Credit: Screenshot via Twitter (@RuadhanJ)

WATCH: Heartfelt love for Irish nuns from Cameroonian women

There were joyful scenes in Dublin today as a group of women from Cameroon sang a moving and lively tribute to the Irish Holy Rosary Sisters, who taught them in the 1980s in their home country.

The women landed at Dublin Airport on Wednesday to begin their trip to Ireland, organised as a reunion to thank the Sisters who taught them almost 40 years ago in Cameroon.

“Holy Rosary Sisters, we are here to say thank you. We will never, ever forget you,” the women sang in an emotional clip as their visit to Ireland continued today.

Journalist with The Irish Catholic, Ruadhan Jones, shared a video of the heartfelt rendition on Friday, writing: “A beautiful gesture, a song composed by 21 Cameroonian women here in Dublin as a tribute to the Irish Holy Rosary sisters who taught them. A heartfelt love for the Irish nuns.”

The 21 former female students from Our Lady of Lourdes College in Mankon, Cameroon – who call themselves ‘The Pacesetters,’ include doctors, nurses and engineers who have earned masters and PhD degrees and travelled the world, RTE reported in its coverage of the emotional reunion on Thursday.

The class of 1986 were met at the airport by several nuns from the order who worked as teachers and two retired principals at their school in Cameroon, Sr Mary Neville (1981-1985) and Sr Nuala Lahart, as the college celebrates its 60th anniversary.

The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary was founded by Irish born Bishop in Nigeria, Joseph Shanahan in March 1924 in County Cavan.

The Catholic order is sometimes referred to as the Killeshandra Nuns, and received recognition from Pope John XXIII in 1938. While the order’s initial mission was to Nigeria in 1928, over the years, it grew to mission in all other countries across Africa, developing schools and medical facilities.

In 1954, the Sisters took over the clinic at Serabu in Sierra Leone, and in 1965, they opened their second hospital in Panguma in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, which they administered until 1986. The civil war meant the Sisters had to leave Sierra Leone in 1994, and as a result moved to Gambia with refugees from the conflict.

From 1967-1970, as the Nigerian Civil War took place, the Holy Rosary Sisters continued to minister to the people in the breakaway area of Biafra, and helped to provide relief services to those impacted by the war.

The original convent of the Holy Rosary Sisters in Killashandra was developed into a retreat and conference centre in 1976 due to the fall in vocations in Ireland. The convent, bought by the sisters in 1924, was eventually closed in 1985. By 2012, the old convent, which had become derelict and had been vandalised, was demolished.

Over the years, in Africa alone, the Holy Rosary Sisters set up over 200 elementary schools, 40 secondary schools and 32 hospitals. The order has novitiates in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Kenya.

At the emotional reunion, which was almost four decades in the making, the nuns were greeted with banners and Irish and Cameroonian flags.

Credit: RTE

Speaking to RTE, one of the former students who organised the school reunion, Dr Claire Minang, said the nuns had taught the young women “self-confidence, and they made us understand that we matter, that we are enough as women in this masculine world”.

“We got out of there with so much more, knowing that we could be whatever we want to be,” she told RTE News.

Meanwhile, former principal of the school, Sister Mary Neville, who spent 30 years in Cameroon, told RTE News that the occasion was “extraordinary”.

“It’s marvellous, it’s hard to believe, it’s extraordinary,” she said, describing the long-awaited reunion as “absolutely, very, very special”.

Sister Mary, who turns 90 next week, was treated to a special rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ by her former students in the arrival hall of terminal 1.

Another former principal of the school, Sister Nuala Lahert, told RTE that the Cameroonians are “a very special people and they have that sense of gratitude.”

“It means an awful lot to us,” she said. “These women have done so well in Cameroon, in the UK and also in America and they’re very loyal to us,” she added.

Credit: RTE

Former pupil, Judith Mbuy Nwana, speaking to the public broadcaster, said that the students are “forever grateful” for what the nuns did for them.

“It’s very emotional for us,” she said. “A lot of us are seeing them for the first time after leaving the school in 1986.”

Another former student, Marie Ndoping, described Sister Mary as being “like a mother to us”.

“She looked after us. I cannot say thank you enough,” she told RTE News, explaining how the sisters had believed in them and transformed them into “strong young women” – making sure “we achieved our potential”.

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