Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

Sr. Marie Francoise Mestry, Apostolic Councilor, District of The Isles

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A life of intercultural communication

Sister Marie Francoise Mestry was born in Mauritius and, in 1984, was the first Mauritian-born sister to enter the District of The Isles. She made her first profession in 1986 and final profession in 1992. She previously worked in the Generalate as the Communications Director and leaves her current role as RIMOA Secretary to begin her new mandate as Congregational Councilor.

 

How was your experience of being the first Mauritian-born sister to enter the Congregation’s District of The Isles?

It was only during a vocation event that I attended while trying to understand my vocation that I met several Good Shepherd sisters and learned about the presence of the Congregation in Mauritius. As it happened, I had been meditating on the Gospel parable of the Good Shepherd, and so I willingly entered into a journey of discernment with the Congregation.

That same year, I was due to travel to London to visit my uncle, who was my godfather. Sr. Annunciata Deegan, who was from Ireland, asked me whether I would like to visit the community in Streatham, which wasn’t too far from where my uncle lived. Of course, I jumped at the chance, so she organized a day visit for me.

My experience with the sisters in England mirrored my experience of the sisters in Mauritius. I was so impressed to experience the same extraordinary welcome from them as I had experienced from the sisters at home. This struck me as being something special of the charism of the Congregation and played an essential role in my discernment.

Only after joining the missionary foundation in Mauritius did I really become conscious of being the first Mauritian sister in the community. From these earliest days, my eyes were opened to the international character of the Congregation as I shared my community life with sisters from India, France, Ireland, and Australia. As the years rolled on, it was often the case that each sister in my community was of a different nationality.

Picture One: Sr. Marie Francoise with Sr. Richard Langan (left) and other members of their community.

Being of the District of The Isles, this sense of internationality was further enriched as the unit consists of Mauritius, Madagascar, and Réunion Island. These are three separate nations with different identities, celebrating different cultures, speaking different languages, and using different monies. For me, these three distinct identities, collaborating as one district, are a microcosm of the international nature of our Congregation.

 

What ministries have you been involved in since you joined?

When I was just a young postulant, Sr. Richard Langan, another missionary sister from Ireland, trained me to work with the girls in our then recently opened crisis center. I recall her telling me: “Do not expect anything from the girls, do not wait for words of recognition. Do everything from your heart in a disinterested way”. Since then, when in Mauritius, I’ve always been involved in this ministry and was responsible for running the center at the time of my election to the Congregational Leadership Team. Over these years, I’ve held Sr. Richard’s words close to my heart during challenging times with the girls.

Also, since my days as a postulant, I’ve carried out prison ministry in Mauritius. In fact, the young officers I first met all those decades ago have since become the superintendents and directors of the prison! I’ve also worked in a secondary school, offering counseling sessions to the students.

My internal ministries have involved working as local vocations director, community leader, provincial councilor, and a provincial formator for temporary professed sisters. On a regional and congregational level, I’ve just finished my mandate as secretary of RIMOA, immediately preceding which I was based in the Generalate working as the Communications Director.

I’ve also been involved in committees across all levels, including the recent Life Seekers Committee.

Picture 2: Girls from Pelletier House with Sr. Marie Francoise (left) and Sr. Brigitte [Surname] (right).

 

How do you feel your experience as Communications Director in the Generalate will affect your new role as a member of the Congregational Leadership Team?

Having lived already in the Generalate for six years from 2009 working as the Communications Director, I am less apprehensive about arriving to take up my new role than I certainly was the first time. Working in the Communications Office over those years allowed me to gain an insight into the lived reality of the 72 countries where our Congregation is present. Being responsible for publishing the congregational newsletter, I was in constant communication with sisters and partners in mission from around the world. I was also the central point of contact for numerous congregational-level events, workshops, training and formation sessions, and so on. These experiences make me feel somewhat more prepared to step into the challenges which lie ahead in my new role as a member of the Congregational Leadership Team.

 

Given your unique previous experience as Communications Director, how do you envisage the role of communications for the Congregation?

I remember attending communications training led by Pierre Babin at CREC-APEX in Lyon, France. He spoke about the internet as an extension of our brain and the concept of it reshaping the world into a “global village” that enables us to mobilize the hopes and imaginations of the people.

Later, when I handed over the baton of responsibility in 2015 to Sr. Monique Tarabeh, I had no idea how the role of online communication would be transformed so radically to mobilize the hopes and imaginations of our Congregation.

I stand in amazement when I see what the Communications Office achieved during our recent Chapter. It was once inconceivable to host a Congregational Chapter online, but Monique and her team made it possible. It was, perhaps, even better than in the past because so many sisters and partners in mission were able to get involved. It almost feels as though everyone had the chance to participate in some way or another – if not during the actual Chapter, then during the ICAs or other meetings held in preparation for the actual event.

Picture 3: Sisters and partners in mission gather (Sr. Marie Francoise fourth from left) in Mauritius.

Our world has changed so much, and as a Congregation, we are also changing as we embrace new realities. My hope is that we can encourage all our sisters and partners in mission who are involved in grassroots ministries to learn to take advantage of the many online resources made available by the Congregation (training and formation materials, prayers, inputs, etc.) and access our active online presence across all major social media platforms to keep up to date with what is happening across our international Congregation.

We cannot share our mission without this online presence, and the good work must continue for us not to fall behind.

 

Finally, would you like to share something of your vision for the next six years ahead with us?

As I look ahead to the next six years, I recall, in particular, something of Sr. Susan Chia’s vision. I had the opportunity to attend two of the workshops she ran with Sr. Elaine Basinger, and I carry with me the words she spoke about transformation and new models of governance. It was a radical form of formation that shaped me into the person I am today. In many ways, I feel that the holistic vision for the future of our Congregation that was shared in those workshops is now becoming a reality. Susan’s mantra was: “have no fear, speak out.” This is the mantra that I, too, will voice as I journey with our sisters and partners in mission through the next six years.

 

Additional Picture 4: A birthday party celebration for one of the girls in the welcome home.

 

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