Sisters on Safari

The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales who staff Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg took a "go big or stay home" approach to summer vacation this year. Last month, Sisters Miriam Elizabeth Cusack, Susan Louise Eder and her biological sister, Frances Carol Eder, and flew to Namibia and South Africa with Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg.

"Our trip to Africa was magnificent," said Sister Susan Louise. "It was truly the experience of a lifetime."

This special opportunity came at the invitation of Oblate Mother Superior Francoise Bernadette in Troyes, France. Their African sisters had just completed their new convent, and they wanted Father Rooney and the sisters to join them for the dedication.

"Everywhere we went it was like a family reunion," said Father Rooney.

Students from the mission cheered and sang upon their arrival, and some of the students dressed up in costume to dance for the guests.

People came for miles to attend the Mass and dedication of the convent. Afterward the Fredericksburg group toured the new convent which was constructed in part with funds raised by St. Mary parishioners.

Father Rooney is hopeful that St. Mary can continue to have a relationship with the missions in southern Africa and looks forward to one day sending a mission group from the parish.

For Sister Susan Louise, it was a treasure to witness the sister's charism come to life in the African missions.

"Our spirituality is the same but is lived out differently in different cultures," she said.

The sisters strive to consecrate every moment to God and put everything they do into God's loving embrace, said Sister Susan Louise. They encourage those in their care to do the same, helping them to trust in God and experience His love for them, she added.

During their visit, the group went on a safari where they were able to see lions, zebras and hippos. On a trip to the coast, they also saw African penguins on the beach - a surprising sight for tourists.

The sisters look forward to reliving their experience for Holy Cross students when school resumes next week. They hope to use the trip as a way to show the students the importance of service.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015