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On the road to Africa…

A missionary journey that I have longed for for years and which is once again being realised with the Missionary Congregation of the Sisters of St Gemma

There are only a few days to go before I finally leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo. It will be the Vicar of the Congregation who will accompany me, Sr Antonia Grosso. The Congregation, with whom I have had a personal relationship for years, has three missions in Congo, one in Mwenga, one in Kavimvira in the Diocese of Uvira, and the other in the Diocese of Bukavu.

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During my three-month stay, I will have the opportunity to live in these communities and walk with the sisters working there.

Personally I am very happy and enthusiastic about this trip, I am returning to Africa after 10 years. In fact, this will be my third missionary experience on Congolese soil.

The first was in 2012 right after graduation, always accompanied by the Sisters of St Gemma. With a group of 19 volunteers we did a missionary work camp. In our group there was also a priest who celebrated Holy Mass every morning for the religious community.

On the return journey from Milan airport to Lucca, I was also accompanied by a girl from Desio, whom I asked why she was coming to Lucca, and she replied that she was coming to do a few days’ voluntary work at the Santa Gemma Family Home. I was very surprised because, even though it was very close to where I lived, I didn’t know that this shelter existed.

From then on, I too started going to the Family Home and doing some voluntary work there. I lived the experience as a mission from close by, but without taking my eyes off the more distant ones. In fact, the following year, in 2013, I left again accompanied by the Sisters of St Gemma for the Democratic Republic of Congo to continue what we had started the year before.

I have to say that those trips were for me an impetus towards a strong personal change and an opportunity that marked the beginning of my commitment in local and national volunteer work, especially with the Misericordie, with Maria Pia Bertolucci, a prominent personality in Lucchese and Italian volunteer work, as my guide.

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I will leave on 22 October, World Mission Day, whose theme this year is inspired by the story of the disciples of Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel ‘Burning hearts, feet on the road’. Both are necessary conditions for embarking on a missionary journey.

The hearts of those disciples were saddened, disappointed and lost; Jesus’ death had been for them the failure of the One they believed to be the Master, the Messiah. Although Jesus walked a part of the way with them, it was only when they saw him breaking bread that they recognised him and their hearts were set on fire. I believe that precisely this flame of passion, of desire, of enthusiasm must be the compass that drives every missionary to set out.

Alongside the burning heart, there are the feet on the way to proclaim the Risen Christ. This image immediately recalls the missio ad gentes of the Church towards every people. In a society scarred and wounded by wars and conflicts, the Good News is still a living hope towards peace.

The Sisters of St. Gemma embody this message perfectly, guided by the spirituality of St. Gemma, who said: “I would wish, oh Jesus, that my weak voice would reach the ends of the earth, I would call all sinners and tell them all to enter your Heart! The proclamation of the Gospel must be able to concern everyone, no one excluded.

I would be quite presumptuous if I thought I could do this. Let’s say that I go to learn from the sisters who, in their communities sometimes in very hostile territories, do not tire of proclaiming Christ by walking even tens of kilometres a day to reach the last, the poor, those who live in forgotten areas.

Compared to ten years ago, I leave with more awareness, strengthened by the preparation I have been given, and certainly with an openness to take in and store as much information as possible so that when I return I will be able to testify to it.


Spazio Spadoni

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