The life of Sister Aloysia Lagween is part of the early Christian story of Tanzania, or Tanganyika, as it was then called. Born Emeliana, in Tlawi-Mbulu, Tanzania on 13 April 1933, her mother died in childbirth. The newborn infant was immediately cared for by a heroic woman who was responsible, with three other Maasai women, for bringing the Christian faith to the Wairaqw people in the northern Great Rift Valley in East Africa.
The first convert to Christianity, Joseph, and his young wife, Juliana, adopted the baby. During their life together they adopted seven children and had three more of their own. So ‘Ally’, as we affectionately called her, lived a happy life with her many sisters and brothers. When Juliana died Joseph remarried, and Ally had seven more siblings.
Joseph and his large family are remembered with reverence and admiration for their efforts to bring Christianity to their area, for their holiness, and for their lives of kindness, hospitality and care of others. Several became religious Sisters and one became a priest. Ally was fourteen when the first MMMs arrived in Tlawi to set up a dispensary – our first mission in East Africa.
Ally’s faith journey continued as she joined MMM in 1957, already a qualified midwife. One of our first two MMMs from Tanzania, she travelled to Ireland for her novitiate and then trained in nursing and midwifery in Drogheda. In 1963 she was assigned briefly to Uganda, helping for a few months in Masaka Hospital. In 1964 she returned to Tanzania, where she served as matron in Kabanga Hospital for twelve years. During that time she trained in management in Glasgow Royal Infirmary and in Dar es Salaam.
In 1981 she went to Dareda Hospital in Tanzania as nursing officer and then to Arusha, where she worked in a dispensary for four years. After another year of nursing in Kabanga she studied reflexology and counselling in Ireland, and also learned to play the piano! From 1994 to 2005 Sr. Aloysia worked in Arusha, offering reflexology services at the AICC Hospital. She then suffered a severe illness, which necessitated extended care at our house in Makiungu. Her condition imposed many limitations and she became physically frail.
In 2018 she moved to Ngaramtoni for ongoing care. She died there peacefully on 8 October 2019 and was laid to rest beside Sisters Opportuna Sanka and Theresia Samti, also MMMs from Tanzania.
Ally was gifted and versatile. She was a good cook, a keen gardener, excellent at languages, and was caring and intuitive as a nurse-midwife. She was a sociable person who made friends and enjoyed a good story. She loved the liturgy and had favourite saints who never seemed to let her down in her long life of service and sanctity.
Sr. Aloysia loved to sing the hymn ‘The Harvest Indeed Is Great but the Labourers Are Few’. As one of the labourers in that harvest she is surely now sharing in the hundredfold.