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7aWelcome at Bread for the Poor

How do I live the healing Charism? There are many experiences I could talk about, but want to share the experience of welcoming, listening and giving practical help at the Bread for the Poor Ministry at the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua. At “Casa Nazareth” Community we have been performing this service for many years in cooperation with the Minor Conventual Friars.

Encounters with the Poor
I have been working at Bread for the Poor for three years and am writing this article after speaking with a mother whose son died of an overdose at the age of 37. He died in a public park far from home and the family was notified in the middle of the night by the police.

I wonder how the wound of this woman might possibly “heal?” How can this pain be eased? How can these tears be dried? Her son will never come back, yet by talking and trying to listen to her, by loving her deeply as Mother Frances would have done, suddenly on Noemi’s face a smile appears, which says: “Sister, I have figured something out. I have figured it out only now: my son is now free, no longer a slave, and this comforts me.” I feel that for me it is important to encounter these people…. and encountering means loving, turning your gaze toward them, kneeling, hugging, smiling, and having a compassionate heart…

8aCinzia la Calce at Bread for the Poor
9aSr. Loredana at Bread for the Poor

The vast majority of the people who seek help are foreigners and most are Muslim. This is an encounter with a different culture besides a different religion and this challenges me. What does it mean to love the religion of the other as much as I love mine? I ask questions,and take an interest in their celebrations, and ask about the beautiful and profound names of their children.

I have encountered and loved Afifa’s gaze…. His biggest desire was to obtain financial help and to also finally tell someone about the serious problems in his house. I met Eleonora with her three children and whose husband is in jail…. I have felt the joy in realizing that my hand was helping her and that together we managed to prevent the gas from being disconnected…. or the hug with Aisha who had never seen a nun and who, despite the fact that she is Muslim, goes to Church to pray and has encouraged Italian mothers going through similar hardships…

Sometimes I am the one going to their homes, to their realities, to assess their living conditions and interpret their needs to help them in a realistic manner. The reception I have received has been always beautiful and warm. I have entered some squalid homes, full of mice and humidity; other times they beautified with the little that was available…. I have discovered other kinds of poverty: people who have nothing to eat, but have a state-of-the-art TV set, stereo system and an ultramodern cell phone…

I try to fully live Mother Frances’ Charism, a Charism that has moved through me first; healing my own wounds and making me feel like a creature that has been loved for eternity. If I look back and reread my story, I discover with surprise that God had impressed upon me the SFP Charism. I recall that since elementary school I chose the poorest friends; in particular there was a girl nobody accepted because she was too poor and dirty… I, instead, remained close to her.

10aSr. Loredana with a guest

 

Several years ago, a woman who was afflicted with AIDS told me – a few days before dying – that to stay close to the poor, one had to “love without lecturing.” To me this was a way of saying encountering. The encounter with the smallest always heals me too, because they act like a mirror for me and make me enjoy the good things that I already have and should never have taken for granted: the healthy and true love of my family, my brothers, my Sisters; the fact of always having a warm meal on the table, a roof over my head, and warm clothes to wear.

 

 

Often there are situations that are much bigger than I -- only in prayer can I find solace and peace. Otherwise I might let myself become overwhelmed because there are situations that are so painful that I cannot remain indifferent.

What is important for me is to feel that the service I perform is not only mine, but is a mandate that the Congregation has given me. I go in the name of all Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and the Charism that Mother Frances has given us. The other way around would not make sense. What needs to be communicated are not my skills or my sympathy, but my being the daughter of a Charism, just as it is important to nurture my relationship with God day after day.

 Sr. Loredana Giugliano, sfp