Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Visiting the Pauline World: South Sudan

At work in the soundproof booth.
While our work at the seminar here in Rome is quite intense, the talks have been wonderful. While I have been translating them, I am interiorly offering wordless prayers (the old books would call them "pious aspirations") that all we are hearing might somehow become fully real in our lives. That was especially the case today, when several of the talks converged on dimensions of community life and mission.

At mealtimes, having the 50+ sisters in a dining room with marble floors and a hard ceiling can make it pretty hard to conduct conversations. There is a general sound of enthusiastic chatter, but distinguishing which of the sounds are coming from the person across the table and which from across the room has discouraged me (for the most part) from pursuing anything substantial. (Besides, there is the question of language... in general, the English speakers have staked out a table in one corner, but I like to wander about the room meeting new sisters and renewing old acquaintances.)

This evening I sat next to the "other" Sister Anne in the assembly (there are, in all some eight sisters here named Anne/Anna/Ana; we'll try to get a photo together before this is all over). The other Sister Anne-with-an-E is from Kenya, but she has spent the past five years in Juba, South Sudan where she is especially involved in radio. Juba is little more than a village, but because there is oil in the region, the whole world is interested and present. The sisters minister among a population that has been profoundly traumatized by violence. They also have to be extremely prudent in their broadcasts, since even the most innocent statement can be taken the wrong way and cause negative repercussions.
Sister Anne, Sister Anne, and Sister Anna (Mother General!)

Our East Africa delegation (that is a kind of organizational "unit" in a religious congregation) hosts the international novitiate for all of Africa. French-speaking novices from Congo, Madagascar or Cameroon have to learn English; the English-speakers from Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda (etc) are required to learn either French or Italian (which will help them later when they prepare for final vows with the international group here in Italy). Sister Anne and I were speaking in Italian, since the sisters across from us (from Spain and Japan) both knew it and could follow the thread of the conversation (if they could actually hear us), but Sister Anne is also learning Arabic, which is the basic language of the people in South Sudan. (The radio broadcast is in English and Arabic.)

The chapel here at Casa San Paolo.
Sister Anne did her preparation for final vows in Italy with two of our American sisters (she sends a big greeting to Sister Jennifer Thecla and Sister Joane Caritas!); actually several of the sisters here remembered one or two sisters from their "corso" (course of preparation) in Italy. Yesterday our Congolese sister was telling me that she was in the group with Sister Fay Josephine and Sister "Christine"--but I couldn't figure out (until evening) that she was referring to Sister Christina Miriam (who is in the same Boston community as I!).

I'll be looking forward to other occasions when I can hear the sister next to me to share more with you. In the meantime, our schedule also includes Mass on Wednesday in the chapel where Blessed James Alberione's tomb is (followed by a Jubilee Pilgrimage through the Holy Door at the Basilica of St Paul). Please join me in praying for the Tighe family of California, whose unborn baby Luke has been diagnosed with a condition that of itself does not offer much hope of survival. The parents are praying to do God's will, but also invoking the intercession of Blessed James who promised that from Heaven he would particularly concern himself with those who make use of modern media, as these young "hipster" parents, do, "in holiness, in Christ and in the Church." You can bet that Blessed James will be getting an earful from me on Wednesday morning; don't let me be the only one he hears from on that day!

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