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Friday, 15 September 2017 Written by Kata Karadža


For a few months I had been thinking about how to realize and embark on a journey into the unknown. I asked around about how things would be there, where – as I heard in other people’s stories –misery and poverty, but at the same time also generosity and goodness abound. So I couldn’t say no to the invitation of fra Ivica Perić to come to Africa.

Despite numerous plans and obligations I had in the Province, I felt that we should go and embark on the journey and embrace the challenge. Sister Lidija Jurišić and I were the ones who went on the trip. We stayed in Africa from May 7th to the 22nd of this year. We went to Africa to feel and listen to the lives of people in need, and to try to feel the needs of the modern African man more deeply. During the two-week stay we spent most of our time with brothers Franciscans at the Kivumu Parish in Rwanda, leaving from there to visit other parishes and places. We also stayed in the neighbouring Uganda. Both countries are abundant with beautiful landscapes and natural beauty, but at the same time they are burdened with severe poverty and deprivation.

Coming from a world abundant with water, electricity and food you hardly realize that there are people who are dying of thirst, hunger, have no electricity or basic life necessities. You cannot stay indifferent when you meet a child who lacks even the basic things and is forced to gather the remnants of dry tree branches, carrying them back to their humble little house to be put to good use there. You cannot stay indifferent when you see people carrying water canisters on their heads or in their arms for God knows how many kilometres, just to have the water for the most basic of needs. You cannot stay indifferent when you see people who are in need of material and – even more so – spiritual help. Faced with all of this it is impossible not to ask numerous questions, most often simply “WHY?” Why is that man so poor, helpless and abandoned? How to explain such great and insurmountable opposites and inequalities in that exist in human lives? While some live in abundance and don’t know what to do with their wealth, others live in deprivation and suffering because they lack the most basic of necessities.


However, despite numerous difficulties they have to endure, you can really feel that there is life in these people. They live, they have time and they have hopes in a better tomorrow. They pray… they pray singing and with full hearts.

Who spends even a short time among them and feels the life in these men cannot but feel within oneself a need for change, or at least a need to ask pressing questions. It changes you, converts you and encourages you to help the person in need more and better, to acknowledge their misery and offer a personal contribution to help make it less bad.

Saint Francis experienced his conversion through a meeting with a leper. In that encounter he felt that even the most miserable person in the world has dignity, that he too is a human being with the same dignity as anyone else, and above all that he is a God’s creature loved dearly by God. And ever since that encounter, something was different in Francis. He begins to live a different life, a life of serving and dedication to others, to the ones on the fringes of society. By seeing and recognizing human misery, his life changed completely towards dedication to the poor and sharing in their daily life. Following the example of Saint Francis our missionaries in faraway lands are doing the same thing. Among others, the Franciscan spirit is being spread by our Franciscan sisters of the Province of the Most Holy Heart of Jesus in Split, Croatia, and by the Franciscan brothers from Bosnia, as well as other religious communities present in Africa. Their sacrifice makes sense because they are devoted to the fulfilment of the love commandments and helping the man in need with their presence and hard work.


Hearing about the experiences of the missionaries we met, especially in our conversations with fra Ivica and our sisters from the Split Province who are in Congo – sisters Mirabilis Višić and Mislava Prkić – as well as the Salesian Father Danko Litrić and a Daughter of Divine Charity sister Bogdana Markić, we were able to sense strongly what missionaries mean for the spiritual and material welbeing of the people in this part of the world. God sent them as messengers of hope that brings joy to people who meet them. They are indeed the messengers of the Good News. A poor man has nothing to offer but his hand and a smile, and that is what our people need. They notice the man passing by and greet him with open hearts. The many tired faces and famished bodies don’t give out disappointment but instead radiate with a hope in a better tomorrow.

Spending time with the people of Africa changes one into seeing life and everything in one’s surroundings in a different way. Even after returning home, the impressions stay strong despite being far from Africa.

A desire is being born in me for us Franciscan sisters to be open to new incentives and challenges, and – if that is God’s will – to bravely go into the unknown work fields of Africa. It is up to each and every one of us to pray for people who will gather the courage to dedicate their lives in service of all those who need our help. From the brief personal experience of staying in Africa I really feel that the presence of missionaries there is truly needed.


We have to keep in mind the Biblical words, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). If we pray and trust the God’s Word we will go into the unknown without hesitation, followed by the resonating response: “Here am I. Send me!” After all, isn’t it serving in the Franciscan sense when we make the world into our monastery? Therefore, let us go into all the world and preach the gospel to all (cf. Mark 16:15).

Whether we take the word “Go!” seriously is up to each and every one of us! It is important to pray for the workers who will be willing to go into the wide Lord’s fields. It is worth to be brave enough to respond to the invitation with readiness. The missions are of huge importance to those who listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who whispers, “Come” and “Go”, as Pope Francis says in his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, he who follows Jesus cannot but become a missionary, and he knows that Jesus “walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise.”

May God give that we too – the Franciscan sisters of the Bosnian-Croatian Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary – become filled with that spirit and readily put ourselves at God’s disposal.

Thankful to God for the grace-filled moments spent in Africa, I pray to the Lord that he may give strength to all the missionaries to continue spreading the Good News and following the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank fra Ivica Perić for his invitation to Africa and his fraternal availability during our stay. Peace and all good!

Sister Kata Karadža

Father Vjeko Center

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