Portugal - The Joy of Meeting again / Our mission during the different stages of life

For all of that I give thanks to God and to the Congregation and may the Lord continue to help me to build the Reign in the midst of this people… thus opening my heart to his project of Love and of Goodness.

The Lord said to Abraham: ’Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you.’ (Gn 12:1) 
As many of you know, it is now twelve years since I left my country and was sent on mission: five years in Spain and seven in the Congo. 
Pope Francis says that ’missionary activity is the most important duty of the Church’. 
I never carried out that mission on my own. It was thanks to the support of the community and of the people of the place where I was sent that it became a reality. They were times of joy, with the discovery of other cultures, sharing, new experiences and learning many new things. In the daily contact with others I discovered that, in spite of everything, another world is possible. Then the time came to return to home, not without a feeling of nostalgia, but I was pleased and happy to have carried out the mission that had been confided to me. 
A new blank page opened before me this year when I returned to my country. It was proposed that I take a "Sabbatical Year" – a gift from God that the Congregation has offered me during this year for the Consecrated Life. It was a favourable moment to benefit from all the riches that the CIRP (Conference of Portuguese Religious Institutes) offers us in the course of the year. It is very enriching and has helped me to renew myself spiritually and gave new life to my "Yes" with a heart that was open and available to the action of the Holy Spirit. I was also able to follow series of lectures on Theology, Sacred Scripture etc. that are offered throughout the year, organised by the Redemptorists. The work I had to do for the course on Sacred Scripture helped me to carry out some research and make discoveries in the books of the bible. I did some work on the book of Ruth and I now have another assignment, on the prophet Nahum, a little-known prophet but one who has a beautiful message… These month have been a time to savour and explore the Scriptures. 
The return to my place of origin was very positive and satisfying. Now I have the "joy of meeting again" some friends, who are now religious, with whom I had been during the postulate and years of temporary vows. 
I have the "Joy" of being one of the community of Vila Nova de Gaia, which is so well inserted among the people, with great missionary energy. I feel I am an active member of it, participating in the same mission, responding to the varied small services that are asked of me and which are helping me to know "my people" – so pleasant and welcoming – to whom I have been sent. 
At the request of the directress of the local Social Centre, I go there for a few hours each week to do some sewing. This is to use fabrics they have been given to make some products that will be sold at the social shop; I also have some other activities with the elderly people. 
On hearing of the arrival of an Assumption Sister from the missions in Africa, some catechists in our parish who are very aware of world realities, invited me to share my missionary experience with the group of teenagers. It was beautiful and gratifying to see that there are still adults and young people who show an interest in learning about world realities and who wish to do something for others. 
Also, in the course of a meeting, one of the sisters with responsibility in the CIRP of the diocese of Porto invited me to go to her parish, at some distance from Porto, to take part in a group of the Youth and Vocations Ministry. I was to give my testimony and talk of my experience with regard to vocations and the mission. There were almost ninety young people there. My contribution was followed by a very interesting dialogue. 
For me it was a time for sharing with them what it was that attracted us to the religious life and to clarify that, to follow Jesus Christ, one does not have to be rare persons but somebody who is truly impassioned for God and for His Reign. 
For all of that I give thanks to God and to the Congregation and may the Lord continue to help me to build the Reign in the midst of this people… thus opening my heart to his project of Love and of Goodness. 
Maria de Lurdes, 
Community of Vila Nova de Gaia 

Portugal - Our mission during the different stages of life
In reflecting on our Mission, from the time when I entered the Congregation up to the present, I feel great joy on seeing how, over time, our mission field has been taking on new forms and meeting new challenges. 
As we have already mentioned in other issues of the Pain de Chez Nous, the mission field that was opened to us from the time of our arrival in Vila Nova de Gaia made ts possible for us to enter slowly into the families and to have first-hand knowledge of the reality of this district with its needs, its values and its Deep thirst for God. ’A field that was open for a New Evangelisation’. 
In collaboration with the Social Services of the area we accompanied at close hand some difficult cases of persons in complicated situations for whom it was difficult to see a favourable outcome. With a great deal of work and perseverance we succeeded in finding either a place in a home or some domiciliary support for them. 
Through this service I could see great solidarity between neighbours and the persons who saw us at work. I recall here an elderly woman, very poor, who gave the only pack of milk she had to a neighbour who was hungry; another woman with two daughters to educate and who worked during the day – for years she used to give water to a neighbour who did not have any, taking him food from what she had prepared for her family or inviting him to their table. These are beautiful stories of love, known only to the Lord. 
At present there are many families whom I visit to take blood pressure, those who need that service; this give me the possibility of entering many houses and journeying with the families. We talk together, I listen to their complaints, we pray, I bring communion to many persons each week, I accompany terminally ill persons during that final stage with a perspective of hope: to go to the meeting with the God of love and mercy where, as St John tells us, Jesus has already gone to prepare a place for us. 
Age, our frailties and everything that life brings us make us more sensitive to the problems of others and enables us to see further ahead, perhaps to what is essential. At present I try to share my faith and my hope more, to give time to cultivating friendship, to bring the embrace of God to so many persons who are in need of love, to say with words and gestures that Our God is tenderness, mercy and closeness. He is Father/Mother who looks at us with love, listens to us and frees, through specific actions, those whom He sends to us along the path towards the Father’s house. 
As a volunteer in the Hospital, I experience moments of prayer and the discovery of the deep faith of many persons who are suffering and who live a life of great intimacy with the Lord of Life. Some ask for Communion every day and others receive Communion on Sunday. 
Also, with some families and employees, we are messengers of the presence of God who helps them in their work of caring well for their patients. 
I think that our mission can go on changing but, if we are attentive, it will continue to be a sign of the presence of God in the world at all times. 
Maria Adelaïde Oliveira
Community of Vila Nova de Gaia


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