secondary education in Kiambu and then received her training as a nurse and midwife. In 1974, she joined the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, and made her final vows in 1980.
With a heart for service and deep compassion for others, Sr. Mary served as a hospital administrator and provincial leader and formator within her congregation.
She also spent one year serving at the Kakuma refugee camp, where she felt the calling to commit herself to helping the women and children of South Sudan. During her time at Kakuma in 1999, she met and served with religious from the Diocese of Rumbek (DOR), including Fr. John Mathiang, DOR coordinator and Fr. Andrea.
In 2001, she arrived in Rumbek and served this community faithfully until her death on the 7th June 2018.
Fr. Mathiang, reflected on her life in Rumbek during the mass, “She dedicated her life to the point of death. She lived here and she trusted God. She gave up all her life to serve God, humanity and the Church. She wanted to make sure that everybody felt the love of God. She was working for every woman and every child. She served all without distinction. She has gone ahead of us to pray for us, to pray for the women.”
To Father Andrea, “Mary was a mother, a strong lady, a prayerful lady. The love of God was in her.”
During her 17 years of service in Rumbek, Sr. Mary was well known as a mother and leader of women; a pillar of strength despite her small stature. With her strong belief in God’s love and His providence, she worked with the local women to improve their economic situation. She provided them with vocational education and sustainable livelihoods through her management of the Women’s Desk and various women’s projects.
In this program, women in the community are trained in sewing/tailoring and housekeeping. The women also make oils and soaps using the local lulu fruit.
Sr. Mary was also concerned about the importance of peace building in the local community. Therefore, the women also receive training in trauma awareness and trauma healing, and are equipped to share this knowledge with others in their community.
According to Priscilla Amor, a representative from the Women’s Group, Sr. Mary was always thinking of the sustainability of the program. She would ask them, “If I am not present among you, are you able to continue alone?” “And we would say ‘yes,’” Priscilla explained in a confident voice tinged with grief.
With her support and guidance, other religious orders were set up to serve the women and children in Rumbek, including the Missionaries of Charity, the Evangelising Sisters and the Loreto Sisters (IBVM).
Speaking on behalf of the religious sisters in the Diocese, Sr. Orla Treacy noted, “She has been a mother to us. She was here to welcome us all. She pushed us gently from behind as we each tried to make our own ministries.”
Sr. Mary did not only serve the religious and lay women of Rumbek, she also had a passion for girl child education, recognizing the importance of empowering women from an early age through education.
Mary’s strong relationship with Loreto began in 2004 with the visits of the first sisters. She acted as guide, companion and supporter throughout the early years of the sisters coming to Rumbek, the first sisters lived with Sr Mumu for two years.
She served on the board of management of the Loreto Schools from its beginning in 2014. As she worked with the women and girls in Rumbek, Sr. Mary began to realize the importance of supporting the men as well.
She would say, “We cannot help the women without also helping the men.” With this in mind, she also provided support in the recent establishment of the De la Salle Secondary School for boys in Rumbek.
In a message of encouragement to those grieving her loss, Fr. George SJ, superior of the Jesuit community exhorted the gathering to hope and serve, “She will continue to support the Diocese with her intercession. Sr. Mary worked for the rights of women. Let us go out and spread that good news to remember Sr. Mumu.”
Mary Mumu is a big loss to us all, she was a woman of deep faith who saw the face of the suffering Christ in the women of South Sudan but she believed in hope and the dream of better days for her women.
May she rest in peace.