Meet the beautiful Nun who is also a medical student

Awokoinsight: Can I meet you, sister?
I’m sister Mary Aderemi Abaekere, HHCJ. An indigene of Ekiti state, South-West Nigeria but was born and brought up in Lagos. Well, I’m a catholic and belong to the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, that’s the name of my religious order. I’m presently studying medicine at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife Osun state Nigeria.
Awokoinsight: When have you been most satisfied in your life?
Well, in the course of our vocation, there is a point in our lives when we make a final yes to the lord and we call it perpetual profession of vows. That was my happiest day because my journey into sisterhood has really been a long and cumbersome one and it felt like… finally, I get to die a sister.
AWOKOINSIGHT: SO WE CAN NOW CALL YOU A PERMANENT REV. SISTER?
(Chuckles) Yes, by the grace of God.
AWOKOINSIGHT: TELL ME ABOUT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF:
Apart from my final vow, an accomplishment I’m most proud of is getting admission to study medicine and then being able to cope so far with my religious obligations and the stress of medicine. I’ve always heard medicine was stressful, never knew it was this crazy. I’m always grateful to God cos I didn’t know how I was going to cope with studying medicine after 12 years of being out of academics. God has been faithful.
Awokoinsight: Why Medicine?
As a sister, your congregation decides what profession you are going to do. Apart from our vocation of praying and serving, we do concrete services for people. The congregation would look at people who have capacities for certain fields of study. The rising economic situations have made paying doctors and managing poor people quite expensive and demanding for us, and we can’t turn people who cannot pay away. That’s why some of us were sent to study, at least you don’t have to pay a sister directly and immediately before the service is carried out. She wouldn’t be threatening to leave as well if not paid, in time. Also as part of our vowed lives, whatever we get in life isn’t for us or our biological families. Our families are made to understand that they have made a sacrifice of us and therefore, whatever accrues to us will go first and foremost to who needs it most at that particular point in time, be it family, or outright strangers.
Awokoinsight: So it goes to say that the life of a Rev. sister is actually a selfless one?
Yes. My life is no longer my own. I can’t do whatever I like and however I like. My life is more of what needs most to be done at a particular time, and this must be done in love. Because service without love is mere duty.

Awokoinsight: What inspires you and what do you work towards?
(Breathes in.) My greatest inspiration is our lord Jesus Christ himself. How he selflessly came to take away the sins of mankind. It connotes the fact that suffering can actually bear fruits. At times, one may have to suffer to help another. The life of our mother Foundress has also inspired me. When I also read about other saints whose inspiring lives have been documented, it gives me vigour. And today, we celebrate all the saints.
Awokoinsight: (chuckling) Wow, that’s why you are in your full white apparel, yeah?
(Smiles.) Yeah! That’s why I’m in my full apparel. Today is the solemnity of all saints.
People like Mother Theresa who lived in such a way that her beneficiaries said to her, ‘this your Jesus, if He is just like you, then we would like to meet him. Only if he is just like you.’ You know, such inspiration! It might be difficult but definitely not impossible.
Awokoinsight: What do you do when you are not reading?
I like to watch movies. At times, I like to sew. I just like to be doing something with my hand. And then, I like to sleep o.
Awokoinsight: What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Ehmmm! Funniest thing? OK. (laughs) When I’m alone, I come into the room, face the mirror and start scolding myself, soliloquising and I catch myself asking, ‘who are you talking to now’, ‘are you sure you are not going mad? But I comfort myself with, ‘if there is nobody to talk to, then talk to yourself. Face the mirror, say it all out and it leaves you. It always comes across as funny all the time.

Awokoinsight: What do you not like to do?
Ha… I don’t like going to the market. I get to roam round and round and in the end, I come home exhausted. My dear, I prefer to send people to help me purchase things from the market than having me go all by myself.
Awokoinsight: Tell me about a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted, how you had coped.
(Deep breath) OK! In the life of a nun, after the vow of obedience, you have to submit yourself to superior authorities as we believe that it is God that speak through these persons most times. So you can agree that things wouldn’t always go the way I want most times.
One of the memorable things in my life was convincing my father about becoming a sister. His points then were that I was too young, especially that I had no family member or close relation into this line, he probably felt it was childhood fantasy and thought I’ll outgrow it. My father already had great plans of having me become a computer engineer already. It was difficult for him to understand my newly found love for sisterhood. Along the line, I got some sisters to help persuade him, but in the end, they supported him and told me to be obedient through it all. I was so demoralised and thought God was disappointing me.
How I had coped those times were by learning the basic principles of obedience, for my parents and superiors over me. That situation taught me patience. Patience was something I didn’t have before that time, and the situation was a big turnaround. I’ve learnt that there is so much strength in waiting and that delay is not denial.

Awokoinsight: So, sister, tell me your story.
Ahhhh! My story! My story is a long one but will see to make it brief. Coincidentally or providentially, God used what I loved most(watching TV) to call me. My first time of seeing sisters’ works was in a movie and it was like, ‘can’t I do what these people are doing? Hmmm this is really great’. Believe me, that singular act in the movie alone birth the passion I had pursued till now. I quickly told father and he insisted he’ll only see my seriousness after I get my first degree. During the degree years, I was determined to go in, make impact and come out chaste. Inasmuch as people were affected by, ‘it’s not possible’, and ‘everyone is doing it’, I wanted to do the right thing without compromise.
Of course I had suitors.
Awokoinsight: Laughs!
Of course I had suitors who saw this vibrant young girl and want to make her theirs by all means. Even with the triangular life of school to church and to hostel, I still had the determination to stay chaste. But it was difficult to convince my suitors that my decision to not accept them is not because they were bad persons, rather it’s cos I was not certain about marriage yet. They would all look at me with shock, because the society we live in pushes a woman towards marriage immediately she is done with college or degree.
Since I didn’t want to waste their time at that moment of my indecision, I never kept anyone as standby. I told them plainly as they came around that I wasn’t ready. Yet, it got to that point when the pressure was much that I wanted to commit to one of them finally, to spend forever with. But then my spirit became unsettled, sort of haunting me, so much so that the relationship naturally started fizzling out until it was gone. After youth service, I returned home and the rev. sisters said, ‘aha, now you are done, we have been expecting you’ and that’s how I got to making Christ known by our person and actions.
Awokoinsight: Hmmm, it’s not everyone that ends up becoming who they dream to be. I’ll say congratulations sister Mary.
Giggling. Thank you, I appreciate that congratulations o. because our lives as rev. sisters is a hidden one, many persons are oblivious of what we do. We do a lot, ranging from praying for people and their intentions, to making Christ known by our person and acts.

Awokoinsight: What is/are your major life principle(s)
One of them is, be the best that you can be. You are in no competition with anyone. Discover what God has put in you that he might not have put in any other person. You should work at improving yourself all the time.
Another principle is that, things might be difficult but not impossible. Listen deeper and you will realise that some things are easier than they appear. And I love to inspire people. Truth is, no matter what, it begins with, ‘you can do it’. And especially for we females that the world makes us see no meaning in our lives unless it is entangled around a man. No! It’s not true. I’ve discovered that men value you more when they see that you are responsible for your own life. Real men respect your decision. Decisions to stay pure, they’ll even help you protect it. Men would naturally ask for whatsoever they desire, it’s now in our own interest to respond however we want.
Awokoinsight: Any question for me?
As the interviewer, my question is, why are you doing this interview?
Awokoinsight: (Smiles) I feel at all stages in life, a word might be only what one needs to survive. It strengthens the belief that ‘if this one can do it, I can do it.’ Now, you are a reverend sister, you have a first degree, if you decide not to school again, it won’t keep you hungry for the rest of your life. It’s so much inspiring for me that you would come to face the hustles and bustles of medical school not for what you would gain in the end but to be able to help lives. That, for me, is the pure show of love – when it’s dipped in selflessness. And I appreciate you so much for the opportunity to talk with you, sister.

Awokoinsight: Your word to a girl child out there.
I want to tell her that she is wonderfully made. I usually say to God that if he would bring me back to the world ten times, he should always bring me as a woman. Except I might want to try being a man at the eleventh attempt. Laughs.
Learn obedience. Watch your parents to get the best out of them. Learn to be hardworking, it doesn’t kill. Don’t live life waiting to get married and having some man stay burdened with all your needs. No one wants a liability. Be hardworking by yourself, you have lots of talents.
Know that even without wearing obnoxious clothes, you are still very much beautiful, alright? You dress all half naked and you seduce men, to what end would it be? Try and ask yourself that question. Attach some dignity to your own life my dear girl.
Awokoinsight: Thank you very much sister.
You are welcome dear. Thank you all for having my story too. It’s great inspiring people cos I’ve, at many stages in my life, been inspired by people’s lives. People have little or no idea about the lives of sisters, shrouded in secrecy. They all know that we don’t marry and we hear questions like, ‘how is it possible for a woman to stay without being married?’. Well, we don’t rule out the fact that these emotional things pop up in us from time to time, the church understands this and that’s why we live in communities, having one another as shoulders to lean on.
In fact, the services that comes with our vocation spends you so much so that at the end of the day on getting to your bed, sleep sets in immediately. No time for inordinate thoughts as it were.
Growing up in Lagos, at times, when I jump into buses, strange right? Yeah! I use public buses, sometimes. And when some courageous person come to start conversations with me, they get all impressed learning what we do. It shocked someone when I said I was studying medicine basically to cushion the effect of personnel, the person was all amazed. We lost one among a set of twins that had complications once but couldn’t be treated at the private hospital because of an over exorbitant fee for just seeing the doctor and all. That can also be added as part of the strong fuels for my passion. We are more concerned about the service as part of our contribution to the health sector.
Awokoinsight: Thank you so much, sister. God bless you!

Date of interview: 1st November, 2017
Interviewer: Grace Ochigbo, for Awokoinsight team.
Interviewee: Rev. Sr Mary Abaekere, HHCJ.
Photocredit: Unique.

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About Grace Ochigbo

Grace Ochigbo
Grace Ochigbo is a Christian, storyteller, inspirational speaker and the Founder of Gemstone Sickle Cell Aid Team, a non-profit organizations working to end Sickle Cell Disease. email; ochigbogracious0@gmail.com

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