A New ‘Home’
By S. Joan Elizabeth Cook
On April 23, 2022, we welcomed S. Christine Okpomeshine as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. S. Christine transferred her perpetual vows from the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, the Congregation to which she had belonged since 1978. This transfer was the culmination of a three-year period of discernment and preparation. She was attracted to the Sisters of Charity Community because she recognized our love and quest for social justice and our solidarity with the poor.
Christine, the fifth of ten children, was born in Ghana to Beatrice and Hyacinth Okpomeshine. When she was 12 years old the family moved to Nigeria, which was her parents’ native country. At various times, the family was even larger when different ones of her cousins lived with them and they all enjoyed playing together.
Catholicism was an integral part of her family life. Her parents were very involved in the local parish, and they encouraged the children’s devotion to the Eucharist. Christine has also had devotion to the rosary. When she was a teenager her father helped her build a simple gathering place for the young people of the village to gather and pray the Rosary together. Christine continues to rely on Mary’s guidance and compassion in her ministry of health care, particularly with pregnant women. Her research demonstrates that pregnant women frequently find peace and comfort when they call on Mary the Mother of God to care for their unborn child. And one of Christine’s favorite biblical stories is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. For her that story affirms God’s constant, gentle, truthful presence in her life.
Christine credits the Sisters in her Catholic high school with her awakening interest in religious life. A year after graduation she entered the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus. Her first assignment after first vows was in Sierra Leone, where she opened a clinic and house for pregnant women and children under the age of 5. This project led her to pursue training in midwifery, followed by a license in nursing. She then asked to study in the United States for additional training in order to give better care to the women in the clinic.
She studied for a Master’s degree in Nursing at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, during which time she lived with the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station. She then earned a doctorate in Public Health while continuing to teach and practice nursing, with the intent to open a larger clinic in Nigeria. When she returned there in 2013, she realized that, even though she remains grateful for the initial formation she received as a Handmaid, and continues her friendships with several of her Novitiate group, much had changed in the community and in herself. Thus began her search for a new “home.” During that time she joined the Nursing Department at the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York. This summer she works in Women’s Health Services at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, orienting newly hired nurses. She finds this work satisfying, not only to assure that the nurses provide excellent patient care, but also to give them opportunities for advancement in the nursing profession.
During the Transition ceremony, Christine taught us all to sing with her in the Igbo language, “Narekele Mo,” “Take My Thanksgiving.” The words were the perfect expression of the happiness and gratitude of the occasion: “What shall I render to Jehovah? For He has done so very much for me.”
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati witnessed and participated in S. Christine Okpomeshine’s transfer of vows on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in the Motherhouse chapel.