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 fv e 01At the Twin Falls
 fv e 04Activity at the Calindaghan Elementary School
 fv e 06Activity at Shelter of Hope
 fv e 05Creative Atctivity with women

Since some years Franciscan Sister of the Poor have been reflecting upon the subject of Transformation. After thinking and reflecting upon the etymological meaning of the word. ‘Trans’- to go beyond, ‘Formation’- from form, shape. I realized that transformation has a lot to do with change. It is not a matter of changing oneself or others (if such were possible!), but rather of changing opinion. It has to do with new and perhaps truer possibilities, a chance to go beyond the shape of what we see -- something like a jump, a stretching to go beyond the forms and so experience acceptance, love and forgiveness.

Some time ago, I received from the Congregation the gift to experience six months in the Philippines, a place which for me is very far in every way: a different language, different colors, smells, heights (for example, I was considered tall and beautiful, in particular for the shape of my nose!) The challenges were many and they are many also today - we are five Sisters who speak three different languages and no one among us speaks the local language. For this, and for many reasons, the word “transformation” assumed first of all the meaning of keeping an open heart and mind, not to allow myself to be put off by appearances (forms), but to go beyond them, beyond Italy, beyond Brazil and also beyond the Philippines. I know all these forms are very important, true and deep, but they are always no more than appearances!

A few weeks after my arrival, I started visiting the women’s prison not far from our house. I can speak English, but not the local language Visaya. I learned to transform this deficit into an asset, and together with the Associate Glenda, whose presence was very important for me, I started to prepare creative activities, through which it would be possible to express ourselves without the use of language. I was very impressed by the ability of these women, who have been living in very primitive conditions to welcome us openly. By their gentleness, politeness and hope for a better life, they gave us life. Some of them told me that they were thankful to God for this experience because in prison they could reflect on their past life and choose a better future. Obviously, cannot we imprison the human heart…

Three times a week sr. Thalyta and I took care of the school lunch program for poor children. We had to do very simple things: to serve the meal, to help the children as needed, and to tidy up. Thanks to this experience, I learned what real hunger is -- children with bad teeth, scrawny physiques, and dead eyes.

But still, always smiling. I had never seen real hunger in my life, and now I know it is ugly, brutal and unfair -- especially in a country with an abundance of raw material and the rate of economic growth that is 6%! The circle of care and solidarity that arises from these experiences, the benefactors that help us and the responsibility they feel say something great about the people of the country. Injustice is another form to go beyond – to transform it into charity.

Another important experience for me was Mother Frances’ feast day. We, as community, sent invitations to share with our friends, and to thank our benefactors for their generosity. Nonetheless, I felt that something was missing. We live in a suburb of the city and all around our house there are a lot of people -- families who live in hovels, inside sugarcane plantations, mango and coconut trees. We know only some of them, so I thought Mother Frances’ feast day offered us a good opportunity to visit them and ask them to come to the feast. With our Associate Nancy, who helped me with the translations, we visited some of those houses. We greeted people and talked with them, telling some little stories and meeting new faces.

fv e 02Christmas party in our communityAbout 40 of them came to our feast, altogether, there was 100 people who came. As an result, one of our benefactors (who used to bring us fruits and food once every two weeks) began to come every week, because she was happy we were giving food to poor people.

God is Providence: His Providence was evidenced to me when He asked me to go to Philippines, and also during my experiences in that country.

I left with two pair of broken sandals there, and I received another two pairs that were even better – orthopedic sandals I need for my back problems.

Once I gave one of our employees 10 eggs laid by our chickens -- and at the same time somebody rang the doorbell, a neighbor who brought us in turn 10 eggs.

I must confess that two years ago while listening the presentation on our Philippines’ mission my heart skipped a beat: maybe God was already asking me to go there. Due to the fear of the distance, I put aside this thought. Even though I think our wishes are the most celestial part of our hearts, they can scare us. At least, they scared me. But in God’s Providence, I was offered a second chance, God took care of my wishes ….and more -- He fulfilled the promise to make me happy.

During these six months, the words of my vows resounded in my mind: “sr. Francesca, if you are loyal to these vows, I would promise you a hundred fold here and the eternal life”. Well, about eternal life, I cannot yet tell you…but about the hundred fold, I can testify its truth right now!

By Sister Francesca Vitulano, SFP

Published: June 8, 2017