Sister Anne had “profound experiences” in Rwanda and Burundi, Africa


Molly Boylan, Community Editor

Sr. Anne Munley, IHM, president of Marywood University, shared her recent experience of the African countries of Rwanda and Burundi with the campus community Feb. 27. The six-day “intensive and packed experience” was filled with learning, visits to rural communities, and thoughtful reflections, according to Sr. Anne.

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) invited Sr. Anne to participate in a pilot presidential delegation striving to involve Catholic colleges with relief effort in Africa alongside Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The six-day trip between Jan. 10-16, 2012 was meant to educate the four university presidents from the University of San Diego, University of San Francisco, Manhattan College, and Marywood University to move toward a collaboration between Catholic colleges and the organizations.  CRS and ACCU coordinated the trip to give the involved presidents a firsthand encounter with their organization’s missions.

Sr. Anne said she was looking forward to experiencing the genocide memorial.

“The genocide site really depicts the entire history of what happened during those 100 days. And it’s very stark and makes one really realize the futility of violence and makes one very sad that during those 100 days of devastation there was no intervention by anyone,” she said.

Sr. Anne said that another overwhelming moment from the trip to the genocide memorial was the wall of children that were victims of the 100 days of suffering. “It would show the picture of a child and then under it would give the name, the child’s favorite person, what they like to do, and then it would say macheted… or it would say thrown against the wall and killed,” she said.

During the stay in Rwanda, the presidents were able to attend a truth and reconciliation session. Sr. Anne had the opportunity to ask questions about their process of forgiveness and reconciliation of the victims of the genocide. She learned that truth “is the pillar of reconciliation” for the survivors.

The rebuilding of the communities is done through empowering the community members. In Burundi, CRS helps to manage different projects for the native people to be able to assimilate into the society and make their own living. The projects attempt to educate the experienced farmers about the ways new technology can be utilized to better their products. 

Sr. Anne said the highlight of her experience was being able to meet with the Batwa people that live in the bush. She suspects that in the next ten years the Twa people will become totally assimilated with the rest of the Burundi population. When the presidents and CRS workers first arrived in the bush “you could feel little eyes looking at you and this group just came out of the forest. It was amazing,” she said.

The trip to Rwanda and Burundi was so enlightening that Sr. Anne decided to relate her experience to the Marywood community on Feb 27, 2012.

“It is important to have the opportunity to understand the global realities that we are really a part of. And that the quality of education that we have, we need to be able to have a vision broader than that of our immediate world,” she said.

Dean Gregory Hunt, dean of the School of Architecture, attended the presentation and said he found Sr. Anne’s presentation informative and inspiring. He was able to relate the work of CRS in Africa to his own area of expertise in reference to the Twa people. “As an architect, I do wonder if the concrete houses many of these villagers are now being introduced to are as environmentally appropriate as the traditional grass dwellings that populate these regions,” he said.

Dr. Jay Clymer, associate professor of science, was also able to relate his area of study to what he learned from Sr. Anne’s trip. “What was most interesting to me was the idea of sustainability and teaching the people to use the proper kind of management and resources. It all about educating them to do the right things with the environment,” he said.

Campus Ministry is continually implementing different programs from CRS into the Marywood community. For more information about the different projects available to the university, visit the Campus Ministry website or