"Every day, I ask for the grace to love the Algerians a little more"

Sister Philippine Koutamba

Togolese nun of the French congregation of Our Lady of the Apostles, who lives in Hennaya, in the suburbs of Tlemcen

"In 1995, when our two sisters were killed in Algiers, our superiors said they were looking for nuns to go there, so I applied Isaiah's phrase – "I heard the voice of the Lord saying: who will I send the mission?" (6, 8) – is at the origin of my vocation. This time it resounded in me, but I was too young: I had not yet pronounced the perpetual vows. A few years later, I said again that I was ready to leave Togo. So I arrived in Hennaya, near Tlemcen, in the last community of the sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles in Algeria.

I have not lived here for a long time but gradually I learn to live there my vocation. In Africa, we are recognizable by our clothing. Here, it is not so, being religious is lived without noise, but I also feel that we are a ferment, an invisible ferment that is fruitful.

I receive an extraordinary welcome from our neighbors, women who attend sewing or embroidery courses at our Al-Hayat center or who send their children to school support. This morning, when I went shopping, the third of my basket was offered to me by the merchants.

I know that I am benefiting from what the old women have sown, from their work in the dispensary, from all the women who helped to give birth … It is not so much the service they have made that has left traces that the love with whom they did it. We are not here to exercise a job but to share the daily life of our neighbors, to live with them. Every day, I ask for the grace to love the Algerians a little more. "

Collected by Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner

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