I am a proud African Catholic woman, originally from Nigeria, but now living in the Diaspora in the United States of America, as a professed member of the Community of Sisters of Social Service.
Wherever I go, I remain deeply rooted in my African origins. Throughout graduate studies in Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, and post-graduate studies (D. Min) in Catholic Theological Union (Chicago) and PhD research in the University of Roehampton, London, the focus of my research, writing, and publication remains poor women of Africa and the pain that many carry.
These women feed husbands and children, working backbreaking chores day and night to support family members. All this in the context of limited access to education and other social goods, while being assailed by maternal mortality, poverty, and oppression. Granted I may not share their social condition, their experience forms the locus of my theological scholarship and faith encounter.
I am privileged to have been schooled in Ignatian Spirituality, at St. Beuno’s in North Wales, UK, which is why I presently work as Associate Director of the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both theology and spirituality form a powerful combination for unmasking the factors that mute women’s voices, stifle their creativity, and suppress their giftedness in church and society. Through theology and spirituality, I strive to lift up the voices, passion, and compassion of African women, to alter their narrative of subservience.
This same passion inspired me to adopt twelve orphan “daughters” in the slum of Kibera in Kenya. These daughters look up to me as “mother” and together we are forging a future that will be devoid of the ills that oppress so many women in church and society. They will rise and smile with their own teeth. They will grow to speak their own truth.
In the varied contexts of my experience as an African woman, my PhD dissertation took a decisive turn under the supervision of my dear friend and mentor, Tina Beattie, toward the largely ignored evil of maternal mortality. This has become the focus and locus of my theological discourse on women in Africa. I am a committed and passionate advocate of a liberating motherhood untrammeled by the burden of biological reductionism that has been used to oppress poor African women as producers of children and drawers of water for the pleasure of the male-folk. For me, part of being an African woman is to celebrate my maternal identity, wisdom, leadership, and competence as the bases for envisioning an ethos of new life for women and men rooted in relationality, care for the other, and the nurturing of transformed communities in church and society.
There is an African proverb that says, “when a sleeping woman wakes, mountains move.” Together with my sisters, I have been awakened to the limitless possibilities and opportunities that could only be realized because of my unique identity as a woman created in the image and likeness of God.