It’s a delight to introduce Sr. Patrice Clifford, an Ursuline of our Central Province who has been serving in Cameroon since 1984. When sending her reflections, she shared that the group of pre-seminarians she worked with 9 years ago will be ordained priests this year. AND a graduate of the school where she has taught was the representative from Cameroon at an African meeting of health workers seeking to prevent the spread of Ebola. These are the kinds of things that make teachers and missionaries very happy. Enjoy getting to know Sr. Patrice.
What is your ministry and what drew you to it? My ministry for 50+ years has been teaching–French in the States and English here in Cameroon. Ten years ago, I decided it was time to leave the school system. Since then, I’ve been working with 2 groups: young men from the 4 dioceses of northern Cameroon who are in a 1 year preparatory program before entrance to the major seminary, and secondary students who come together once a week to improve their English and be better prepared for official exams. Their appreciation of what we can accomplish in a very limited amount of time touches me deeply.
How do you see Angela’s charism alive in your ministry? Angela urges us not to consider ministry a burden, but to serve others with joy. The response of my students leads me to believe they realize that I thoroughly enjoy helping them and that I truly love them.
My life in Cameroon, in and out of teaching, has involved daily contacts with not only Christians, but many, many Muslims. At a time when many in our world seem determined to write off all Muslims as terrorists, I have been blessed with knowing and loving (and being known and loved by) so many wonderful Muslims. I sense that Angela, peacemaker par excellence, would smile graciously on the bonds that have been created with friends and students and traders, and recognize them as small, but no less real, contributions to world peace.
What gifts and challenges do you experience in the daily carrying out of your ministry? There have been so many gifts during my years in Cameroon: my international Ursuline community, with the ups and downs, joys and struggles; the spontaneous mutual delight of innumerable unplanned encounters with former students, often after many years of no contact; the smiles and waves of children along the road; the deep sense that “It is right and good to be here!”
Of course, there have been many challenges, too. The biggest challenge these last 10 years has been the huge range of mastery of English in any given group, with the majority lacking even basic skills. Since I’m getting up in years, I’m trying to manage as wisely as I can my dwindling energy in order to continue my ministry here for at least a while longer.