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11aSr. Maria and Cristina
12aSr. Cristina and friends fan the flame

Many messages from the Healing Conference are imprinted in my spirit and in the active life of service to our community and to the poorest among us -- whom God, in His infinite goodness places along my path. Our various daily activities can prevent our keeping alive even the most beautiful and significant realities of this Conference, which was so much a part of our personal and Congregational life. I want to emphasize two of these messages. They have accompanied, encouraged and, in difficult moments pushed me and given meaning to the work which needs to be done.

In Sister Tiziana Merletti’s Introductory remarks, she speaks about ‘instruments of healing:’ “We already know what to do:  our ‘ego’ must diminish and the voice of God must become stronger among us…Let’s commit ourselves again, first of all, to accept the reality that we are all ‘wounded healers’.”

Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp -- in his talk speaks about  ‘overcoming barriers,’  and urges us on with these words: “Your challenge today is to bring Jesus to birth again and again wherever your ministry of healing takes you. And that requires imagination, hope and fierce faithfulness.

I remember exactly when Father Anthony said this. Inside me his ideas immediately connected with the words of Sister Tiziana and I thought: “Cristina, you could just leave this conference now, as long as you assimilate and live out these messages!”

  13aListening to the little ones
Incarnating the Message of Love...
There is an old saying: The tongue is always turning to the aching tooth. This refers to the physical life or, in a metaphorical sense, the life of a person or a group. It can also refer to the spiritual journey, both personal and that of a group. After reflection, I began to understand the messages of Sr. Tiziana and Fr. Anthony, resounding so profoundly in my spirit. They were moving me to pay more attention and incarnate the messages in my everyday life.                       

Sr. Tiziana’s statement became again a life goal. To be silent, (not only in regard to speaking), but to make silent my ideas, my way of being and doing to create inside me the needed space for welcoming the voice of God. But who has ever heard God speak? Where, when, through whom or what does God say to me?

This became my first great challenge: to believe with all my soul that God loves to speak with me in silence. Only when I am emptied of myself, perhaps when I am distracted or discouraged, wounded by my own or another’s mistakes does He speak with me.

  • God makes his voice heard as he did with Saint Francis, who opened the Holy Gospel three times in his desire to understand more fully his calling and mission.
  • God speaks to me through the Sister who is together with me, but sees and perceives the world differently from me.
  • God speaks to me through the many suffering and joyful faces, the poor and the rich, the young and the old whom I meet every day on my journey. Without knowing it, these people are asking me nothing else but to make Jesus be born and reborn in them.
  • Of course, we know that God’s microphone par excellence is His Creation, which is also wounded and in many ways in its death throes and waiting for my, and our, healing. To make my ego silent is easier said than done.

14aThe immense power of God in nature A Daily Conversion
After the Conference, I asked myself many times: “Am I truly able to silence my ego to let God speak? ‘The tongue is ever turning to the aching tooth’.” If this thought keeps repeating itself, then I know I am in need of conversion. . . . make my ego die, listen to God among us, allow Jesus to be born again among us and with everyone, in the Church and in our ministries, these define and will continue to define my (and our) SFP  journey.

My days are filled with many small experiences that require listening -- listening in the sense of creating a space within myself  to let God love the person through me, without judgment.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to listen to a person who was suffering greatly and was depressed.  Because this person was so sad, when I asked about her unhappiness, she told me a long story of suffering and abuse of every type. While listening, I recognized in myself all my weaknesses and inabilities. I also recognized an overwhelming presence of Jesus to whom I continued to repeat: “Only You can heal this person.”  And He immediately began in her a true process of moral, spiritual and physical healing.

Sr. Cristina di Nocco, sfp

Table of Contents

Introduction
Feeling "poor"…
Daughter of a Charism
Encounter: Foundation of our Life Together
Gift of Healing: Enfleshing our Charism
What You Have Received as a Gift, Give as a Gift

REFLECTIONS ON SACRED TIME:
2011 HEALING CONFERENCE

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Summer is the season of ripening and abundance. No matter where we live on the globe, summer brings a certain kind of freedom from care that is unlike any other time of the year.

There are some striking similarities between the season of fruitfulness and our own inner life. Our interior summer is also full of light and growth. When we choose to stand “in the light” we are moved by the energy of God that assures us of our own self worth and potential for continuous new life. It is in our spiritual Son- lite summer that we see glimpses of truth that could so easily be hidden from us.

With this issue of SFP Voices, we invite you to join our contributors in finding some summer moments to reflect back to the 2011 Healing Conference and ask your deepest self…..

  • Is there one thing from the Healing Conference that continues to speak or challenge you?
  • Of the many messages received from the Conference, which one do you most need for yourself? For the Congregation?
  • How are you integrating the healing messages of the Conference more fully into your life?

May these late days of summer find space enough to move us forward toward fullness and inner ripening to be a healing presence of radiant Light for our world………

Shine bright!

Marilyn Trowbridge, sfp
Communications Liaison

[Cover art: Sacred Anointing by Daniel Bonnell]

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Feeling "poor"…

sr. Tina Ventimiglia, sfp

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People in need of Shelter

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Sr. Tina Ventimiglia with family

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Sr. Tina holds the future

During this past year following our Healing Conference, I found myself thinking frequently about “poverty.” I thought it was evident, and by now that its meaning in my life would be “clear.” Yet I needed to realize that “poverty” has many faces, which are not always easy to see.

Slowly, during these past few months, memories of some images, situations, and lived experiences came to mind to which I could finally give a face and name. I remembered the sensation I felt in those circumstances. I did not have a way out, or at least, did not have the usual ways I thought I could find.

The Poverty of Having
One experience that put a face to my feeling “poor” occurred this past winter, a colder one than usual. It was an experience of poverty “in reverse,” that is, not as something that was missing for me – beyond the normal distress, this too was a winter spent among all the comfort of being sufficiently protected. This time I felt the poverty of “having,” of not missing anything. I felt this type of poverty piercing me like hooks that leave a mark.

At night, my sleep was crowded with the voices and faces of those who had tried to ask me for shelter, clothes, blankets, and help during the day. Many had run out of gas and had empty tanks; for many of these folks, gas had been disconnected because they had not paid their bill. During the coldest days of the year these people would remain in complete cold, without the possibility of cooking.

I realized during this time that my own being was becoming transformed by being in touch with the suffering of those who do not have -- a bit like Sr. Antonietta Potente described during our Conference:  “. . . this happens mostly in strange silent transformations.  It happens with whatever already exists, as new things are taken out of old things….” Later I found the strength to accept this state of being, without fleeing the discomfort I was feeling and without giving in to justifications or guilt because there was nothing else I could do.

My “being there” became an “offering” to God, to the Only one Who never abandons you.  Aware that we cannot rid the world of poverty and suffering, I felt that there was one thing that I could – and must – do: take the suffering of others, receive and offer them within a journey of transformation that generates new things, like the kernel of wheat which falls to the ground, dies and brings forth much fruit.

Today I do not worry about my being "poor" because I lack something or about others being "poor" because of what they lack. My own poverty is my need to learn the logic of the Gospel from Jesus our Teacher: he teaches us to conjugate the verbs of life and to realize that the verb "to love" is a tense/mode of the verb "to die."   

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Daughter of a Charism

Sr. Loredana Giugliano, sfp

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Welcome at Bread for the Poor

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Cinzia la Calce at Bread for the Poor

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Sr. Loredana at Bread for the Poor

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Sr. Loredana with a guest

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…

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.

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.

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Sr. Domitilde with the Samine
Daycare Center children

Encounter: Foundation of our Life Together
  
Sr. Domitilde Manga, sfp

I learned many things during the 2011 Healing Conference. Here is a point that stays with me from Sr. Antonietta Potente’s presentation: our attitude towards those whom we commonly call “the poor,” and who are often considered inferior to us, and are considered as people who cannot bring nor teach us anything.

Another important message for me has been our relationship to one another, about meeting with our brother or sister that Father Anthony Gittins developed and I paraphrase: “To love, we must encounter.” It is one of the important aspects of the evangelizing mission of God brought by Jesus. For the Congregation, I think the message is to become aware that the mission belongs to God and that God's people will not be left without witnesses.

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At the carnival together

I chose these messages because they deeply touched me. In fact, the connection with these points is the foundation of our life -- the mission is our reason for being a Congregation. With respect to the integration of the healing messages, I focused on the relationship with the people I meet daily at school, Mass, home and during my visits to the families.

During the conference, we mentioned a few small gestures that bring life, hope and joy to the people we meet: a warm welcome, a smile, sympathetic listening, simple presence, etc. I live in Samine and when I have the chance I visit families of the area, I do not bring anything with me and sometimes I do not even sit in their homes. Nevertheless, I see and  feel the enthusiasm of the children who are happy to be noticed and greeted. Adults are also thankful and touched because a “Sister” visits them.

Thank you! Domi

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Gift of Healing: Enfleshing our Charism

Sister Tânia Maria Ribeiro Machado, SFP

 

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Participating in our Healing Conference was indeed a remarkable and meaningful experience for me, and I believe for all the Sisters, Associates and friends of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor who were present.

The keynote speakers, Father Anthony J. Gittins and Sister Antonietta Potente, emphasized some important aspects of our spirituality, bringing us to the very roots of our Charism and inspiring us to enflesh them in creative ways, both in our lives and mission.

In my personal experience, what remains most vivid was the opportunity to revitalize my awareness of the mystery of God's greatness, and the immensity of His kindness. I see these attitudes as essential in the life of all Christians, and more specifically in the life of consecrated religious women.

Despite our foibles and stubbornness, God never forgets his sons and daughters and is always ready to forgive, to reconcile, and gather us together. He continues to depend on us to continue his Mission, the eternal mission of the Trinity, the mission of loving unconditionally, generation after generation, till the end of time.

Our Calling to Love . . .
Our call, above everything, is a calling to love:  loving those we meet every day in our community, at work, in a given situation, often someone who may not be, to us, the most sympathetic person.

We humans are inclined to slip into what is more enjoyable, or easier, but it is worth remembering Sister Antonietta Potente’s words: "It is easier to make friends outside the environment where I live and with those I see every day, than to accept a circumstance or a person who could become an opportunity for me to grow.”

I am therefore convinced of the need to learn from our Master Jesus, but this requires of us, as human beings, constant effort, personal exercise, discipline and humility.  While learning from God and with God, may we be healed and become instruments to bring about healing for others!

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What You Have Received as a Gift, Give as a Gift

Of the many messages received from or about the Healing Conference, which one do you feel is most needed by yourself?  By the Congregation?  Why did you choose these messages?

sr. Cristina Di Nocco, SFP

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Sr. Maria and Cristina

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Sr. Cristina and friends fan the flame

Many messages from the Healing Conference are imprinted in my spirit and in the active life of service to our community and to the poorest among us -- whom God, in His infinite goodness places along my path. Our various daily activities can prevent our keeping alive even the most beautiful and significant realities of this Conference, which was so much a part of our personal and Congregational life. I want to emphasize two of these messages. They have accompanied, encouraged and, in difficult moments pushed me and given meaning to the work which needs to be done.

In Sister Tiziana Merletti’s Introductory remarks, she speaks about ‘instruments of healing:’ “We already know what to do:  our ‘ego’ must diminish and the voice of God must become stronger among us…Let’s commit ourselves again, first of all, to accept the reality that we are all ‘wounded healers’.”

Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp -- in his talk speaks about  ‘overcoming barriers,’  and urges us on with these words: “Your challenge today is to bring Jesus to birth again and again wherever your ministry of healing takes you. And that requires imagination, hope and fierce faithfulness.

I remember exactly when Father Anthony said this. Inside me his ideas immediately connected with the words of Sister Tiziana and I thought: “Cristina, you could just leave this conference now, as long as you assimilate and live out these messages!”

Incarnating the Message of Love . . .
There is an old saying: The tongue is always turning to the aching tooth. This refers to the physical life or, in a metaphorical sense, the life of a person or a group. It can also refer to the spiritual journey, both personal and that of a group. After reflection, I began to understand the messages of Sr. Tiziana and Fr. Anthony, resounding so profoundly in my spirit. They were moving me to pay more attention and incarnate the messages in my everyday life.  

Sr. Tiziana’s statement became again a life goal. To be silent, (not only in regard to speaking), but to make silent my ideas, my way of being and doing to create inside me the needed space for welcoming the voice of God. But who has ever heard God speak? Where, when, through whom or what does God say to me?