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10 Welcome, Sr. Gabriella! On October 10 we had the joy and grace to welcome Sr. Maria Gabriella D’Agostino, who stayed with us for a few months. Her presence filled us with joy and hope, even though we were aware she would be present for only a short period.

When I exited the plane in Manila I saw that I was in a whole different world! The night spent waiting for another flight allowed me to prepare to enter a reality that our minds can only imagine. Seeing it is quite different!

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When I arrive in Dumaguete, my sisters are there to welcome me. Everything seems strange: no traffic lights, few cars and many “pedicaps” (motorcycles with a passenger seat on the side), which creates a great deal of traffic -- though one does not perceive a sense of chaos. Everything seems peaceful. One feels calm and patience, a characteristic that I perceive in the Filipino people.

Fruit and flowers are everywhere! I arrive at our house -- the gift of Providence. Everything is new, and this generates so much wonder in me! After the first few days of adjustment, I know the reality around me and am particularly surprised by the huge gap between rich and poor. When I think about the experience of these months, three images come to mind: the pedicap, palm trees, and the faces of the children.

The landscape surrounding the city is rich with palm trees. I am moved by how many plants fell and broke in two when the typhoon came. The palm trees remained intact: tall, and beautiful. They were not destroyed because they are plants that move with the wind. The Filipino people are similar to these palm trees: sad vicissitudes and poverty do not discourage them. They continue to have faith and to smile at life. They love having parties, dancing, singing…

The first time I went to the Cathedral, the many smiling children immediately approach me, taking my hand. I am surprised and do not understand. The Sister told me not to worry -- it is their custom of greeting. This is a beautiful gesture, which touches me. The children take my hand and put it on their forehead to be blessed! The smile of these children is imprinted in my heart. They are a blessing!

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I had the opportunity to experience this each time I went with Sr. Maria to our Shelter of Hope Center (Landong sa paglaum). At first I had the impression that I did not understand anything. There were many sensations overwhelming my heart. When the children arrive dirty and hungry, they come to hug me, always smiling and with the desire to play. It was no obstacle that I cannot speak their language. Playing with them is beautiful and they entertain themselves with so little. The children laugh when learning my name, butchering it in all kinds of ways! This Center really is a place of hope. People who come here can find, besides food, a shower, and clothes, attention, and a sense of family.

I do not yet know with clarity where the Lord will take me, but feel that my heart has become larger and that my life can no longer be what it was before. Thanks to you all, in particular to my Sisters, who during these years are giving their lives in this new mission. God bless you!

Sr. Maria Gabriella D'Agostino

Sr. Gabriella has returned to Italy, but we are happy because the Mission is now rooted in her heart and life. We too, dearest Sister Gabriella, thank you for the gift you have been for us and our people, who remember and pray for you and your new ministry in Italy.

 

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