This word of God invites, with clarity and haste, to live an experience that, I believe, every one deeply desires, at least once in his/her lifetime. This word gave me the strength, when, after several years in which I wished to have an experience like this, the right moment came. Not earlier, nor later.
I left on 2 January at 10.05pm and, after three flights, I arrived in Papua New Guinea on 4 January, at 7.20am, in Port Moresby. To reach Bereina, where the community lives, we had to travel three hours more. This last part of the trip that crosses the peripheries prepared me to face what I was going to experience. I saw that the ordinary life there is made of absolute poverty, of young people who walk whole day without destination and purpose, maybe just searching for something to eat or waiting for somebody who might be of help.
During my stay, I helped Sr. Anna who is a nurse as I am. People come to have their wounds dressed (they easily get infected due to the lack of hygiene) or for fever, pain here or there or, simply, to find some care and comfort. St. Pio was right saying: if you don’t give love to the sick, medicines are useless. Behind any physical pain, there is the need of the soul for infinite love, the need to be loved, appreciated, protected, listened to, advised… Who, if not God, can make us capable of being of real help to those in need?
I go back to my day. Everyday Lucy is taken care of and placed on a wheelchair. She is 45 years old and she cannot stretch her arms and legs due to a calcification of the articulation (the reason of this sickness is unknown). Julienne and Erika come twice a week for physiotherapy, Julienne because she spent long time in ICU for meningitis. We also handled the care of people wounded in a car accident, including one with concussion… a real adventure! And we did it without all the procedures required in the hospitals, but surely with creativity, prudence and faith! Kevin now is fine, everything went according to God’s will. It is rainy season, one day a 4 years old child, cold and wet, arrived: we welcomed him, cared for him and fed him. In the villages many huts are destroyed, people come to ask for help and the sisters offer it without hesitation, their house is open to everybody: whatever the reason (health, food, emotional need), there are never answers like “I cannot, I am busy, I will do it later”, but if there is a need, they answer immediately. And your act of charity finds value when you see Christ in the person you help! How many times we smiled, thinking: “like St. Giuseppe Moscati, we could prescribe a kg of red meat, a new house and some fish!”. The mission is so wide that you forget yourself, there is no time to be selfish. The most beautiful thing is the proof that we can be happy with nothing, if there is Love in its highest meaning.
In everything, they help each other, so that everybody can do everything: this is wonderful! Each one of them does what he/she is inclined for: someone teaches, someone cooks, somebody else works in the garden, in constructions, somebody bakes, another makes the repairs… But then, with charity, each one teaches to the others who then discover their talents too. In this way, they exchange gifts, potentialities, charisms, or, we may say, they create one body from many different parts, held together by the love of God. “Only when the journey is made at the pace of the weakest one, it is the journey of a people, because it is going from I to we, from mine to ours”.
I would define this family as multiethnic, because Filipinos, Vietnamese, Italians, Australian, Papuan (from different tribes), some consecrated, others married, young, adults, girls, old people and many children make one community, sharing everything (and there are animals too). They enrich each other and they enriched me in a welcoming and generous way. Thank you, from the depths of my heart. And then… they laugh a lot! Nothing is a problem! They laugh so much that you are carried to laugh with them. Even a dramatic situation can become funny!
I give thanks to Sister Caterina for having encouraged me. Going out from one’s mindset is always useful! I give thanks to the sisters for their choice of consecrated life in this mission; the children who teach you motherly love and patience; the postulants for their purity and youthfulness; the women who help in the house; the boys (coming from a difficult background) for their protection and care and for the help they give to Matteo and Riccardo in constructing the buildings around.
I give thanks to all and to each one, because my experience would not have been the same without each one of you!
Thank you, may the Lord bless you now and forever.
Maria Stella Petrillo