Up Close … with provincial leader of the Cluny Sisters in Seychelles/Tanzania Sister Maria-Nita Serv-‘Teaching is my career, being a religious sister is my vocation’


23-August-2011

Sister Nita at her computer at the convent

Our photographer managed to get a snap of her at her computer at Saint Joseph of Cluny convent in Victoria.

An outgoing and very modern nun indeed, Sister Nita is the ninth of fourteen children -- eight boys and six girls.

“We lived at Morne Blanc, Mahe where we grew up and where I stayed until I was 12 years old.”

She said the family residence is still there and most of her brothers and sisters are still living in this area but two brothers have passed away.

Her father, Joseph Servina, and mother, Eugenie Damoo, were married on September 1, 1942 and she was born on August 4, 1956.

Sister Nita had a normal life, she enjoyed going to the cinema but didn’t like dancing that much.

“I didn’t mind dancing in my room though,” she said.

She remembers once, she went to a dance but didn’t want to be there and wanted to leave early.

“One of my brothers was not too happy about my decision to go back home that early and he said ‘let’s take that nun home’.”

They were young at that time and little did they know that this would become her vocation.

Actually when she made the decision to join the convent and told her family, one of her sisters believed that she would never make it as “she was too much into boys”.

She did have a boyfriend and when he proposed to her that’s when young Nita decided that this was not what she wanted.

On June 13, 1985 in her late 20s, she joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny and started her postulancy (this is a time for a postulant or candidate to assess her vocation and commitment to join a religious order).

And in April the following year she left Seychelles to start religious training in the Novitiate in Ferbane, Ireland.

Why did she choose St Joseph of Cluny?

“I was very active in my parish but I did not feel that my life was complete; there was a desire to do something more. I talked about it to a Sister and she lent me a copy of a book on the life of Anne-Marie Javouhey – ‘The woman God loved’ and I fell in love with this woman and wanted to consecrate my life as she did and I had the desire to be a missionary as she did.

(Anne-Marie was a French nun who founded the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny).

After her training, Sister Nita returned home in 1987 and made her first vows in the congregation in 1988. But apart from being a nun, she also took up teaching.

Her first job was as a supply teacher and after five years she became a fully-fledged specialist teacher of English for secondary school.

“I started to teach at Anse Aux Pins, it was in 1994. These were the best years of my teaching life.”

When the secondary school moved to Pointe Larue she also went there from 1996 to 1999 and then took a nine-month break to go to Zimbabwe at the Wadzanai Training Centre to study for a Diploma in Religious Education.

Apart from Anse Aux Pins, she got the chance to teach at Mont Fleuri secondary school but then left to do her Masters in Religion and Education in 2002.

On her return she went back to the school but then later chose to occupy the post of lecturer at the former National Institute of Education (now the School of Education at the University of Seychelles).

“I consider my work as a teacher as my career, and a religious Sister as a vocation, a way of life, an answer to a special call from God.”

Sister Nita saw her work with the children and young people in schools and college as her way of serving the Lord.

But then she had to make a choice. Since February 2008, she has been asked to take the leadership of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny in Seychelles/Tanzania.
 
After a lot of discernment she accepted the offer.

“It was not a very easy decision to make as I had to leave teaching – a job which I loved and enjoyed doing.”

But it was a new call to be answered and again she said ‘Yes’.

Her responsibility as the provincial leader is to see the welfare of the sisters of the vice-province.

“I have to organise annual retreats and other gatherings as well, both social and spiritual. I also have to go to Tanzania from time to time to visit the sisters there, where we have two communities.”

To date, Saint Joseph of Cluny has 58 Seychellois Sisters – 13 in Seychelles and one in Paris who is the first assistant general.

Besides the life of Sister Nita and more about the congregation, I wanted to know if the Seychellois youths are reluctant to join the convent, but sister Nita did not leave this out in her write-up.

“Sometimes we hear people say that the youths are reluctant to join the convent, to become nuns. But I don’t think they are reluctant.”

Sister Nita said: “What I think is happening is that there are too many distractions, too much ‘noise’ that they don’t take time to listen, to go deeper into themselves, to connect with their inner being and listen to the inner call.”

She believes that the youths need to take time to pray, to talk about their choices in life with someone they feel comfortable with.

“It is important to have a time of silence to hear what God is telling us. He always talks to us in our hearts.”

”For anyone interested we have a ‘Come and See’ programme where the young girls and women can spend time with the Sisters eg: during weekends to see their way of life, to pray with them and to discern their vocations.”

”This training is done by steps which are : Aspirancy, Postulancy, Noviciate, First Profession and Final profession.

”It involves prayer, getting to know the sisters and the life of the Congregation.”
The prayer life of a nun includes daily prayer, personal meditation and praying with the community, monthly day of recollection, annual retreats, reading the Bible and spiritual books and mass.

“To become a nun, you need to have completed secondary school education – O-Levels, have to be mature, able to live with others and open to learn. We accept young and not so young as well. This can be discussed with the Sister in charge when you come and see.”
If you are interested Sister Nita can be contacted on Tel 2525301 or 4324531 or any Sister you know.

On a last note, Sister Nita had this to say: “I thoroughly enjoy my life and my work as a Sister and I am very happy. I live a very normal life, doing things that I like doing, e.g. reading, listening to music, surfing the net , playing games on the computer, writing poems, going for picnics, meeting friends. If one senses a call from God it is a very special Gift which should be received and answered by a generous ‘Yes’ as it will be one of the roads to a life of happiness.”

Compiled by Jean Ladouceur

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