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NEWS FROM THE CANOSSIAN WORLD N. 1 MARCH 2014 Sped. Abb. postale D.L. 353/2003 (conv. in L. 27/02/2004 n. 46) art. 1, comma 2, DCB/CN - Filiale di Cuneo


Summary V IT I TA PIU` A SISTERLY NOTE

The Horizon of Hope

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POINTS TO REFLECT ON

Hope, this unknown reality

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PAGES OF LIFE

A Child teaches us

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A Centre of Peace

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Men behind bars: surprising positivity

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At the service of the Brazilian Conference of Religious

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A network of excellent collaboration!

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Hope: what is it?

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A Christmas celebration with a difference

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Risking hope

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Desire for the Kingdom of heaven

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The Small Miracles of M. Josephine Bakhita Argentina – in the town of “Valle Maria”

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CANOSSIAN FOUNDATION

When hope does not disappoint: a well in Nurobo, Indonesia VITAPIÙ N. 1 – MARCH 2014 Autorizzazione Trib. di Roma N. 52/87 del 6 Febbraio 1987 Sped. Abb. postale – D.L. 353/2003 (conv. in L. 27/02/2004 n. 46) art. 1, comma 2, DCB/CN Filiale di Cuneo. PRINTER: Arti Grafiche Cuneo srl, via R. Gandolfo, 8 12100 Madonna dell’Olmo (CN) – ITALY tel. +39.0171.411.470 – fax +39.0171.411.714 PUBLISHER: Casa Gen. Canossiane MANAGER: Enrico M. Beraudo EDITORIAL STAFF: Elizabeth Chambers Eileen Curtis – Giovanna Rastelli FRONT COVER Sudan: hope for the future

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INFORMATION FOR THE READERS Your address is part of the electronic records of our magazine VITAPIÙ. In keeping with the law 675/1996 concerning the protection of personal data, called “privacy”, we communicate that such records are used exclusively by our Canossian Congregation, publisher of the above said periodical. Your data, therefore, will not be communicated to others in any way.


Mary,

star of hope

Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and hoping, like Anna, “for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Lk 2:38) Your life was thoroughly imbued with the Sacred Scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants. (cf. Lk 1:55) In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your “yes”, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) Benedict XVI


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The Horizon of Hope “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jer. 29:11

M. Margaret Peter

Dear Sisters and friends,

A SISTERLY NOTE

This is a very comforting and strengthening message for all. What greater sense of security do we need than to know that God our creator has thoughts of peace and plans a future of hope for us! We are indeed integral parts of a divine design and we are continually invited to be protagonists in actualizing this in our daily lives. For us Daughters of Charity who are at the door of a General Chapter, this, more than ever, is a moment to put our total trust in God and to keep alive the hope in the future. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God, holding on to the promises of Yahweh, an experience of renewal and radical transformation will be ours. Life exists and continues because there is hope. As human beings we need to articulate our hope in the future whether it is as individual persons or as a group. When we are able to envision and translate our hope into goals, objectives, specifications and a plan of action, there is a great force that helps us to become creative and committed. Most likely, this would sound like a teacher preparing her/his lesson plan but life is a situation that requires careful preparation and action. Our hope for renewal and vitality will keep us alert and attentive to make use of every opportunity and it provides us with the focus, the courage to decide and the energy for action. Many of us are familiar with the refreshing and inspiring words of Henri Nouwen, “Joy and Hope are never separate.” People with hope live with joy because they believe in a future. They find positive energy in the hope that everything will work out well when we trust in God and are willing to dedicate time, attention and care to him. The freedom that each one of us has as human beings, endowed with many gifts of nature and grace, is the responsibility to choose what promotes life and to spread joy around us, for ourselves and others. The theme of our General Chapter, the call to be joyful and prophetic witnesses, is a great opportunity for all the Canossian Sisters and all who collaborate with us to take a closer look at the quality of our life and make the necessary changes that will bring out the best that God has already placed in each one of us. Pope Francis in his innate simplicity and earnestness, consistently reminds each one of us of a great truth that needs to be embraced with love and 4


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lived with conviction: “for the great human family, it is always necessary to renew the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes for a good journey.� This is the setting out. The leaving of everything behind. Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions. The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations. No longer expecting relationships, memories, words, or letters to mean what they used to mean. To be, in a word: open. (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner) Yes, everything finds a new meaning when the vision gains clarity and the journey is purposeful. The journey of life continues and this journey is guided by the wisdom of the Gospel, Spirit of greatest love as expressed by Jesus Crucified and Risen. As we prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, during this special season of grace, let us keep our eyes fixed on the horizon of hope, of peace and of joy. Let us seize every opportunity to make a fresh start, renewed in hope and love. M. Margaret Peter Congregational Leader

Happy Easter! May the joy and peace of the Risen Lord fill your hearts! 5


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POINTS TO REFLECT ON

Hope, this unknown reality In a meditation during a Mass celebrated in the Chapel of St. Martha, Pope Francis gave us the gift of a wonderful reflection on hope as the typical Christian stance while waiting for the revelation of the Son of God.

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ope is the most humble of the theological virtues because it hides itself in life. Nevertheless, it transforms us in depth, just like “a pregnant woman is a woman” but it is as if she is transformed because she becomes a mother. Hope is tied to an attitude of expectation, a virtue which reveals itself to be stronger than suffering. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, refers to “the sufferings of the present moment that can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.” (Rm 8:18) The Apostle speaks of ardent expectation, e tension towards revelation that concerns the whole of creation. This tension is hope and to live in hope is to live this tension while waiting for the revelation of the Son of God when all creation, and each one of us too, will be freed from slavery so as to enter into the glory of the children of God. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul talks of hope that does not disappoint us, because it is trustworthy. However,

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it is not easy to understand; hope does not mean being optimists. Hope is not optimism, it is not the capacity to look at things cheerfully and carry on. It is neither simply a positive attitude seen in certain people who are radiant and positive. This is something good but it is not hope. They say that hope is the most humble of the three virtues because it hides itself in life. You can see faith, you can feel it, you know what it is; charity is carried out, we know what it is. But what is hope? To help us a little we can say first of all that it is a risk. Hope is a risky virtue, as Paul says, a virtue of ardent expectation for the revelation of the Son of God. It is not an illusion. It is what the Israelites experienced when they were freed from slavery: “it seemed like a dream. Then


POINTS TO REFLECT ON

our mouths were filled with laughter and our lips with songs.” (Ps 126) This is what will happen when the Son of God will be revealed. Having hope means precisely this: tending towards this revelation, towards this joy that will fill our mouths with laughter. How beautiful is this image! The first Christians depicted it as an anchor. Hope was an anchor tied to the banks of the afterlife. Our life is like walking along this rope towards that anchor. But where are we anchored? Are we anchored right there, on the shore of that far away ocean or are we anchored to an artificial lagoon that we have created with our rules, our behaviour, our rhythms, our clericalism, our ecclesiastical behaviour? Are we anchored there where everything is comfortable and secure? This is not hope!

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Hope is seen in this dynamic of giving life. It is not something visible even for the one who lives in the first fruits of the Spirit. But we know that the Spirit is at work. The Spirit is at work in us. He works as if He were a mustard seed, so tiny but full of life and strength, and grows until it becomes a tree. The Spirit works like yeast which is able to leaven all the flour. Hope is a grace to be implored. In fact, it is one thing to live in hope since in hope we are saved, and another thing to live as good Christians and nothing else; waiting with ardent expectation for revelation or living true to the commandments; being anchored to the shore of the new world or simply parked in an artificial lagoon. Pope Francis

Paul finds another symbol of hope, that of childbirth. In fact, we know that the whole of creation, and us too with creation, groans and suffers in the pangs of birth until today. But we, too, who possess the first fruits of the Spirit, groan – just think of the woman who gives birth – we groan interiorly while waiting. We are waiting. This means giving birth.

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A Child teaches us The words of Malala Yousafzai addressed to the United Nations Assembly, New York, 12th July 2013

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oday, it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life. I don’t know where to begin my speech. I don’t know what people expect me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of get well cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you for all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human Rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand... one girl among many. I speak, not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice, not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated. Dear Friends, on 9th October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They 8

shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists, especially the Taliban. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if I had a gun in my hand and he stood in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learnt from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone. Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we


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ted Nations Assembly Malala addresses the Uni 3. in July 201

saw the guns. The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword” is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. And that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the attack in Quetta. And that is why they killed many women teachers. That is why they are attacking schools every day. Because they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society. I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist, “Why are the Taliban against education?” He answered very simply. By pointing to his book he said, “A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.” They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to hell just because they go to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Pakistan is a peace-loving democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their children. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child’s right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility. Dear friends, today I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to stop speaking for women’s rights, rather I am focusing on women to be independent and to fight for themselves. So today, we call upon world leaders to change

In Octoner 2013 Malala was received by President Obama and family.

their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world’s leaders that all the peace deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the dignity of women and their rights is unacceptable. We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world. We call upon all governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of educational opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender and to ensure freedom and equality for women so that they can prosper. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for each child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. 9


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A Centre of Peace Finding my way through a prayer labyrinth

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he crowing of cocks announced my arrival as I parked my car in the last available parking space. It was my first visit to the Canossian Spirituality Centre in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the day had started off in its usual, hectic way. I had overslept, burned my breakfast, misplaced my car keys and, having never visited the Centre, got lost on the way. By the looks of the car park, I was the last person to arrive. Maybe if I sneaked in the back door no one would notice – except the cocks! The speaker for the day, Sr. Paula Gallagher I.H.M., had already taken the

podium and was talking about being centred in our lives so that we can share our peace with others. How could I be centred? Where was my peace? My day, like my life, was fragmented, out of control and anything but peaceful. Nothing seemed to make sense. Trying to make as little noise as possible, I took a seat in the back row and listened as Sr. Paula described things I could do to bring order to my life. She recited psalms; she played music; she asked each participant to write down one thing that caused disorder in his or her life. I wanted to write a book! About halfway through

Walking the labyrinth.

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the morning, Sr. Paula declared a 20-minute break. “Get a cup of coffee, spend some time in chapel or walk the labyrinth” she said. A labyrinth? Wasn’t walking a labyrinth some sort of ancient spiritual ritual that pagans and druids performed? How did that fit in with a Catholic Spirituality Centre? My interest was aroused and, instead of sitting down with a cup of coffee, I headed outdoors. Located on the east lawn of the Centre, the labyrinth was a collection of rocks that defined a spiral path leading to the centre. With no idea of the “right” way to walk a labyrinth, I followed the rocks to the centre, turned around and quickly retraced my steps to the beginning. Nothing happened! Remembering that the druids might have recited a prayer or chant when they walked through a similar structure, I followed the path again, this time more slowly while reciting an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Lost in prayer, my


breathing slowed and my mind opened. I raised my eyes to the turquoise blue sky and watched a solitary cloud drift from west to east; I felt a gentle breeze ruffle my hair; I listened as a dove cooed in the nearby trees; I smelt the familiar scent of green chilli cooking in someone’s kitchen. Glancing down at my watch, I noticed the 20 minutes allowed for our break had already past. How had that happened? Even with two trips around the labyrinth, I could not have been out there more than 10 minutes. Racing back to the Centre, I once again took my seat in the back row and tried to pay attention as Sr. Paula continued her talk. However, every time I glanced at the window, I felt as if the labyrinth was calling me back. When lunch time came I skipped the spaghetti and chocolate cake and answered the call. Something was different as I approached the labyrinth for the second time. Suddenly, the place was not just a simple collection of rocks. It was sacred. Without knowing why, I removed my shoes, took a deep breath and entered the circle. Instead of praying, I began thinking about my life. I thought about my

The peaceful chapel of the Spirituality Centre.

mistakes and my triumphs; I thought about my family and my friends; I thought about my past and my future. God had led me to this place for a reason – it was up to me to discern that reason. Was I making good use of the gifts God had given me? Did I show my family and friends unconditional love? What could I do in the future to make up for the sins of my past? When I reached the centre of the labyrinth, I realised I was carrying a small rock in my hand. Not knowing when or why I had picked up the rock, I decided it needed to stay within the circle. Bending over, I placed the rock on the large boulder positioned in the centre, said an almost wordless prayer and absorbed the wonders of the world around me. Colours appeared brighter, bird songs sounded sweeter,

smells seemed stronger. Suddenly remembering I had not eaten since breakfast. I reluctantly headed back to the retreat centre to see if any food was left. Along the way, I realised I was not hurrying. In fact, I was taking my time, savouring every moment of my experience. When I entered the labyrinth for the first time, I had no idea how to act or what to expect. Once I let go of my self-absorption and surrendered to God’s will, everything changed. As it says in Ps 86:11, “Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth.” God not only showed me how to walk the labyrinth – He showed me how to walk through life. The rest was up to me. Walking back to the Centre, I felt centred and at peace! Margaret Nava, New Mexico, U.S.A. 11


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Men behind bars: surprising positivity

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ammagialla’ is the name of a prison in Viterbo, a city not far from Rome. It has the appearance of an enormous grey box situated in a wide open space outside the city boundaries, far away from normal life and often the scene of violent quarrels and, unfortunately, killings. It is the second biggest prison regarding size in the Region of Lazio, the biggest being the famous prison of Rebibbia, in Rome. Within those walls there are 700 prisoners, including those condemned to confined imprisonment and who live in the top security wing. A young woman is the Governor of this prison; her face bears the signs of difficulties, suffering, immense pity for her ‘inmates’. She too, in a certain sense, is a ‘prisoner’, not so much because of her role but because of the normality of her tasks, her persistent worries, her patient listening and exchanging of viewpoints with people, that make up her daily routine.

Exchanging a sign of peace.

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In prayer before the Cross of the W.Y.D.

It was Saturday 7th December 2013. Sr. Rita del Grosso, who dedicates herself to visiting this prison bringing comfort to the prisoners, invited me to go with her that day because a group of young people from the Centre of S. Lorenzo would be bringing there the Cross of the World Youth Day, that cross blessed and consigned by Pope John Paul II to the youth of the whole world. It was an extraordinary event prepared with much attention, almost a religious act, that had been proposed and accepted willingly by the prisoners. It gives you a certain feeling entering a penal institution for the first time. I tried to compose my face, prepare a few words and not let them see my embarrassment when I would look at them in the eyes. There was no judgement in my mind or heart, I just wanted to show openness and acceptance. Instead, once again a ‘poor person’ was to


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be my teacher. In fact, after having walked a long way from the entrance to the hall where more than 200 men were waiting for us, on entering, an almost gospel scene opened before me: people who were happy, curious, welcoming and well disposed. What a wonderful sight! Everyone tried to capture a look, a smile, a word. My embarrassment during my wait to meet them still remained, but the prisoners helped me in this special meeting with them. We were all enriched by our mutual acceptance. Perhaps the prison bars had not totally wounded their hearts; from their troubles they were able to obtain the strength to live, to continue hoping notwithstanding the dark reality of their future which will not be easy. I could not help but reflect deeply. I looked at them with dignity and regard. I said to myself, “how much astuteness there is

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in our behaviour when we simulate, deny or disguise our mistakes and our faults, or even simply deny them.” Instead, their crimes are known, pointed out, discussed and perhaps thrown in their faces, to be paid. How many humiliations... they have made a mistake and the whole world knows. We are all ‘guilty’, in one way or another. Discrimination, judgement, definitive selection should never cross our minds because even there, in that prison in Viterbo there are men who have certainly made mistakes, but they are still people capable of relationships, of living together, with the desire of a future and a new life. I felt myself privileged in making this unexpected experience. I remembered Jesus’ words: “I was in prison and you visited ME” and “every time you did this to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to ME.”

Sr. Maria Colombo, Rome

The young people and leaders of S. Lorenzo Centre, Rome.

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At the service of the Brazilian Conference of Religious

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r. Vilma Vitoreti, a member of the Province “Nossa Senhora Aparecida�, Brazil, was given the go-ahead to carry out a period of temporary service at the Conference of Religious. She worked for 3 years (2010-2013) in the ongoing formation of religious life through the preparation and conduction of courses at various levels. Before this, Sr. Vilma fulfilled the role of Provincial Secretary. Following the request of the President of the Conference made to our Institute for the collaboration of a Sister, and after a period of serene and pondered discernment, First National Meeting of Monastic and Contemplative Life, Aparecida 2012.

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Thinking of the context of the country of Brazil, where I live and work, and the consecrated men and women I have tried to help in their process of growth in Religious Life, I must say that this precious experience as a formator of the Brazilian Conference of Religious has been a challenge Sr. Vilma at the Headquarters of the for me, but has also brought Conference of Religious of Brazil. me satisfaction and bestowed honour on our Canossian Sr. Vilma dedicated Family. It was an opportunity herself and the best of her for me to get to know the energies to this work and reality of Religious Life in as a consequence had the my own country, through its possibility of sharing in the various expressions, its many riches and the vitality of gifts and Congregational religious life in Brazil. The Sister wants to share with us charisms and the uniqueness of those persons consecrated her experience. The Editor to God. I have come to know


for Spiritual Renewal) The Group CERNE (Centre ia 2013. Bah r – Salvado

the difficulties religious men and women experience in their efforts to be a meaningful presence in society and the Church today, the important challenges they have to face, their unfailing trust in the Lord and their convinced commitment to continuing the mission of Jesus. I have come to know well many people who have placed their lives in the hands of the Lord Jesus; a life founded on the passion for Christ and His Kingdom, a life that pulsates with desire to attain the primacy of the Love of God and the Love of Neighbour. Even if this life seems to be a mixture of inconsistencies and often even compromise, we know that an Immense Good is present which reveals itself in numerous works of mercy and that it has an enormous effect on the lives of people, and on the religious themselves who carry them out. As a Collaborator in the Programme of OnGoing Formation run by the Conference of Religious of Brazil, I worked very closely with the Coordinator, Father Mario Cesar do Anmaral, a

Participants of PROFOLIDER (Programme of Formation for Leadership) – Brasília 2011.

Pallotine Father. I would like to share a few initiatives that were realised during those 3 years. 1. There was the first National Meeting of Religious belonging to the Monastic and Contemplative Life, held in Aparecida, SP, from 16th-19th June 2012, in which about 200 monks and enclosed nuns came together from different Religious Families. They shared their reflections in simplicity and communicated their joy and witness of faith in an atmosphere of prayer. 2. One of the initiatives promoted by CERNE (Centre for Spiritual Renewal) was not an academic course but rather an experience of living together that revolved around a few important elements: the individual, community life and mission where people from different Congregations collaborate together. The experience lasted 40 days using the method of fraternity and life sharing and was crowned at the end with an 8-day Retreat. The participants described it as a time re-vitalisation and a rediscovery of the joy of following Jesus of Nazareth.

3. PROLFOLIDER, a Programme of Formation for Leadership, was a real treasure for Consecrated Religious Life. It was a privileged time for deepening and consolidating the basic values of the Person, the Institution, the Church and Society. It was a very exacting and serious course packed with content which centred on Interpersonal Relationships and on Leadership in Religious Life. The contents of the programme were presented with the collaboration of competent and expert professionals in their field. It lasted for 50 days and used the method of meetings, discussions and interpersonal sharing. The last week was reserved for a course of Spiritual Exercises that included spiritual direction. I would like to express my gratitude to the God of Life, to my Province and my Congregation for the chance given to me to serve religious life in some small way and for the inestimable enrichment I received. Sr. Vilma Vitoreti, Brazil 15


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A network of excellent collaboration!

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esides all the formative work of information, prevention and integration, as well as openly condemning those who use and abuse women, (whose dignity cannot be bargained or paid for since it is a sacred gift to be respected and guarded), in 2003 a group was formed of religious Sisters of various nationalities and Congregations who began to visit the women’s section of the CIE (Centre for Identification and Expulsion) at Ponte Galeria, on the outskirts of Rome, every Saturday afternoon. It is the most difficult day of the whole week. In fact, we are well aware that, after the visit, we are forced to leave these young women closed in there, in sad and squalid surroundings that cannot even be described: cement, iron fences, a cold and empty

A wasted life behind bars.

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Today’s new form of slavery.

courtyard, bleak dormitories where each woman is assigned a bed – and nothing more. And yet, we do not wish to be in any other place because behind those bars we are able to meet the suffering, solitude, anger and hope of so many young women from various countries who are detained unjustly for months on end, guilty of the fact that they have no identity documents. Unfortunately, this place is one of the ‘existential slums’ of modern society where, once again, those who are most vulnerable and denied any choice, are targeted and punished. One of the Sisters of the group was asked, one day, by her Superior what meaning these visits had, and she replied, “We do what Our Lady at the foot of the

cross did: she could not do anything to change what was happening, but she was there, with her Son, at least sharing his suffering.” For all of us it is just the same; most of the time we can do very little to change the situation of these women, but if nothing else at least we are there as their friends, sisters and mothers, to share their suffering and try to bring them a little comfort, trust and hope in a different future. Every Saturday, to get in we must face the same security checks, the same questions, sometimes the same bureaucratic difficulties, especially when we meet new personnel who do not know us and are suspicious and probing. But we do not give in. With patience and firmness we enter the Centre, passing through iron gates and barred doors, until we finally reach the women’s dormitories. Sometimes, when the weather is fine, we find them outside in the cement courtyards, lying on mattresses, where they spend long days doing nothing, in complete idleness. In a sense, this place is worse


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than a prison because no type of activity or work is permitted; there is not even a place to meet together. In such a depressing and shabby place people lose their sense of humanity and are counted as nothing. Often they become untidy in their way of dressing and behaving because they are not allowed to keep the clothes they were wearing; they only have the most indispensable things given to them on arrival. Not only do they possess nothing, they have no rights either, people without hope. They are considered to be no one. For these women, our visits want to be a comforting presence; we want to bring them a little human warmth and love, a little humanity. The majority are always Nigerians, followed by Chinese, East Europeans and some from South American countries. Most of them are Christians, therefore we share together moments of prayer, even in different languages, which are appreciated and attended; spirituality helps to bring a sense of relief to their lives, even in their difficult situation of confinement. To break the monotony and solitude, we try to take advantage of every occasion

to offer them moments of being together, of relaxation and celebration. In a special way, we celebrate the main festivities bringing them useful gifts for their stay. At Christmas we gave each one a big bag for their poor personal belongings. It was indecent and shameful to see them sent home forcibly from our rich Europe with their poor belongings thrown into a black plastic sack for rubbish. This was an unjust and useless humiliation. Listening to their sad stories, we often came to know about grave cases of human trafficking. On different occasions we were able to convince them to report their exploiters and consequently they were freed and offered hospitality in one

PIU of our guest houses so as to start a process of social reintegration. Two of these girls were just over 18. Another had a child of 3 with her. When they were released because their detention had expired, they were taken into one of our reception centres and helped to regain their freedom and obtain valid documents, thanks to the collaboration of the Nigerian Embassy, the Red Cross and our communities. Even if much has been done over the years, much more remains to be done to respond to new emergencies and break the chains that still imprison many women in our country. Taken from a Dossier Behind Bars – USMI

Once in a while there is a celebration.

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Hope: what is it?

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aint Paul says that you do not hope in something you see or know, otherwise this is not hope! Christian or theological hope (a gift that comes from God and not from our human deliberation) must look beyond our human knowledge; it must desire something that is not yet part of our experience. If we know or experience it already, it is not to be hoped for. What we hope for are “the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man ...” (cf. 1 Cor 2:9). We desire an experience that the human heart has not yet made, almost as if it were outside our existence and beyond our perception. The desires of the human heart, however, are only the shadow of what God has prepared for us. What does hope desire? Usually we desire something that we do not have, or do not have yet in 18

its fullness. Primarily, we desire love. We have experienced love: that of our parents, our siblings, our spouses. But does this love satisfy us? No, because we desire it more and more. We must continually replenish it, as if it were petrol for a car. Therefore, we desire a love which is different from human love! But from where does love which is not human come from? From God, and it is called ‘divine love’. This is the experience we hope to make. And this divine love continually tries to enter within our experience and our existence from the moment that God took on our human nature and participated fully in our life experience. Where does hope come from? It is part of the DNA of human life since it is commonly said that the one who does not hope for something does not live, or is already dead. A

famous proverb says that hope dies last. In fact, a sick person always hopes to feel better tomorrow. The unemployed hope to find work and keep on looking at adverts for jobs because there is a family to support and a rent to pay. Hope yearns for something it has not got, but there are so many false hopes that dwell in the human heart: riches, power, recognition, honour, possessions. Which are true hopes? The desire to be a person who is unselfish, honest, just, merciful, generous; these are qualities we know we do not possess but we desire to obtain them because, in the depths of our hearts, we know they are worthy of the human person. On what is hope founded? Our hope is founded on the promises someone has made us! For Christians, these promises are those of God expressed in the


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words, teachings and deeds of Jesus. They are promises that give life, and life in abundance, a joy that no one can describe and that no one can take from us, divine love expressed through the true and sincere relationships of those we live with. The most important promise, which has already been fulfilled, is that of the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts on the day of Baptism. The degree of our hope is measured by our trust in the fulfilment of God’s promises, since Jesus said that nothing is impossible to his Father. The one who hopes for great things will obtain something of what he has hoped, but the one who does not hope prevents God from realising even the smallest things in his life. We know that in life each one of us will have his joys and satisfactions, his

trials and tribulations. In every situation of difficulty and suffering we want to recall Jesus’ words: “I have conquered the world!”, since he has conquered the forces of evil that tempt us to doubt the strength of His Spirit who is at work in us and can help us to attain the realisation of his promises: salvation and new life in Him which both begin in this world and come to their fullness beyond death. From where can we draw our hope so that it may be

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our stronghold in times of darkness? Hope is a theological virtue, that means it has its origin in God and comes from God. We receive it on the day of our Baptism, together with the gifts of faith and charity. It is up to us to nourish it and take care of it so that it may accompany us towards our final destiny. Thus, we can pray to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ to illumine our hearts and help us come to know that hope to which He has called us. 19


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A Christmas celebration with a difference

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n the fifth day of the Octave of Christmas, Sunday 29th Dec 2013, ACCIRD (Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue) hosted a Christmas celebration at the Church of St Ignatius, Singapore. About 80 people attended the celebration, including 30 religious leaders, representatives and friends of eight different faiths, predominantly from the Inter-Religious Organisation. Mgr Philip Heng, SJ, Sr. Maria Lau, IJ, Sr. Theresa Seow, FDCC and other ACCIRD members exchanged warm greetings against the backdrop of an elaborate and colourful Christmas crib scene. Archbishop William Goh welcomed each guest warmly and exchanged cordial and friendly words with them around the crib. After a group photograph, all the guests were ushered into the main church for the start of the celebrations, emceed by Gerald Kong, ACCIRD’s Executive Secretary. In his speech, Archbishop William Goh shared a clear and succinct explanation about the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is NOT about giving material presents, he explained. Christmas is a celebration of Love – the love of God for man when He sent His Son to take on our human form. Christmas is Jesus’ coming to show man how to live His life, to live in His way and His truth; how to attend to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and those forgotten in our world. His birth was the starting point of His carrying out His Father’s will to die on the cross to save man from his sins … Thus it follows that the most important feast day for Christians is not Christmas but Easter, 20

Group photo to remember the event.

that is Good Friday and Easter when Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus’ coming into this world was a gift of love. By His life on earth, His Grace poured out, we are shown how to love one another, especially the poor and lowly and, not surprisingly, these are beliefs and practices that resonate in every other religion. The Archbishop’s message on the meaning of Christmas was followed by angelic Christmas carolling performed by eight singers of Chorale Evangelica who come from different parishes and accompanied by a brief narration of the Christmas story. Mgr Philip Heng, SJ then addressed the guests explaining how the idea of celebrating Christmas in a cave began with St Francis of Assisi in 1223. Constrained by limited space in the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage in the town of Greccio, St Francis found a niche in the rock near the town square, set up the altar and prepared a manger replete with hay and animals. He wanted the inhabitants of Greccio to commemorate the birth of Jesus with great devotion. Our interfaith visitors


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who were also seated in the church were given interesting details of the Christmas crib scene and the various characters via a projection screen to enhance their appreciation. He also explained that, peculiar to the parish of St Ignatius, the additional rich details of ‘village life’ that appear as an extension of the scene of Jesus’ birth and the Holy Family, reflect St Ignatius’ belief that God is present in all things and all people. The nativity scene was started by St Francis, in a spirit of simplicity, to help the people of his time understand the meaning of Christmas. But here, the Archbishop said that, “we have further expanded it, with an Ignatian spirituality.” Near the manger is the marketplace where people go about their daily lives. This is to show that Jesus was born in the midst of ordinary people with compassionate love for the poor. Following this first moment the guests and host then proceeded to St Ignatius Hall for a sumptuous buffet dinner and fellowship. Midway through the meal the guests from other religions were also entertained with an exciting quiz based on the Christmas theme with the giving away of prizes. There was obvious enjoyment and cordial conversation at each table and the occasion ended with everyone singing “Let there be Peace on Earth”. In appreciation, the guests were presented with goody bags as the organizers bid them farewell. It was surely an encounter that reflected the love of God for believers of all faiths, more so during Christmas time. Feedback To elicit feedback, a question posed to a few guests was: “Was there anything that struck you as memorable at this function?” Venerable You Wei (Abbot of Buddhist

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centre): the Christmas Story about the Crib as told by Mgr Heng was very insightful. We visitors learnt more about the characters around the Crib, something we would not have known about otherwise as Christmas has become very commercialized. It would be ideal if Christians put up such a Christmas Crib in the heart of a shopping centre with someone there to explain the real meaning of Christmas and the Crib. Imam Syed Hassan Al-Attas (Muslim and Imam of Ba’alwie Mosque): Archbishop William Goh’s speech was insightful. He put in context the importance of Christmas, telling us that Easter rather than Christmas is the most important feast. Mgr Heng’s talk about the Crib was helpful. We learnt about how Jesus was born and the role of Mary. I can see similarities in Islam in the birth of Jesus – that he was born in a simple place, surrounded by poverty, thus highlighting the importance of including the poor in our lives. The main result of today’s exchange is that we understand what Christmas is and the importance of Christmas. Understanding the basis of faith events fosters greater understanding between religions. Archbishop William Goh: His Grace spoke of the event as one in which people of different faiths could get to know each other. “Having enjoyed a moment of fraternity, so Christmas becomes a participation of joy for all, a celebration that is universal and has meaning for others besides Christians. The event gave us an occasion to explain the faith essence of Christmas.” Mr Shriniwas Rai (Hindu): This event was an opportunity for fellowship and bonding. David Teo (Chorale Evangelica member): It was uplifting to see people of different faiths in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Maureen Khoo, Journalist, Singapore 21


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Risking hope

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hese words of Don Luigi Ciotti are strong, vibrant and incisive. They invite us to open our hearts beyond every limit, to sow the seeds of courage and hope, to get back that “pang for more”, to give more. This time that we are living is a moment of great fragility: we are living in a very undefined democracy in this country where political life is so distant from the reality of those who are suffering most. But it is precisely at this time that we are called not to let ourselves be gripped by discouragement, by fear, by resignation: we must learn to feel that hope is strong and forceful. There are many ways of instilling hope. Hope means offering opportunities, promoting concrete projects; it means realising socio-political strategies for employment and the school, support for families, a sound sense of participation. Hope means really putting young people at the centre of attention because ours is 22

Don Luigi Ciotti

a society that is worried about young people but, in the end, does not take notice of them. This is a time of great disorientation, difficulty and even fear for many people. Just a few figures to make this point: in Italy we have reached the figure of 9 million poor people, of which 4 million are in conditions of absolute poverty. There are 1,876,000 minors who are poor, of which 700,000 are in conditions of absolute poverty. It is from here, from them, that we must start to build

hope. I believe that hope considers those excluded because we cannot build up hope if we do not start from those who have been excluded from hope. These are the people with whom we are called to share hope and they are precisely those who make us hope. These are the ones who have greater difficulty, who offer us reference points for our commitment and the political and social coordinates of our action. Therefore, courage dear friends, we must learn to have courage, that “pang for more” which I have never got tired of telling myself and which I want once more to share with you. We must learn to have courage in making tough choices, to refuse compromises starting from those small things within us. You teach me that when facing crossroads in life one must take a stand and decide which road to take, but one must not be afraid of taking the most


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difficult road which is often no hope without hope in uphill. justice. In a world where injustice is evermore Until we are alive, there is intolerable, hope risks always hope. However, it is becoming a commodity not enough to be alive, in within reach of the few. order to hope: one needs We want to say ‘no’ to this to believe in justice and “false” hope, which is work to uphold it. There is exclusive and founded on

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the desperation of those excluded. But, above all, we want to advocate the promotion of true hope, hope in everyone. This is a task that requires much dedication. It is not enough to be outraged, to protest in public. Personal ethics are at the base of everything, it is the condition for not losing one’s self- esteem. But to interrupt the flow of “false” hopes one must transform the condemnation of injustice into commitment to promoting justice. We must break loose from our certainties and work together where life goads us, provokes us, questions us. This is the task that awaits us: to become protagonists of our times. I would like to stimulate you with the words of Tonino Bello that have always spurred me to action: “History will ask me to account for my words, but God will ask me to account for the silence with which I failed to defend the weak.” 23


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Desire for the Kingdom of heaven and led to the happiness that flows from charity.

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ope is the theological virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23) The Holy Spirit “has been poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become 24

heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Tt 3:6-7) The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every person; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness

Christian hope takes up and fulfils the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice. “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.” (Rm 4:18) Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope towards heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” (Rm 5:5) Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, as sure as it is


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firm … that enters … where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” (Heb 6:19-20) Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us … put on faith and charity for a breastplate, and the hope of salvation for a helmet.” (1 Th 5:8) It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” (Rm 12:12) Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” (Mt 7:21) and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with Christ’s grace. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” (1 Tm 2:4) She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven.

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Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Think that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. St. Teresa of Avila Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817-1821

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The Small Miracles of M. Josephine Bakhita Argentina – in the town of “Valle Maria”

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he new parish priest, Fr. Juan Carlos Navitat, arrived in “Valle Maria”, a town in the Province of Entre Rios, and he went immediately to see his Parish Church. To his great surprise, on the fresco of the apse, he saw the painting of Saint Bakhita in the midst of other saints. He was already a devotee of “M. Moretta”, because he had previously come to know about her through his past experiences and from then on he loved her in a very

The three Sisters with the parish priest, Fr. Juan Carlos.

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special way. He certainly did not think that Saint Bakhita would precede him in this parish, the place of his new adventure in life. With great wonder he exclaimed: “Now everything is clear! It was you who wanted me to be here!” Fr. Juan Carlos did not waste any time and started to spread Bakhita’s wonderful story and his attraction for this African Saint among the people of Valle Maria who were families of German descent. And yet he needed someone to help him in making the “Universal Sister” known and so he thought of contacting the Canossian Sisters. In this part of the country there are no Canossians and their closest community is in La Plata, which is very far from Valle Maria, about seven hours by car. This zealous parish priest did not feel discouraged, he picked up the phone and called the Canossian Sisters inviting them to Valle Maria precisely for the feast of St. Bakhita on 8th February. The invitation was so unexpected for the community but, after a moment of hesitation, they accepted to take part in the Eucharistic Celebrations planned for that day. The Sisters would be able to talk about and share St. Bakhita’s impressive witness of simplicity and forgiveness. The great day came and three Canossian Sisters, Sr. Jorgelina, Sr. Luciana and Sr. Viviana, arrived on time for the celebration. It was a real experience of


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The apse of the Parish Church in Valle Maria. Below: St. Bakhita surrounded by other saints.

mission and they were warmly welcomed by everyone. During the various moments spent with these families, which were fascinating and interesting, another aspect of originality emerged regarding the fresco: a small mystery. The fresco, in fact, had been painted by a lady who had died sometime ago and she did not leave any information about the reason she had put Bakhita at the centre of one of the two groups of Saints portrayed on the apse and, what is more, Bakhita is

the only Saint facing the congregation. But there is still something else surprising. On the day of the feast, in the Church Square, huge illuminated images were inaugurated, with our dear Bakhita triumphantly in the middle of St. Arnoldo Janssen, Founder of the Society of the Divine Word, and Pope Francis. With great joy we see that Bakhita continues to travel around the world ‌ and she has reached even this remote part of Argentina. Sr. Jorgelina, Sr. Luciana and Sr. Viviana, La Plata, Argentina 27


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When hope does not disappoint: a well in Nurobo, Indonesia

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or many years the people living around Nurobo, a village in the heart of West Timor, have been dreaming of a water system that would satisfy the needs of the area. Their hope seemed to dwindle away in the thousands of promises not kept. In the past the Government had contributed to the construction of a small well, or rather a very small tank to collect water and, as often happens, it was only for the use of the people who lived near this source of water. For all the other families this problem became ever more urgent and threatened the unstable situation regarding clean water for cooking and hygiene. At this point I would like to help our readers to

The organising committee with all representatives.

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understand better what “water” means for us by asking this question “Have you ever been without water for a couple of days, perhaps in torrid weather, when you feel burned up by thirst and your whole body seems to wither up?” For years many families in this land have been suffering unjustly, especially children. And as if this is not bad enough, what has made the situation even worse is the spiteful gestures of those living near the small reservoir and those living further away, a distance of 200-300 metres. Spiteful actions began to increase, like the cutting of water pipes that had been laid to help the flow of water. So both young and old people were forced to walk about 700 metres along dirt tracks with buckets on their heads and plastic tanks clutched in their arms, to the well near the Church. How could this problem be solved? We Sisters, together with a few lay collaborators, asked ourselves this question every day, but we were not able to find a solution other than repeating continually a short, but energetic, expression: “Let’s not lose hope!”. One bright morning, while we were resigning ourselves to a prolonged thirst, together with all those “without water”, news came that the Canossian Foundation had officially declared its wish to help construct a well. The community exploded in an instinctive


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shout of joy which had the effect of gathering outside our house a swarm of children and adults who, on hearing the news, improvised dances of rejoicing and enthusiasm, rhythmically repeating: “our water ... our water ... our water”. Within a few hours a “working team” had been organised which would assume the responsibility of following all the stages of the work, together with the Sisters. Immediately messengers were sent to important people in Nurobo so that they could take part in the “new well” team. On 17th May 2013 the first official meeting took place with local authorities of this District. There were about 25 people present: Fr. Gabriel CMF (parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima, Nurobo), Mr. Gabriel Asury (village leader), Sr. Aquelina da Costa, the person responsible for the project, Sr. Maria Goretti Safe and Sr. Lolita Lacaden, Canossian Sisters, a few local chiefs, other important people of the village as well as some women from nearby villages dressed in traditional costume. It was a solemn and important event for all the residents of Nurobo! The meeting brought new and useful information about the development of the plan. But the unexpected and exceptional news was that the new well would change the lives of the villagers. In fact, tubes from the well would carry water to five other points of the village. This is a multiplication similar to the great miracle of the “five loaves and

two fish” and would put an end to the bitterness, arguments and, above all, the increasing tendency to abandon the land which was becoming always more arid and inhospitable. The announcement of help for the “well project” of the Canossian Foundation rekindled hope in everyone’s heart. Once again people 29


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began to believe in “possible dreams”, the fruit of solidarity which would allow the realisation of an adequate water system that would have a double effect: the appreciation and value of water now available for everyone and the reestablishment of friendly relationships among the inhabitants. “May the Lord be praised for our sister water!” A Report on the multiplication of wells In September 2013 construction work began on the first well using good quality material to ensure security and duration. The new well is situated near the office of the village leader of Meotroy. It faces the old tank which did not contain enough water for all the people of Now there are three big wells.

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Meotroy. Besides, when the tank was full the water spilled over and was lost. Now that the problem has been solved people have easier access to the resource of water for cooking, washing and cleaning. I asked a boy clutching his bucket how far his house was from the well. He replied that it took 25 minutes on foot to get there and half an hour to return with his bucket full. But now the boy is happy because water is abundant and there are not many lining up; before he had to wait more than 15 minutes. Now the new well allows all the inhabitants to draw water much quicker. Second and third well Two other wells have been constructed in central areas of the village. One of them is near the convent, the


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The other two wells nearing completion.

Professional school and the clinic, all run by the Sisters. Water flows quite well and the people are happy because they do not have to walk up and down a hill to get water. The Sisters and boarders are happy too, because they do not have to go to the well of the parish which is a twentyminute walk uphill. Moreover, families have seen the benefit of this project and have promised to take care of their water supply so that it may last a long time. Everyone, lay people and religious, have learned a real lesson of civility and humanity: how to take care of natural resources and how to share them equally. This is a lifestyle and a daily choice that overcomes distances, jealousies, abuses, injustice ... and opens the way to respect and sharing. Now people get on together better and the value of hope has been strengthened so that others, those who come after us, may enjoy the benefit obtained today. Conclusion Let us make Pope Francis’ encouraging words our own: “do not let yourselves be

robbed of hope.” We are repeating these words even now that we are enjoying the treasure of water. This project now helps everyone to take an interest in each other, to feel more united, to respect one another and live fairly for the common good. Everyone can draw water from both of the new wells even if they are not yet completed. Much work still needs to be done on the third well. We hope that after the rainy season the work may be concluded. We thank the Canossian Foundation and all our benefactors for their goodness and generosity in sharing with us this most precious treasure: “water”. Our gratitude is not only expressed in thanksgiving and praise, but also as an invitation: We are waiting for you all to visit our wells in Nurobo: don’t worry, there is water for everyone! Sr. Lolita Lacaden, Nurobo, West Timor 31


And you are all brothers and sisters

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ll who accept the life of Christ and live in him acknowledge God as Father and give themselves completely to him, loving him above all things. The reconciled person sees in God the Father of all, and, as a consequence, is spurred on to live a life of fraternity open to all. In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy. In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted into Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “thrown-away lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis Message for the World Day of Peace 2014

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C CURIA GENERALIZIA FIGLIE della CARITÀ, CANOSSIANE Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 70 - 00135 ROMA - ITALY - Tel. +39.06.308.280


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