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,,,,with Sr. Bernadette
The Girls interview Sr. Bernadette Duffy

What part of Africa do you work?

I am currently working in Southern Africa in a region called Pretoria. It is a city but it also has an outline rural area. It is a good city like all cities.

What is your role in Africa?

I belong to a small parish of 89 people. There I teach Catechism after mass as in schools there is no catholic teaching

How many years have you been working out in Africa?

I have been working out there 25 years on the 16th of October

What was your reason for going to Africa?

I was called to be religious. I was asked by the Holy Cross sisters to go and they work falls in the South African province. As a young person back then i thought i could save the world.

What do you like about your vocation?

I love that I get to have a personal relationship with God. I feel like I have been called to serve people. I get to use my talents and help those that are underprivileged. I feel like I offer a contribution to society.

How can people from the parish contribute towards this project?

Become a holy cross sister! You can attach to a project in Africa and draw up a contract. The voluntary service is very good and it also takes you out of your comfort zone. You can also contribute towards the Education4Life fund and also the money from the TLC Group goes towards this project as well. The money raised is very necessary as there are children growing in slums and tiny houses. Their parents may have died or are away for work and the children are sent to orphanages like these. The girls do not go to school as they have to get a job to provide for their siblings. So the education set up is aimed for girls as it is important to reach to the girls as women in Africa are not greatly empowered.

Do many girls go on to be nuns?

Not very many. There are 13 girls so far that are going to take the commitment in the area.

What is the faith like in Africa?

The faith is strong, everything happens at Church. There are also youth clubs at Church. Good Friday is big celebration over there, they love big celebration. Although they would not attend mass weekly as they as more family orientated and nothing comes before family. Also they come from very far away to go to mass so they may only be able to attend once a month as there are very little priests.

What is the predominant faith in Africa?

This would be Zionist which does not fall under the main stream churches for example church of Ireland etc. There is also African traditional and Apostolic. The Apostolic do not go to church. As Christians we think that you are only Christian if you go to Church where as the Apostolic meet under trees and also baptise in rivers.

Do you ever get lonely?

Not really of course I miss family and friends at Christmas and Birthdays but I get to come home every 4 years.

Do you feel guilty when you come home?

No I lap it up; there is a time for celebration and for work.

How could you volunteer in Africa?

You can establish a link and connection with the people out there of what you would like to do while you’re out there and they will let you know what they can offer. You can also help out in the orphanages of children with AIDS.

How did you know you wanted to be nun?

When I was my first year at St. Patrick’s High School I was 12 years old. There were people in the school talking about relationships with God and since then I knew that was what I wanted a deep relationship with God. So i wrote to the nuns but they said i was too young as I was twelve at the time. At 15 I was then asked by them to go to workshops. After I left St. Patricks I worked in St. Joseph’s children’s home in Belfast.  I then joined the convent when i was 18 or 19 years of age.

Have you ever thought about how you could have had a family?

My vocation was so strong i never thought about having a family.

Did you ever regret becoming a nun?

I never regretted it. Obviously it was natural for me to want a family but i had to make a choice. It satisfied me enough to be able to help other people’s children.

Do you teach in Africa?

I am a teacher by profession. I work with the Holy Cross in schools to help develop the Catholic ethos. I also work with a range of people from teachers to parents.

Was it hard to learn the language?

I was living in Africa’s rural settings where there was no English spoken so I had to learn as I went along. There are 11 official languages in the country. The type of language depends on the area.

It was a real treat for the girls to interview Sr. Bernadette as she was not due home for another two years! After attending a course in Switzerland, her superior suggested, as she was only an hour and a half away from Ireland, she could pay a short visit home. Sr. Bernadette will be home again in 2012.


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