Sister M. Agnes Shamba
The first sister of the Disciples of the Divine Master of Congo
A child from ordinary and fervent Catholic parents, Sister Marie-Agnès Shamba was born into a family of nine children, four boys and five girls. She was the third in the family and the eldest daughter. Following her primary education, she assumed professional studies in cutting and sewing at the Gécamines Professional Centre for Girls / Southern Group. At the end of three years of professional studies, she obtained her certificate. Immediately after her studies, she began working as a seamstress, first at home and then in the convent of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master.
According to the testimony of her younger brother Paul, Sister M. Agnes was a calm and quiet person, endowed with self-control, obedient, honest towards her parents and anyone who met her. She was neat, discreet, non-confrontational and without resentment, jovial. Sometimes she was a comedian. These values have accompanied her throughout her life.
A devout Christian, she was also a member of the Junior Legion of Mary, hence her devotion to the Virgin Mary. How did she come to be a Pious Disciples of the Divine Master?
Regarding her vocation, her brother said that they had a grandmother named Agathe Mozwa who worked with the Disciples of the Divine Master and was offered a job in the community of the sisters. Her grandmother told her granddaughter about it. At that time, Agnes was young and didn’t hesitate to begin work with the Disciples of the Divine Master in the community of Lubumbashi. It was while working with the Sisters that she felt the desire to consecrate her life to the Lord by entering the Congregation. So, after discussing her desire with her parents, from whom she obtained consent, she made her request and was welcomed with open arms by the sisters.
Luigi Landoni, the parish priest, her mother Agnes Balumiana, and her younger brother Paul Shamba shared the following testimony:
Sister Marie Agnès had arrived in Italy for formation in 1983. In Lubumbashi she had lived in community with the sisters before going to Italy. Sister Maria Lidia Marzotto, her novitiate companion, remembers her smile, her simplicity, her discretion, her sense of belonging and her easy integration to the point of expressing herself very easily in the Italian language.
Sister Marie Agnes was an attractive person with a beautiful smile: exuding warmth, simplicity, and serenity. She was very discreet, harmonious, open, approachable; passionate and cared that every work was done well. She cared about the future of the Delegation, she worked for its progress and sought to preserve the charism. She was a tireless worker, passionate that the apostolate was done well: she couldn’t stand it if work was not up to standard, and she put all her heart into it. She advocated unity in diversity, she spoke the truth with respect without hurting the feelings of others.
However, in addition to these qualities of her moral life, many other aspects of her community life and her services could not go unnoticed. She was an initiator in the practical life of the mission and in the building of an apostolic community.
With the young women in formation, Sister Marie Agnès taught more by example than by word, so much so that she was affectionately nicknamed “dada Agnès (older sister), maman Agnès, maman Mukubwa, which means great- auntie”.
She was devoted to prayer and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. However, even her body could not overcome the challenges of the illness. As her body weakened, she was bedridden, yet even then, Sr Agnes contemplated how the Divine Master, in the fullness of his faith did not run away from suffering. Her ardent desire for communion with the Body and Blood of Christ always illuminated her life. She knew how to suffer her vulnerability in silence and humility. In this spirit she transmitted love. A smile was always on her lips. Sympathetic and always funny, she remained generous until her last day on earth.
Being the most senior and the first sister of the Congolese women, she assumed several responsibilities in the African Delegation, including vocational ministry, teacher of aspirants and pre-postulants, assistant to the postulants and novices, head of the tailoring workshop, superior of the communities and councilor of the African Delegation.
She came for the Delegation Council meeting from Lubumbashi, where she was the local superior. During the meeting, she was taken ill, and at the conclusion of the meeting, she ended her earthly pilgrimage at Kinshasa on 29th February 2012.
Sister Marie Agnès, the first Congolese nun, the Lord desired to call you to himself too soon! We pray for her, and she intercedes for our Delegation and for the whole Congregation.