Emily Siegel, Archives assistant, had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria to help the train the Sisters there in archival work. We are so excited for her to share her knowledge with us. There is an exhibit of her experience in the Archives exhibit space on the main floor of Kistler Library.
In October 2017, I was welcomed by the Sisters of the African Province of the Society of the Holy Child to visit their communities in Nigeria and to train a few Sisters in how to complete archival work in connection with my archival work here for Rosemont College and the American Province Archives of the Society of the Holy Child.
(Chapel on the Society of the Holy Child compound in Jos)
In Jos, I stayed on a compound that houses the novitiate, the Archives office, and the Center for Renewal, a retreat center. (A novitiate is a place where an individual who desires to enter religious life lives before taking vows so they may discern whether or not they feel called to this way of life.)
I spent all of my waking hours with the community of Sisters and novices. It was a pleasure to live with the novices because it gave me the opportunity to get to know the young women who desire to become Holy Child Sisters. At the time there were 13 novices living there who came from various locations in West Africa. Some of them were from local tribes near Jos, others were from other parts of Nigeria (both east and west of Jos) and there were a few from Ghana, another location in West Africa where the SHCJ are present. I was warmly welcomed by everyone I met and they were just as eager to tell me about their own homes and culture as they were to learn about my own. They were such a welcoming group that I never even had the opportunity to be homesick.
(The Novices! L to R standing: Celine Ezeoke, Patience Muoto, Bernadine Ekeh, Louisa Ayirah, Mercy Duru, Philomena Sam, Victoria Ikwen, Euphemia Igwe, Marcy Oveghawo, Mary Aker
Kneeling L to R: Chinyere Ugwoke, Augustina Ayinga, Veronica Akumsiyiga)
During the day I spent my time working in the Archives helping and educating four SHCJ sisters (The African Province Archivist, Sr. Juliana Onyeoke, Sr Calistar Igbo, Sr Elizabeth Njoku and Sr Chinyere Nwafor ) in how to properly archive materials. We were collectively tasked with organizing the disheveled collections of papers, photos, and other documents. I showed the Sisters the best techniques for working in Archives and then we all worked together to implement them. The Society’s presence in West Africa dates back to 1930 so this was an amazing opportunity to work with materials that dated back to that time period. It was also exciting for the Sisters to work there because in many ways this history was something they only previously had been taught by word of mouth.
While I was in Jos, the Society celebrated their foundation day, the day that the Society of the Holy Child Jesus was founded in Derby, England on October 15, 1846. It was wonderful to enjoy the Africans' take on such a celebration and it gave me the opportunity to meet SHCJ Associates local to Nigeria.
It was such an honor to have the opportunity to get to know the Society in West Africa and to be able to help the Sisters learn the best techniques for saving their own history. Everyone I met made me feel so welcome and at home in a place so different than the east coast of the United States.
Here are some more pictures of the compound and photos of Jos.