Italy: The San Basilio community

Daily life of the Little Sisters in Rome

In recent times, no extraordinary events have taken place in the San Basilio district (27,000 inhabitants) on the outskirts of Rome, only the usual raids by the police against the dealers of death (drugs); these drugs are sold by young people who cannot find any other way of obtaining some money.
 
The word ‘outskirts’ awakens something in me: the outskirts of the world, the special place for the mission says Pope Francis. 
 
Recently the district has become a mixture of cultures, races and religions but without creating any particular conflicts; it makes me think of Rome as it was at the beginning of Christianity. 
 
The LSA have lived in this area for 45 years; we are respected and considered to be an essential element of the district. We might even say that our sisters have been in every family whether it be for caring for children, adults or old people, or through catechetics in preparation for baptism, gospel study groups or as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. In the parish we have a little dispensary for minor health care. Our mission is one of simple action, of proximity and sharing. We are poor among the poor, with our strength that is limited due to age and our very small number; however, we follow up social situations of illness, loneliness and abandonment. We don’t do any miracles but seek to ’embody’ our charism: ’May your actions speak Jesus Christ.’ 
 
Some situations we are involved with: 
Aldo: he is a victim of drugs (he used them and sold them); now he is under house arrest. He has been operated on for a cancer and is losing his sight. He does not complain about his illness; he knows he is paying the price of his reckless way of living but he wants to be rehabilitated and this can only happen far away from the neighbourhood. He had hoped to go to a rehabilitation centre but was unable to pay the fees because his invalidity pension has been suspended until a new check has been made. He will soon have to leave the apartment where he is living because the owner (who is in prison) is being released. If a solution is not found, Aldo will have to finish his sentence in prison. Sr Angelina, who is dealing with this case, is continually coming up against difficulties: on the part of the police who do not give Aldo permission to leave the house to make the necessary visits, and on the part of the doctors who do not want to understand the problem … but perhaps one of these days there will be an opportunity. We are placing all of this in the hands of Father Pernet. 
 
Elena J.: 34 years old, the mother of two children aged three and eight. I came to know them through the preparation for the baptism of the two children. Her companion left her over a year ago and for several months has not paid the maintenance for the children because he is unemployed (so he says). Also, a complaint has been made against him for ’stalking’. For her upkeep, Elena accepts whatever work she can find. At present she has a position as a sales assistant in a clothing business, but works in the late afternoon and evening. We help her by looking after the children when they come home from school, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Two small children create some problems for the calm of the community, but nobody complains. I think their presence makes us grow in sisterly feeling and solidarity. 
Unfortunately, Elena, even though she is quite young, has been diagnosed as having necrosis of the hip. She will have to have surgery, a hip replacement, and will need a long period of rehabilitation. We were hoping that the maternal grandparents might help out, but relations are not good between them. We are giving more work to Father Pernet. 
 
Saro and Tina: An elderly couple whom we got to know some years ago through our nursing service. Saro is now 86 and Tina (who has a heart condition) is 90. They live on their own. They have two children in another city. From time to time I call in to see how things are. Last summer I became aware of Saro’s physical decline and blood tests confirmed this. He was hospitalised and operated on for a gastric carcinoma. After a long and difficult convalescence, when things seemed to be improving, a new problem appeared: a metastasis on the skin that was inoperable because it was spreading internally. 
The hospital is not collaborative and it has still not been possible to begin a cancer therapy. 
 
This aged couple are no longer autonomous but do not want to leave their house and move to another city close to their daughter. A carer who would live with them would suffice (this happens in many other cases in our district) but they don’t have the necessary money and the children do not wish to collaborate. For my part, I do the shopping, I argue with the doctors, I treat the tumour and I receive all their gratitude because, thanks to my help, they can continue to live in their environment. However, I ask myself: is it good or bad? Proximity, sharing, words or gestures? 
 
The Fraternity: For thirty years now we have been journeying and evangelising one another. Indeed, our coming together was motivated by our desire to communicate Christ and their desire to deepen their knowledge in line with the spiritual project of Father Pernet to situate the brothers on the ground of their baptism. In the course of this journey there were moments of joy and of difficulty, but there was undeniable growth at the human and spiritual levels. There was great mutual acceptance, openness to the others and also a missionary commitment. Twenty-three members of the fraternity renewed their baptismal promises. 
 
Since 2000 the fraternity has always participated in the international meetings, increasing our knowledge of the other fraternities with great enthusiasm, in spite of the language difficulty. However, this year we had difficulties and were not able to form a small group to go to Brussels: the effects of the economic crisis, the fact that we are ageing, and various other personal situations were obstacles to the visit. 
 
A new link has been created with the Naples group whom we will be meeting on the occasion of the pilgrimage to the catacombs of St Callisto in Rome at the beginning of May. We have sown, someone else will reap. 
 
Camilla 
30/05/2014
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