Rereading our life experience is an opportunity to discover God’s seal in our lives and to learn how to be open to unfolding newness before us. Sr. Ana Luisa has just lived such a moment after 24 years of religious life. A life filled with signs of the «Most high, all powerful, all good Lord».
After 10 years spent in my home province of Portugal, God trusted me and sent me to the province of Burkina-Faso-Niger-Togo to live and serve in the novitiate community. I had to let go of old habits to take on new ones in a country of vast savannah plains of another continent.
Change, whether good or bad, is not something achieved without inconveniences. I felt good in my «saudades» (a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing, so typical of Portuguese culture). I had to let go of familiar realities and leave behind people, sites like Abraham. I however did keep fond memories in my heart of events and people I could never forget.
The first months in my new province were spent getting to know the sisters, the communities, and the various missions. They opened wide their communities and their hearts. Little by little, I befriended «the sisters God gives me».
I live in the novitiate community. My first mission is to be a witness of joy, of the beauty and challenge of being an fmm sister. Daily, I must let the Master take hold of me to savour his Word and to be transformed by Jesus.
This happens throughout the novitiate sessions, the dishes, the cleaning, the liturgy, and the visits to the poor… as well as so many other little things. I also help out in the province in other areas of initial and permanent formation. I have started to collaborate on a mission/formation within the Franciscan family as office assistant of «CCFMC Afrique de l’Ouest» (Fundamental Courses on Franciscan Missionary Charism West Africa).
T.S. Elliot reminds us that «what we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from». This so desired beginning in Burkina Faso is at times intertwined with the end of my 10 year mission in Portugal. It widens the confines of my heart and my horizons.
Exercises to Widen the Confines of One’s Heart? A few examples:
• relearn the office in another language,
• eating new foods, listening to local proverbs,
• enduring the heat reaching 46°C in April/May,
• confronting the hunger and misery for certain women and children whose names and stories are now so familiar,
• opening up to new ways of living my faith,
• encountering my Muslim brothers and sisters, etc.
With the race of God and my sisters’ aid, I try to enculturate and integrate myself in a new province and in a new ministry. It is my own transition process through an interior integration journey with the profound conviction that I have been sent by God.
In «Living Our Name», we can listen to Mary of the Passion: «Whilst making my meditation, I was stuck by this prayer: ‘O God, who commanded that two turtle doves or two small pigeons be offered for the purification of mothers, prepare us to be a living victim, you who made yourself our Victim, who came to accomplish the law and not to destroy it, deign to develop in us the grace of the Gospel in all its richness’. All of our vocation is there: [...] victim doves. We ought to be filled with the grace of the Gospel in all its richness. Then, we will fulfil our reason for being».
My desire is found in these words: total offering to God, be filled with the grace of the Gospel, to be a constant «yes» to God with such a passion for the poorest and the smallest.
The importance is not my ministries today as tomorrow God may wish to change them. The importance is to let go of my ego, so there is room for our Lord. The importance is my love and my offering with my talents and shortcomings in the slightest daily event.
Yes, as I heard it when I was 17 years old: «My beloved is mine and I am his» (Ct 2:16). Tomorrow, what and whom shall I fear?
Ana Luísa Prego, fmm