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ccs 04Katie BerggrenLast year in Padua, during a pastoral activity, some young participants and Sisters went to meet a woman who attended a project called, “The Colors of She who knows.” It is an experience that involves migrant women of different faiths and backgrounds who want to share their desire for life and inclusion.

When the Sisters and participants met her, “F.” and her two daughters welcomed them to their home and told us part of “F.’s” story. While we were talking, “F.” offered us her Moroccan tea with delicious sweets traditional to her homeland. Before the tea, we asked her if we could pray together and she said, “yes.” The prayer offered an intense moment because all of us were absorbed in the simple words that come from the hearts. I was very impressed by “F.’s” simplicity and spontaneity in facing what was happening in her life -- from her difficulties in finding a job to the diagnosis of a brain tumor. She is a very sensitive woman, realistic and reserved, who has difficulty asking for help.

Before leaving, I asked her if we could meet again and she said, “yes.” On the way home, I thought of many questions and felt conflicting emotions. How could I help “F.” with her daily problems? Where could she find the strength and energy to face all these difficulties? What could I do to help her to feel my presence beside her?

ccs 03Claudia TremblayWhen I was back home, I shared this experience with Valerio and my daughter Paola, and we decided together to introduce “F.’s” situation to the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Padua. As a result, the group tried to help her both with prayer, and in concrete ways. For example, the SFP Associates paid her utility bill because we were afraid they were going to be shut off. “F.” also needed a gas stove -- and fortunately Silvio and Betty had one in their garage. So, Stefano one of his friends brought it to F.’s house. A few days later, Valerio changed the gas pipe because it was expired and dangerous. “F.” was very touched by our help and acts of generosity, and she nicknamed me “her angel” and asked what she could do to help us.

A quote from Mother Frances (March 10) mirrored my feelings: “we have to die to ourselves if we want to rise again with Christ. We have to empty our heart completely for God can dwell in it alone”. Meeting “F.” moved me to conflicting feelings and emotions: when we were together it seemed as if we have always known one another. We opened our hearts, one to the other, and I tried to embrace her pain in silence.  But inside of me, shouts of disappointment and bitterness grew. I wanted to do more than what we had done. Meeting “F.” and knowing her makes me reflect once more on what is important in life: to love others and, even deeper, to love our God.

ccs 05Claudia TremblayOur society sometimes infers that we must own objects to be happy, but such ‘things’ do not enrich us. We are enriched by deep relationships, those that can grow from a simple smile to a willingness to listen to the other completely.

Given my job, I meet with many women and men who have lost their jobs and are facing many difficulties in finding another. Thanks to my relationship with “F.” I am now able to be more welcoming and empathetic, to turn down the volume of my ‘judgments,’ and make silence and space for the words of Matthew’s Gospel (25:40): “Whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did for me”.

Thinking and writing about this experience helped me to appreciate once again the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, and the opportunities they offer to me to grow as Christian and as human being.

By SFP Associate Carole Consigliere

Published: May 19, 2017