Jan 11, 2023
Join former Franciscan Community Volunteer Nnedi Anoskie-Ogunu as she shares her learnings of what strengthens her connection with God and others, ranging from the place of welcoming communities to developing an interior spiritual life.
For a video version of this episode, see: https://youtu.be/z0QhmFbJ8Ss
From Nnedi’s interview:
“When I was in Nigeria, I was eager to come to the US because we'd seen all these images about the US and I was excited to experience all of it. But then when I came, it was much different from what I knew. … And then school, I faced some racism from teachers, administration, students. It was a very hard transition. That was rough. You're going through so many internal changes trying to figure out what your feelings are, and everyone is doing the same. So, we're all gonna bump into each other in very unhealthy ways.”
“I've always been drawn to community where I feel welcomed. Of course, when I was growing up in Nigeria, that was not a community that I chose, I was born into it. I was just part of it, right? And as an adult, you're able to choose where you belong or where you find belonging, and I've been able to do that. And making it part of a spiritual practice was not something that occurred to me until I came to you all in Minnesota. The intentionality behind even our gatherings was something that has stayed with me. And those gatherings are what built our community, right?”
“It's very important for me to feel a sense of community with the people that I work with; the line of work that I'm interested in doing cannot be done without community. I'm very much into social justice, and I think that none of us can survive, can thrive without being, without having belonging anywhere. And part of the work that I do through “Faith and Public Life” is to create spaces and make sure that everyone feels a sense of belonging and not excluded because of things that are out of their control, you know, their skin color, how they pray, things like that.”
“I try to be mindful when I'm in community with other people, that someone may be showing up a certain way in my community, that there are stories there that I may not know. It's up to us to continue to create safe communities, safe intentional communities, where they can bring their full selves.”
“I had been told almost all my life that I should be a nun. I think it's just because I had spiritual practice; I had a love for God and enjoyed things like that, so to them it meant to be a nun. And I always wondered why it wasn't enough that I was a lay person, and that my love for God was evident - all of us should be living a life that is evident of our love for God and our love for one another. It gave me the opportunity to come and be with sisters, see what the life was like, and see if there was something that it stirred in me during my time there. And while I was there, I discovered that you all were normal people that loved life, loved one another. I think the first night there we played a game and that was the most peace I felt in a foreign place before, and I knew that I was in a right place. And since then there was such a strong welcoming. I didn't have to explain certain things, even though there were cultural barriers. There was still a willingness and openness to learning about me that felt like this was home, right?”
“For me, when I get to a certain point with my friends, with my relationships, I feel like it's almost transcended friendship, I will call them, I'll call my friends my sisters. And so since my time with the Sisters of Little Falls, I call you all sisters. Not because of the title, but because I have also taken you as family in a way that I feel like you all have taken me as family. So you all feel like my sisters and I just, I feel blessed to be part of this community; even though I'm far away, I still feel very much part of it.”
“Names are very, very important to me because mine has been part of my journey. And it's reflected like different stages of my life. When I was in Nigeria, I went by Nnedi. I knew myself as Nnedi. I knew myself as Nnedimma. That was, that was who I was, right. And then when we came to the United States, my parents really wanted me to assimilate. And they didn't want me to have a name that would "other" me further. And I started going by my middle name. So Nnedimma is my first name. Annunciata is my middle name. And it's shortened to Ann. … it's been years in the making of me contemplating wanting to change back to Nnedimma. … I truly have shed this skin that Ann was so uncomfortable in, … So now I'm getting to know Nnedima as an adult, as a woman who has really come into her own, also now as a married person.”
“Native American spirituality and Franciscanism have been a huge part of my spiritual life right now. … Franciscan spirituality can be practiced by anyone. … In my quest to be more in tune with Care for Creation, my primary focus is with God's people because I feel if we are good to God's people, and everyone has the things that they need to thrive and there's no exploitation of people, then there will be no exploitation of Mother Earth. “
“Franciscan spirituality is it invites you into the mess, and doesn't just leave you to figure it out, right? It doesn't leave you to struggle alone. It allows you to do it with community that can strengthen you, that can support you, that can love you.”
“In the Bible they refer to iron sharpens iron and I think that is what community is. You sharpen each other to become your fullest selves. And when we do that, I think part of the hardship that we're facing is that we're not living into who God has called us to be. We don't have an interior life that allows us to explore what it is we're meant to do in a safe space and live into it without holding back.”
“What is feeding my soul at this time is getting in touch with myself, with Nnedi, as an emotional person. I think I've struggled with that in the past, being able to express the full range of my emotions without holding myself back. … What that looks like is talking to God through journaling and being in therapy. Those have been key things that is allowing me to practice or to welcome God into my life and recognize that my emotions are also gifts from God, and not see them as a burden. So being able to work through that in therapy and to talk with Emmanuel, reflecting out loud, has been very important to my current experiences of spirituality.”
“I didn't realize this part about my spiritual journey, hoping that by exploring the full range of my emotions, I can become more connected to God. I didn't realize that until I started talking and articulating it and I'm like, yes, that is the hope that I have…that is what I'm pursuing, that connection with God, that connection with myself. I can't be comfortable with the humanness of God if I'm not comfortable with my own humanness.”
[Encouragement to others] “Be patient with yourself. I think sometimes I get so impatient with not seeing the progress that I expect to see at a certain time. There's no formula to this. We're all stumbling and remembering that we're human. You deserve the grace that you extend to other people. So extend that same grace to yourself. Be patient with yourself and work on loving yourself; part of that is figuring out what makes you happy, what brings you joy, who brings you joy. So leaning into those things will help you remember who you are.”
For a full transcript, please include episode number and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
References added re: strengthening our connection with God:
1 Celano 43: “[Francis], living within himself and walking in the breadth of his heart, prepared in himself a worthy dwelling place of God.”
“Emotional Range and On-Going Conversion: Franciscan Joy,” a talk by Darleen Pryds, PhD. of the Franciscan School of Theology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4etRlkWhlhg . Darleen has also been interviewed on this podcast, and has been a guest host as well. You can find these episodes by typing her name in the search bar of this website.
Nnedi & Emmanuel Anosike-Ogunu, 2022
Nnedi’s Grandma Josephine
Nnedi as a Franciscan Community Volunteer out on adventure with her group.