The missionary experience of works of mercy in Italy
Sister Marie Francine, Religious of Christian Instruction
Almost two months of experience with works of mercy in Italy. What can I say if not give thanks to God through all the circumstances of life that I discover day by day, through all the people who live their lives according to the Gospel beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Mt 5:7”.
Aren’t the works of mercy the ways that bring us closer to God? Yes, they are. Just talking about the works of mercy doesn’t leave the listener’s mind unchallenged. It may seem abstract, it may seem far removed from everyday life, but it’s true, because every act of love is a work of mercy.
Jesus shapes us from within and forms us to live in love according to his heart; this love whose measure is love without measure, as Saint Augustine tells us in his writings. invites us to live as children of God, loving one another.
Such is the love I discover in the hearts of those who, gently, experience it and let themselves be invaded by it.
I discover the experience of love in the person of Mr Luigi Spadoni, who has agreed to share his possessions with others without distinction, but in the name of God’s love. His sole aim is to make known and spread the works of mercy, always and everywhere.
The concept of “works of mercy” is a word whose name depends from one milieu to another, because it should also be pointed out that the way in which it is lived also depends from one milieu to another, and according to the culture and possibilities of each individual. For example, in the Congo, where I come from, we speak of “upendo” or charity, which is carried out in basic living ecclesial communities (CEVB). These are charitable actions in favor of people in material, physical, spiritual or moral need.
My personal experience
There’s more joy in giving than in receiving
I’ve discovered an important thing here in Italy, the love of neighbor that drives us to give of ourselves for the good of others as much as we can through the various services that are organized without expecting anything in return: helping the sick, looking after children, young people and adults, providing basic necessities to those who lack them, visiting migrants and all categories of sufferers through the volunteers of mercy. This way of doing things gives me more joy and the impetus to motivate so many men and women to put ourselves even more at the service of all the materially, spiritually, socially and psychologically poor.
Through my various pastoral activities, I’m discovering day by day the needs of God’s people. I take part in catechesis with various groups of children preparing for First Communion and Confirmation. Every Sunday, I go to the Segromigno Monte parish to prepare food for the needy with groups of volunteers and then to the distribution of the meal, which takes place in the town of Lucca from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There’s also an oratory program with teenagers at the San Colombano parish twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday), starting at 2pm. These young people form the core of the Church of today and tomorrow. They need more guidance from adults. Young people are at the heart of the charism of the Religious of Christian Instruction, and as such, they need an all-round education: intellectual, spiritual and human knowledge.
This is the very first time I’ve celebrated the Nativity of the Lord, New Year’s Eve and Epiphany away from my continent of Africa. And I’ve realized that nothing in life is random; the Lord has already planned everything.
Christmas in Italy
I had a wonderful experience of shared joy. We sang the night Mass with the youth and adult groups. It’s about the inner joy that comes from meeting the Infant Jesus who comes to meet us, but also the joy of living the coming of Jesus in community with the sisters of Santa Gemma, where I find the joy of living. The day was spent in joy and celebration. Italian-style meals were shared. During the meal, songs were sung in French, Swahili and English. The feast ended with Vespers with the faithful.
The New Year, the Solemnity of the Mother of God
We entered the New Year with a prayer vigil at Segromigno Piano.
There was adoration, during which we gave thanks to the Lord for all his blessings received during the year 2023, and entrusted him with the new year 2024. During this adoration, we also brought to God the whole of mankind, jubilant with joy as we launched fireworks, asking God himself to come to our aid.
The feast of the Epiphany
Here in Italy, I discovered the feast of Befana. On the eve of the feast of Epiphany, we went with five Christians from Segromigno Monte to bring joy to families with children and those where only the elderly live.
Parents welcomed their children with gifts. The lady who plays the role of Befana disguises herself as a tired old lady from a long way away who, as she hands out the gifts to the children, always leaves them with a lesson in life.
We sang and danced to the sound of the chochette in the families we visited.
My expectation is to learn more about the practicability of the works of mercy and the poullaller project. In addition, I hope to give my best to active participation in pastoral activities as well as those related to training in the works of mercy. My wish would be to form a youth choir group.
Sister Francine Mave Ditsove
Religieuses de l’Instruction Chrétienne