Sister Veronica Openibo is the total embodiment of a fierce African female, as she unintentionally became the face of the fight against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church over the past few days. Sister Openibo who currently serves as the leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus came under spotlight during the recently concluded Vatican Summit on Child Protection. A member of the executive board of the women's International Union of Superiors General, she was one of 10 women participating in the summit, but that did not stop her from doing what CNN reported as reading the riot act to bishops over clergy sex abuse scandals.
With an extensive CV of service in various leadership capacities in ministry, she holds a Bachelors Degree in English and Religious Studies from the University of Jos, Nigeria and a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry and Social Work from Boston College, USA. Sister Veronica has worked extensively with Catholic women in the Bauchi diocese of Nigeria, and has also worked part time as a lecturer at the Institute for Formators in Jos. She is known for her passion for humanity, and has always welcomed opportunities to express this love outside of her home country Nigeria – leading her to be the first African to be appointed to lead the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.
Her contribution at the just concluded summit has sparked a global conversation about the importance of including the voices of women at the Pope’s Vatican meetings, because of their commitment to questioning the status quo – and it is a powerful symbolism that a pace setter in this transformation is a strong, African woman! Her speech was well researched, informed, human and bold – and it undoubtedly sends a message to African women in leadership in all sectors that your strength cannot be denied when you are courageous enough to stand for what you believe. She knew she had the rare opportunity of a major platform (women are seldom invited to these gatherings, let alone are they given the opportunity to speak), so not only did she put her best foot forward, but she also presented undeniable facts and all with the gentleness required of her role. Our greatest take away: your voice does not have be loud for your message to be powerful. Thank you Sister Veronica!