YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Sister Stan Terese Mario Mumuni is a nun on a mission. After spending 15 years serving in Nigeria, she returned to her homeland of Ghana where she rented a small house from a Muslim family in the northern part of the country which has become home to some 130 children she rescued from imminent death.
Those children were born with various forms of deformities, and because of their disabilities, they are labeled by society as evil.
“The children are regarded or labeled by the society as spirit children or evil children who bring evil and bad omen to their families and the community at large,” Mumuni told Crux.
She says the mission of the Nazareth Home for God’s Children, which she founded, is to offer love to those “cut off from the sunlight of companionship in our large human family.”
Following are excerpts of Crux’s conversation with Mumuni.
Crux: Please, give us a description of the home for children with mental and physical disabilities that you founded.
Mumuni: The home was founded in the year 2009 by the Marian Sisters of Eucharistic Love (MASEL) in Sang located in the Yendi diocese, [in] Tamale in the northern region of Ghana. MASEL is a female public association of diocesan right engaged in an active apostolate started in 2009 in the Diocese of Yendi. Our mission is built around the Eucharist: “What greater act of love can one make than to give one’s self wholeheartedly and entirely for the relief of the afflicted?”
The association was formed to help rescue children who were victimized through talks and appeals in their community to be released to the care of the church. These children deserve to be taken care of in terms of feeding, accommodation, education and training.
It became a struggle in the following years as the number of children increased. By then, we were living in a small, rented space in the Muslim village of Sang. In 2014, with the help of Catholic missions and donors from within and outside the country, we were able to put up a structure that houses 102 children currently, and we hope to get additional funding to be able to build more structures to accommodate these vulnerable children. The home has a boys and girl’s dormitory, a chapel, dining area, playground yet to be furnished, a grotto and the likes.
What inspired you-was it something personal or a question of Christian compassion?
My inspiration came as a calling from God to perform this mandate. We give ourselves to God for the service of persons who are poor; we meet the needs of our dehumanized brothers and sisters, the most abandoned, the marginalized, and those cut off from the sunlight of companionship in our large human family. We are called to the vocation of love.
What are the profiles of the children you bring to the home?
They range from children born with teeth protruding, facial hair, pubic hair, both sex organs, abnormally large head (hydrocephalus), children who fail to walk after the age of three years, or when a child is born at a time of severe hunger or loses the mother or both parents at the time of birth, cries a lot at night, or whose parents are always sick after the birth of the child, born as twins, children with epilepsy, deaf and dumb, blind, etc. Such children are either killed or thrown into the forest to die.
How does society regard the children and how do their disabilities affect them?
The society continues to follow traditional “pagan” beliefs such as the worship of nature, animals and ancestral worship including the belief in “spirits”. The children are regarded or labeled by the society as spirit children or evil children who bring evil and bad omen to their families and the community at large. It sounds very strange, but that is what their belief system directs them to believe in.
You have described the children as “prayer warriors.” How so? Give us a sense as to how the children are able to overcome their disabilities.
The children’s spiritual lives continue to grow, and even the youngest one amongst them is able to recite the rosary. Prayer sessions such as the Divine Mercy devotion and the Angelus are well recited by the children. We have children with names, Victor, Elizabeth, Frederick, who pray very well. There was a time when one of the children fell sick, and they believed praying would actually heal the child, which it did. They believe that through prayer, miracles do occur. And they shall succeed in everything they do no matter their condition.
You have won several prizes, including being a 2017 finalist at the Opus Prize. Each time you receive a prize, what immediately comes to your mind?
Although not the motive behind what I do, these awards represent the good works people witness us undertaking. I do appreciate them, and they signify that the home’s success stories now and in the future will be recognized and appreciated. We thank God who has given me this mandate, and we ask God to bless everyone who helps to make this possible.