Daring steps in the mission of Togo and Benin
Continuing our mission journey around the world, today we go to the SSpS Region of Togo – Benin. Togo was our first mission in Africa. In June the sisters concluded the jubilee celebrations of 125 years since the arrival of the first sisters in Togo.
Here you will learn about the history and what the mission is like today.
History of the Region
To become what it is today, the history of the Togo-Benin region went through two phases.
An African proverb says: “Weave the new rope on the old one” . The Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit arrived in Togo in 1897, following the Missonaries of the Society of the Divine Word who arrived there on August 28, 1892.
Unfortunately, the First World War of 1914 put an end to their flourishing mission. The last SVD Missionaries and Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit were deported from Togo to England in January 1918.
The SVD were able to return in 1974 and the SSpS Sisters in 1989, at the invitation of Bishop Christian Matawo Bakpessi, first Togolese bishop of Sokodé, of blessed memory.
Our new mission began in Hélota (1989), a village in the middle of the bush, 40 km west of Kanté in the diocese of Dapaong, today the diocese of Kara. Then we opened a community in Bassar-Boukpassiba (1992) and in Lomé (2000). Later our mission in Benin comprised Ouaké in 2005, Atakpamé in 2009, while our latest foundation is in Nyivé, 2021, in the diocese of Kpalimé.
08 April 2001, Togo separated administratively from Ghana Province and became a Region.
Last year, 2022 we began the jubilee year of 125 years, marking the first arrival of SSpS in Togo. We concluded the Jubilee year with thanksgiving Holy Mass on 04th June 2023 in Lomé.
Social, Political and Religious Context
Togo and Benin are apparently peaceful countries due to the absence of armed political conflicts but the socio-political climate is tense in Togo due to the lack of rotation. The situation in Benin is a bit better. The political regime in place for several years is making development efforts, but there is still much to do. Public hospitals and health centers are in short supply and are not well equipped. Most drugs are unaffordable for the average citizen. Access to certain treatments is not always free.
The situation of schools in certain towns and villages is deplorable. Parents cannot cope with the demands of the education system. Young graduates struggle to find employment, hence unemployment is raising.
Communication is not always easy with the people, as Togo and Benin are Polyglot (mixture of several languages) and the majority is illiterate especially in the North. The population is attached to their tradition, despite the efforts of the evangelizers. This makes it difficult for missionaries to relate to them and requires great patience in accompanying them.
Let’s get to know each of the communities and the apostolates that the sisters carry out.
Holy Trinity Regional House in Lomé
The Holy Trinity Regional House was blessed and inaugurated on 11th March 2000. It was also used for formation (postulancy). Now the postulancy is in Bassar community.
Le Sourire Nursery School is a kindergarten established in 2007 and about 1070 children have attended the school. Currently there are 13 personnel, both teaching and non-teaching staff, and 102 children.
The Holy Spirit Primary, Secondary & High School started in 2011 with 27 pupils in the elementary school. In 2017 the school was raised to secondary school level and in 2021 it became a High School. The number of students increased gradually year by year and currently we have 743 students. There are 60 staff members, both teaching and non-teaching.
Blessed Mother Josepha Social Centre was created in 2007 in collaboration with the parish Our Lady of Redemption with the intention of helping the poor through literacy programs, psychological accompaniment to the PLHIV, counselling for people with handicapped children, women empowerment programs through various activities such as candle making, soap making, etc.
Over the years the center has formed and trained many women and men to become self-reliant. It is also used for various activities of the church such as catechism classes, meetings for children and youth groups and other associations of the parish.
For a good two years, the center was closed physically because of Covid 19 but gave its help through assistance to the poor and the HIV patients by giving them food. Now all the activities have resumed.
Holy Spirit Dispensary belongs to our Adoration Sisters (SSpSAP), was opened officially in 2003 and was entrusted to a local congregation. In 2013 we took over the administration. We constructed one more store in the existing building and continued the activities.
The activities carried out by the Dispensary in collaboration with the district health center are: consultation and treatment, antenatal clinic, mother and baby health care, weight control and vaccination, laboratory tests, ultrasound, wound dressing and minor surgery, HIV/AIDS treatment and care, monitoring and reporting of all activities.
Holy Spirit Community in Helota
This was the first community of the second foundation in 1989 and the sisters worked in the health center, catechesis and women promotion. Presently there are 5 sisters in the community working in the Center for Women Promotion and in the Health Care Center.
Holy Spirit Community in Bassar
The community began in 1992 with the Health Ministry and later the sisters started socio-pastoral activities like teaching catechism and women promotion. They were also taking care of handicapped children. Presently there are 4 sisters at Bassar working in the Center Socio- Medical, the Nursery School and pastoral Ministry.
Mother Josepha Community in Ouake, Benin
Ouake is situated 600km from Cotonon, the capital of Benin. The sisters came to the community in 2005. They were engaged mainly in pastoral work like accompanying the youth, Holy Childhood Association, teaching catechism, and socio-pastoral activities such as women promotion. In 2015 a Kindergarten school was opened to enable us to help with the education of children in the village. Presently there are four sisters in the community.
Mother Maria Helena Community in Atakpamé
The community of Atakpamé began in 2009 as a branch community of Lomé. The sisters started the apostolate to the sick at the medico-social health center named Anna Maria. Currently there are four sisters and all are committed to the Anna Maria Center.
Apart from the four sisters there are 26 employees engaged full time, trying to give the best of themselves. The center has 2 medical assistants in charge of curative consultations, a laboratory with four technicians, a maternity department with 3 nurses and 3 midwives. Last year 367 children were born in the center.
Also in the Anna Maria Center there is Curative Consultation of prisoners once every month and help is given to people living with HIV Aids and their dependents. There are two orphanages near the Medical Center which take care of 70 children. We also care for the medical needs of these children.
The center also helps students who wish to continue their education despite lack of financial means. Our assistance to them consists of paying for school fees, supplies, school uniforms and sometimes accommodation. We are grateful to the Congregation and the NGO Togo Nouvel Horizon (Madam Anna Maria Klocke) for the aid given for the education of needy children.
St. Arnold Comunity in Nyive -Kpalime
The community of Nyive – Kpalime established in 2021 renders health services. From the first contact the people of the village appeared happy and content with the presence of the sisters. In-depth knowledge of the area shows a poor environment, neglected and without prospects. Little by little the sisters gained the trust of the inhabitants, thanks to the interest they showed in every one’s life.
The Health Center St. Arnold Janssen only began functioning on 15th January 2022. During the first year of service we had 1044 consultations. In the maternity ward, we had a hundred women and 14 deliveries. There is also a laboratory for daily analysis. The pharmacy caters for needed medicines. The common diseases registered are malaria, infections (internal, skin), parasitosis and infected wounds. In many cases sick children show signs of malnutrition. Quite frequently there are victims of road accidents and domestic violence.
We have a canteen that serves cooked meals to patients and the people who accompany them, as well as for the staff of the center. There is a small shop with a big, deep freezer which allows us always to have poultry, meat and fish. We can see that the people of the village are very happy with this possibility and that it helps them to eat better on a daily basis, especially during the farming season. We give thanks to God.
Mill Project for the village of Nyive
Daily food preparation is a major occupation in the village of Nyive. As we reflected on how to bring some comfort to the people, Divine Providence sent us the funds to set up a food mill for everyone’s needs. The mill will have a machine to grind grains, crush cassava, shell beans, soybeans and corn… The building is under construction and the machines are on the way.
We are glad and grateful to be with the people in Togo/Benin, where we continue the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ and shared with us through our Founding Generation.
By Sr. Damiana Dan Bao SSpS, Regional Leader, and the Sisters of the Togo – Benin Region.