Sister Natingar Liée is originally from Chad. She tells us about her vocational journey as well as her commitment as a teacher.
I was born into a Christian family. They taught me to grow in faith and also gave me total freedom to choose the life I wanted for myself. In my family, I learned values such as sacrifice at work, generosity and respect for others that have accompanied me since I was a child and that I carry within me as a precious legacy.
I think that’s why, in a certain sense, the vocation to a religious and missionary life has grown in me since childhood. Mass, meetings, prayer at home or the contemplation of nature spoke to me about God and awakened questions in me about the meaning of life and death and about God’s desire to love and to be loved.
I was 12 when I was moved by a message that the bishops of Chad had addressed to the young people of the country. In that letter was the text of the Gospel in which Jesus says: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few; ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest”. This passage from the Gospel of St Luke attracted me and I decided to join the vocational group that accompanied the Comboni Missionary Sisters. At first, I didn’t think of becoming a missionary, but rather of joining a local congregation and working in my country, which has a great need for religious women.
But one day, a Comboni Sister gave me a book entitled: ‘A Prophet for Africa’, which spoke of the love of St. Daniel Comboni for Africa. I liked it, so I opted for a religious life as a Comboni missionary. As soon as I finished high school, I started my religious training.
I did my postulancy in the nearby Central African Republic and my novitiate in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The years of formation allowed me to confirm my conscious decision to follow Christ through the missionary congregation and its evangelizing charism. I owe much to the Comboni Missionary Sisters, who have accompanied me since childhood in my vocational discernment.
After my religious profession, I was sent to Togo, where I worked as a catechist in schools and accompanied the children in collaboration with the faithful of our parish. Then I was sent to Benin, where I also worked in schools, but this time as a teacher. There, my vocation matured and my choice was consolidated. Even if all was not easy, I enjoyed the work and the community life.
My “yes” to God became reality day after day. I had the opportunity to continue my studies at the Institute of Philosophy and Educational Sciences of the Salesians of Lomé (Togo), where I graduated in Philosophy and gained a Master’s in Educational Sciences, with a specialization in Planning, Management and Evaluation of Educational Projects and Policies.
After Togo, I was sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to work in Butembo in the North Kivu region, about 2,000 kilometres from Kinshasa. I am the principal of the primary school of San Daniele Comboni and of the school rehabilitation centre of the same name. In my apostolate, I realize that in educational accompaniment it is perhaps not so important to learn to speak pertinently as to listen closely.
When I speak, I am the centre of my discourse, but when I listen, I learn to stop being the centre and try to put myself in the place of the young person or child in front of me. It’s not about interpreting what they say in the light of what I feel, but about trying to decipher what they want to tell me and helping them find the right words to express what they feel deep inside.
In my work as a teacher, I am learning a lot from children and young people who help me to deepen my faith too because when you are with them you have to be authentic, you have to be yourself; you can’t pretend. It is not easy to correct a young person or to express one’s disagreement with some of their attitudes, but experience teaches that this helps them to reflect and move forward. The Spirit of God works in the heart of those who agree to open the door. We are only servants, and this is our joy. Witnessing God’s love is a true source of life.
The mission is shaping me. I feel that our simplicity in relationships and our discretion are greatly appreciated. The same goes for our communitarian way of life. Living and working together in the name of the Lord is an essential element of our vocation. We are an “Upper Room of apostles”, as our founding Father wanted.
I realize that living in community is one of the greatest riches that the Mission has given me. Community is a gift from God that I must accept and love. In community, one renounces and denies oneself, and I learned to do this to open myself up to God and to my sisters. In community, we live the Comboni charism and we grow. For me, it is a privileged place of prayer and praise.