Sister Bongani Ester Chuma Story

“I found the one whom my soul loves.” (Song of Songs 3:4)This time around, I will not take it from the beginning, but I will take it from the beginning of one of the significant steps in my vocational journey.

I took my temporary vows on the 24th of September 2014 in Harare Zimbabwe, after being in Hammersmith for two years as a Novice. Since the first profession, I have been to four different communities: Harare, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. In all the four communities, I experienced joy, challenges, sadness, excitement, loneliness, and fulfillment. But the Spirit of Nazareth is always the same. 

On the 12th of September 2019, I took another massive step in my life. That day, I made my final profession, which means making a commitment to God for the rest of my life.

As Sisters of Nazareth, we are a Religious Institute of pontifical right. Victoire Larmenier founded us, and we follow the Rule of St Augustine.

Six years back, I professed the three vows, Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty. These vows are more of pointers for me, to the Kingdom of God. They help me to follow Christ more thoroughly. Jesus Christ himself, for whom I left everything and followed, was Chaste, Poor, and Obedient. I often get asked questions like, “Why choose to be poor when you can be rich?”, “How do you manage Chastity when you look so young?”, “Don’t you wish you were married?”, “Why do you have to report to someone about everything?” “You say you live a poor life, and yet you stay in big houses”, to mention a few.  I have been happy with living my evangelical counsel for more than six years because I don’t do it all by myself. It is GRACE that carries me through. I felt the CALL, and I RESPONDED. Christ is the first reason I am a Sister of Nazareth today. I strive to imitate him, and it is only him who gives me strength and fulfillment. Appreciating what religious life is all about also helps me be faithful to my calling bearing in mind that it’s all for the GLORY OF GOD.

I do not choose where and whom I want to stay with. I get sent to whichever community, and I believe God chooses the sisters for me. He works and speaks through my superiors. Being an International Congregation, we are all from different countries, different cultures, and diverse backgrounds. You can imagine that it can’t be easy to put all of us together and expect peace. Amazingly it works.

It is the evangelical counsels (the vows) that bring us together in unity. We are all striving for one goal. In my CHASTITY, I am able to love without partiality. I see Christ my spouse in my Sisters and in all whom I care for. Being chaste frees my heart. I live for Christ alone, and therefore I do not have an undivided heart, that makes me fully available to my community and to the people I minister to. In my chastity, I develop a greater love for God.

In imitating the Poor Christ, I die to self and think more of the other. In everything I do, I put my sisters first, and when everyone practices that, peace and joy prevail in the house. Professing POVERTY frees my heart for the Kingdom of God. I am not obsessed with material and worldly things. We are all aware of how quick gadgets and fashion are being updated. We cannot keep up. With the vow of poverty, I am content with what I have, and I don’t need to get the latest whatever is on the market. As a sister of Nazareth, the vow of poverty makes me be a good Steward of everything that I use, like the house that I live in, the cars, and every community property. I don’t really own anything, and what we have is for sharing, as the saying goes, “sharing is caring”. We also find this in the early church (Acts 4:32 –they held all things in common). In my poverty, I become dependent on God. I am constantly reminded that I need him all the time and am nothing without him.

First and foremost, OBEDIENCE is to God. Jesus Christ, whom I imitate, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). It is a vow that goes against my will. What gives me joy in living this vow is that each and every day I pray for the Grace to see God in everyone and that I may not be obsessed by my own will but be pleased with God’s will in my life.Prayer, community, and ministry define me. These three are part and parcel of my life. My day begins with prayer and ends with prayer. 

Prayer is where I obtain my strength. In community, I am supported, encouraged, affirmed, and in community that I am also challenged. It is through challenges that I grow and mature. In ministry, I am fulfilled, and through ministry, I give witness and become a sign to the people of God. Ministry draws me closer to God. After all the joys, the challenges, disappointments, and the completeness I encounter in ministry and community, I bring it all to God in thanksgiving at the end of the day. For the times I could have done better or missed the mark, it is in prayer that I ask for strength and inspiration to be a better person tomorrow.

To sum up my way of life in one word, all I can say is: INCREDIBLE. I love my way of life, I am so in love with Christ who called me to this life, I love being a Sister of Nazareth, I love being Catholic and I love being Sister Bongani Ester Chuma.

The challenges are there, lots of them, but deep down my heart, I am fulfilled, and I have great joy. The challenges I have come across so far have strengthened me, they have made me a better Sister of Nazareth, and I thank God for them because they draw me closer to God. What keeps me going is knowing that I have two parents back home who loves me unconditionally and a family that loves me and supports me, the Sisters (Nazareth family) that are supportive, good friends who always encourage me and are very open with me in advising me. Above all these, it’s PRAYER that has brought me this far. Without prayer, our life is meaningless. Each day I wake up, I ask God for the Grace to stay closer to him. I firmly believe he is faithful.

If I were to start afresh, I would not think of another better way to take. I will do it again. To all those who feel God is calling them, be it Priesthood, Religious Life, or joining the Sisters of Nazareth. My advice for you is, “There is no harm in trying. Don’t let fear stand in between you and God. When I said my first “YES” I never had a clue what I was getting myself into. I followed the desire that was within me. I am grateful to God for giving me the courage, and today I am glad I made that first baby step.

Special thanks to the Sisters of Nazareth, to the other family of Nazareth (The lay management and staff) for the love and support, and that we work together in harmony. My family back home. Thank you to all those good people I have met on my vocational journey. Let’s continue to pray for each other.

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