ESM Sister travels to Kenya for General Chapter

Sr. Elizabeth Wanyoike chosen as delegate for congregation’s meeting

By Gabrielle Nolan

On Nov. 5, Sister Elizabeth Wanyoike of the Missionary Congregation of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary traveled to Kenya as a delegate for the Seventh General Chapter of her congregation.

Sister Elizabeth is the adult faith formation coordinator at St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut, where she has served for 11 years.

The theme of the Seventh General Chapter is “Nurturing the Key Pillars of Our Congregation that is Our Charism, Identity, and Culture.”

“What holds us are these three main things,” Sister Elizabeth said. “We want to find out how we have lived our charisms so far, how we can nurture it. So many things are happening in the world, and we can easily drift, be carried by one thing or the other. But the Chapter helps to bring us together. It helps us to look back; it’s like going back to our roots. Where did we come from, and where are we going? So that we don’t lose our vision.”

Sister Elizabeth shared that by nurturing their key pillars, the Sisters will become “more effective in the community and in our ministries.”

“The General Chapter is a very major event in the congregation,” Sister Elizabeth said. “The decisions that we make affect the life, or influence the life, of the congregation in the next six years to come. Prayers that the Holy Spirit may guide us, may lead us, that we would make decisions for the good, for the better of the congregation but also for the good of the Church … so we can discover more how our presence in the Church can bring the Church closer to people and even help us to reach the people who have not known Christ.”

The Chapter, which occurs every six years, was convoked in April.

“Each one of us (Sisters) has been reflecting on this theme and have been giving our feedback. We have a committee that was set to walk us through, give us questionnaires. … So, as a congregation we already started this journey in April,” she said.

Sister Elizabeth is one of two delegates traveling from the United States. Joining her is Sister Angela Nikwobazaivwe, who currently resides in Ohio but also previously served at St. John Neumann Parish.

This is Sister Elizabeth’s fourth time attending a General Chapter.

“We have particular members elected … to represent the ideas of everyone in the congregation because we cannot take all of us, so we have a group that is elected, and they will go to our meeting place in Kenya—that’s where the generalate is,” Sister Elizabeth said. “So, we shall meet there, first have some input from speakers for a week, then have another week to pray on what we have heard.”

“To be elected as one of the delegates, I believe the Sisters have trusted that I can represent them, their ideas, what we have discussed, deliberated together,” she continued. “So, the two of us will be taking the experiences that we have had here in the United States or how we have lived our charism, how we have solved the challenges, we are meeting the achievements that we have made, all those count. So, it means we feel we are entrusted with a responsibility.”

“When the people meet during the Chapter we discuss issues, come up with decisions, and every decision that goes out has to be voted for. So, we have to deliberate and then after deliberation we start voting,” Sister Elizabeth explained.

One example is voting to open a new community in a new location to expand their charism.

“When I am voting, if I vote as a member, I have to look at it from my own understanding but also from the sharing of every member. What is the idea of the community?” she noted. “Then there’s also another kind of voting; we vote when we are electing new members of the leadership. So, the five members who will walk us the next six years, we shall vote for them. And when we are voting, we are voting on behalf of our Sisters. It’s like I no longer speak for myself; I am speaking for the members who have sent me there.”

The Chapter opened on Dec. 1 and is expected to conclude Dec. 31.

“We continue, maybe for three or four weeks depending on the discussions. Usually it takes a month,” Sister Elizabeth said. “Then the discussions are over, and we all have a plan. We say OK, this is what we want to do … we say who are going to walk us through the next six years? So, then we elect the leaders who will walk us, to practice what we have planned. … But depending on where the members who are chosen come from, like if someone is chosen that is in the U.S. … then that person has to come first in order for the chapter to close. So, we cannot close the Chapter until that person travels.”

Sister Elizabeth has been with the Missionary Congregation of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary for 34 years. The congregation, which was founded in 1975, is the “first African women missionaries in Africa and in the world,” according to its website.

“I love my community,” Sister Elizabeth said. “I was drawn to be a missionary as a young person, and I like especially the charism that we have that is sharing or proclaiming the Good News, reaching out to the people who don’t know Christ, but also planting the Church where it is not planted, giving emphasis to catechetical ministry. It draws my heart. It draws me, and I feel fulfilled in what I do. So, I’m happy with what I do and I’m happy being an Evangelizing Sister of Mary.”

“If I’m to die … and come back to life again, given another chance, I’m choosing the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary,” she said. “I love them.”

For information on the Missionary Congregation of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary, visit their website at

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