Choose your language EoF

Sister Gina Simionato

A woman with a whole heart

This woman, Sister Gina Simionato, would have gone unnoticed and remained in total oblivion if that morning of 15 October 2000 a hail of bullets had not broken her life. Since that day, we and many others have been given the gift of discovering her heart and the great love that inhabited it.

Sr Gina is part of that host of women, as countless as the stars in the sky, who have passed on to earth, leaving us the gift of love…a great love, stronger than any evil, willing to go as far as the total gift of self in the sacrifice of blood. Love that lives and acts to give its brother life, guarding it, defending it, making it grow.

Born into a simple family, rich in human and Christian values, Gina grew up cheerful and carefree, attending school until the fifth grade; then, as an adolescent, like all the girls of those years, she helped around the house, taking care of housework and learned to hold a needle in her hand, in the workshop of a seamstress.

On Sundays, in the parish oratory, Gina could enjoy a good film – that was her passion!  And it was a film, “Molokai” – Father Damian, the apostle of the lepers – that fascinated and challenged her, as she herself testified in a letter several years later. “It was perhaps this moment that marked in me the need to make a qualitative leap to realise my vocation as a baptised woman”.

Suor Gina Simionato 4Guided by her parish priest, she chose the path of consecration, in the religious family of the Sisters Teachers of St Dorothy. After a few years, spent serving children, as a teacher in the nursery school and as catechist in the parish, Sr Gina was finally able to realise her dream of being a missionary in 1975.  She left for Africa, in Burundi; in contact with the physical sufferings of that people, particularly of children and women, she asked to become a nurse; having obtained her diploma, she devoted herself totally to caring for the numerous sick, and to preventing the diseases and malnutrition that were making a carnage in those years, especially among the youngest.Suor Gina Simionato 2

Moreover, in the Great Lakes area, she will experience, like so many other missionaries, a lot of moral suffering due to political and social instability: she will experience the expulsion from Burundi, the insertion in the new mission in Zaire, in Mbobero, the influx and drama of Rwandan refugees, then Kabila’s war and the forced evacuation from Zaire.  She returned to Burundi in 1998, despite the climate of insecurity; she was aware of the danger, yet determined not to abandon her people. In 2000, after a short leave in Italy, a month before that 15 October, ready to return to Burundi, she told the Superior General: ‘I do not have the vocation of a hero and I tell you that I am afraid. But I willingly return among the people of my parish and above all I wish to return with my African sisters’.

But what legacy does this apparently shy and not at all special woman leave us?

Suor Gina Simionato 3Sr Gina was truly an extraordinary woman, because she made her daily life an uninterrupted gift of love and service to others; she loved, in simplicity and with such spontaneity and joy. Her secret: to live her womanhood to the full, sharing joys, labours, sorrows, and manifesting with great naturalness that love that burned in her heart: she had the art of discovering the needs of others; and she did not hesitate to come to their aid, without ever calculating effort, risk, price. “It was impossible to stop her when it came to helping the poor. ‘I remember,’ says one of her sisters, ‘the hundreds of car journeys she made to the hospital in Bukavu, to transport the seriously ill, day and night, without fear of rain, or bad roads, or danger, or tiredness.” Sensitive, generous, spontaneous, never conspicuous or overstating the service she rendered; always smiling, happy to come to the aid of others, whoever they were. A unique woman, imbued with joyful charity, who was, to the very end, a sister, a mother, …as the Gospel says, a seed, which became a tree and among whose branches birds can build their nests and find rest.

Sr Gina, a great woman, a strong woman of exceptional courage and great availability, a woman of peace and hope, an image of that God-Love who sowed love in the heart of every woman.

Since she left for heaven, I find her more alive than ever in my everyday life; she smiles at me and says: “Courage, only love counts!”

So “….Do not stop a woman’s heart: it is light when it is dark, it is fire when it is cold, it is tenderness in sorrow, it is joy in love. Do not stop a woman’s heart…” (Terra Rossa – Giorgio Geronazzo).

                                                                                                                     Sister Lucia Sabbadin, Dorothea


  • Suor Lucia Sabbadin


You might also like