Recently, in the wee morning hours, I passed by the convent of the Child Jesus Sisters in Chilonga for a short visit. No sooner had I arrived, the Sisters welcomed me into their house for breakfast. I spotted a portrait of a man hanging on the wall. He was wearing a gandoura and a rosary around his neck. From a distance I could see that he was a White man with a long beard. I saw a name scribbled on the base of the portrait: Monseigneur Etienne Larue. Below were the following words: Our Founder. I asked the sisters: “Who is he?” In unison they responded: “He is our founder.”
According to her narration, the seed of the Congregation of Child Jesus Sisters was born when a White Fathers was preaching in Ipusukilo, Kitwe. A girl came to see him after Mass to share her wish to become a priest like him. The story came to the ears of Monseigneur Etienne Larue who heard a similar story from another girl. It became crystal clear to him that the Spirit was at work. God was calling these girls to religious life. So, he saw an urgent need of founding a local religious congregation of Sisters that will be admitting Zambian girls wanting to devote their lives in serving the Lord. This is how the congregation of Child Jesus Sisters came into existence.
Monseigneur Larue requested the White Sisters to help in admitting the first group of girls into the novitiate and to assist in forming and training them. By doing so, Monseigneur Larue applied a similar method to that of Cardinal Lavigerie when he asked the Jesuits to help in forming and training the first group of candidates he had just recruited for his missionary Society he had founded.
As I ardently listened to the Sister narrating their foundation story, my heart throbbed with nods. The Bemba people rightly say: Umwana uushenda atasha nyina ukunaya (a child who does not travel or visit other places praises her mother for her wonderful cooking). Initially, I had thought that the Child Jesus Sisters had been founded by the White Sisters. My stop over at their convent in Chilonga educated me about their foundation. Had I not stopped over, I was going to remain in ignorance about this rich and important moment of evangelisation in Zambia. Indeed, this is some of the history that we need to cherish and celebrate as we are commemorating 125 years of evangelization in Zambia. May the Spirit of Monseigneur Etienne Larue continue engulfing his daughters so that they may continue serving the Lord in truth and charity!