As of late Saturday night, we are now (and for the rest of the summer) a community in which over half the sisters' native languages are not English. Sister Lusia learned English in school back in Samoa, but nobody actually spoke it, so she learned spoken English when she entered the convent. But her experience is surely a comfort to Sr Marta, who is here to learn English (Sr Hortensia will be consoled, too, but she hasn't arrived yet). Srs. Marta and Hortensia are in the US from their native Argentina and Mexico for our new Pauline outreach to the Spanish-speaking population.
We are excited to have them in Chicago even if only for two months or so, because they will be able to network with the leaders in Hispanic ministry, and help us begin to broaden our mission beyond the people who happen upon our downtown bookstore.
The sisters studied English last summer, but in the meantime they have been living in Miami, which is its own Spanish-speaking universe. Our entire Miami community is bilingual. Here in Chicago, not so much. And until Thursday night, it's just me, Sr Marta and Sr Lusia here, so our efforts at conversation have been ... interesting. Sr Marta spent some time in Italy (as well as Brazil), so in attempting to express herself, she falls to the congregation's heritage language, with English nouns when she knows them. And it's hard for me not to lapse into Italian as well, out of the desire to simply communicate. But Sr Lusia doesn't know Italian, so then I have to translate for her.
And then we all laugh...in the same language.