And if this is my Mission today ?

A beautiful testimony from a Little Sister of the Ouest Europe/Africa Province who arrived in Belgium from France in June 2009

’In a retirement home, is the LSA mission still alive? Yes! Whatever the place or our age there are many, many people to be loved.’ 
This is a beautiful testimony from a Little Sister of the Ouest Europe/Africa Province who arrived in Belgium from France in June 2009 to take up residence in the Care Home La Chanterelle. 
La Chanterelle is in Gembloux in the province of Namur, between Brussels and Namur, a town with a population of about 12,000. It is marked by the University Faculty of Agricultural Science with a multi-cultural student body. La Chanterelle was formerly a private hospital that was taken over and renovated in 1984 by the ACIS (Christian Association of Social and Health Institutions). There are 120 residents, nine of them LSA. There is also a day centre with medical care which receives about ten people each day. Their deep purpose has been expressed as follows: ’The future of our elders is at the heart of our projects.’ 
It is a joy to us to offer you this very simple and hope-filled testimony: ’And if this is my Mission today?’ 
 
Testimony
 
I entered the Little Sisters of the Assumption a little over 65 years ago. Here is a brief account of my life now. 
 
In the Congregation we committed ourselves to offer our lives to Christ through the intermediary of our superiors. It was thus that we lived out being sent to different mission places. The opening up brought by the Council enabled us to experience these steps in greater dialogue. That was the way that I agreed, some time ago, to go to a retirement home. Personally I did not feel there was any urgency, as I still was active physically, but I was forgetting my age and was not yet able to envisage this opportunity of having a bit more rest and time for myself. Remembering the day of my profession when, with my whole heart I had said ’yes’ to the Lord for a complete gift, without any going back, I tried little by little to give my consent to the reality of today, to say ’yes’ to this stage, doubtless the last, by trying to adapt as quickly and as well as possible, with the certainty that ’grace’ never abandons us. 
So, I arrived in a medium-sized community that lives in a big house of over 100 people, men and women. I had the good fortune to be guided by the sisters of my community in discovering the customs there, but it was ’I myself’, the Little Sister, a new resident, who had to listen to what the Lord was expecting of me here. I remain a missionary LSA and it is a call to open out to all those around me: residents and staff. 
 
I have great belief in the importance of the community for our religious life: it is first of all with my sisters that I try ’to be there’, attentive, listening, loving, so as to get to know them, to get used to their way of doing things and to give a witness of unity and communion. 
To be a resident means that one remains oneself, but also that one accepts a certain degree of dependence, leaving the responsibility to others. Knowing how to wait, accepting what comes by seeing the positive side first – it is so easy to become critical when one no longer has very much to do, and this can spoil the atmosphere in the house. Life is made up of so many little things when you live in a large group! 
 
’I want to live’, that is, remain a Little Sister right to the end, not to let myself go, for as long as this is still possible for me, organise my time a little. In our life as active Little Sisters the contemplative part of our days had always been important for me and here I can easily take the time to pray. I like reading – how often I used to think: ’When I’m retired, I’ll read!’ Thank you Lord, for having left me my eyesight. I want to be up to date with current affairs, to know what is going on in the world and in the Church, the trends of thought, what worthwhile books there are, the documents and news of the Congregation, the life of the younger sisters etc. Jesus did not ask me to be just an activist, He wanted me to be a religious. I find Him in the silence of my room, and also in the chapel as we have the good fortune to have one. I find Him also in the contact with the other residents, sometimes in a very hidden and austere way, we have to look for Him, but He is there. 
 
In spite of everything, bit by bit relations develop, some residents like to have a visit in their room, a warm atmosphere sets in. Jesus talks to us through others. Who am I before this mother of a family, still relatively young, who is seriously ill? She asked that we would pray together and I was dumbfounded by her prayer which was said with so much faith: ’Lord, give me strength in my illness. I know that you can heal me if you will….’ and then I couldn’t understand the end of it very well. 
 
There, those few notes tell something about my new life in a retirement home – people find that I am blooming! So much the better, I am happy and at peace in the simplicity of the life of an old person. 
 
When I think that it was not my own choice! I am sent by the Congregation, a missionary Little Sister right to the end through a presence. Didn’t somebody write to me for my arrival here: ’there are many, many people to love’. And if that is my mission today ? 
 
Sister Reine, Gembloux community 
 
12/04/2011
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