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Sister Tsion Weldegiorgis, D.C.
1936 to 1978
Catholic Church (Daughters of Charity)
Eritrea / Ethiopia


Tsion was born in Hebo, a village 90 kilometers from Asmara, in 1936 into a Catholic family. She took her primary education at the Italian Sisters' School in Hebo from 1940 to 1955. From the outset, a woman of deep faith, she was nurtured in Catholic traditions in an area that had been evangelized by St. Justin de Jacobis. At the age of nineteen, she was sent to Naples, Italy, for a year of religious formation and novitiate then moved on to Paris in 1956 for another year of training. In 1957 and 1958 she taught kindergarten in Addis Ababa and then was transferred to Bonga, Kafa, to supervise boarding school and parish visitations from 1959 to 1967. In 1968 she spent six months in London taking courses in philosophy and theology then returned to Addis Ababa to work at St. Mary's School. From 1970 to 1973 she was involved in Home Economics and women's work at Dembidollo, Wollega. During 1974 she did her 12th grade then went to Bonga where she served as director and teacher of Home Economics in Bonga as well as at outstations of Shappa, Wush Wush, Mutti, Dekia and Gojeb. Her years in Bonga endeared her to the poor as she traveled by mule to outstations and always encouraged girls to study and learn. Among her colleagues and in the Bonga hospital, she was beloved for her gracious hospitality. She often served tea to guests on the shaded verandah of the Bonga Catholic mission and would pick passion fruit directly from the vines to present to her guests as a delicious drink.

In Bonga, when a group of Manjos settled in a nearby forest and wanted to attend church, there was some difficulty in the minds of many (because of social and ethnic stigma), so Sister Tsion built them a small prayer house and led them gently into the faith. Able to speak six or seven languages, including Kafficho, she befriended many groups and strata of society at a heart level.


Sister Tsion was beloved for her faithfulness by both the poor as well as her colleagues at various Catholic missions and institutions. [1] She exuded peace and gentleness to all the poor whom she served so faithfully as well as to her colleagues at various Catholic missions and institutions. During the years of the Marxist revolution, she traveled through many dangerous situations and sorrowed in saying farewell to the expatriate missionaries who were expelled from the Kafa region in 1978.

Her untimely death in 1978 in a tragic car accident near Nazareth was a great sorrow to the entire Catholic and greater community in Ethiopia. The Sisters House of Formation in Addis Ababa is named Tsion House in her memory.

Lila W. Balisky


Note:

1. In Ethiopia, one would say of Sister Tsion that her life was "like the fragrance of the coffee trees in blossom."


Bibliography:

"Sister Tsion Weldegiorgis; 1936-1978. A Tribute" (produced by Sr. Mauve O'Brien, D.C.).


This biography was excerpted from the above tribute and written in 2011 by Mrs. Lila Balisky, formerly of SIM Ethiopia, who knew Sister Tsion personally in Bonga, Kafa.