In 2015, I swapped the school activity that occupied me from morning to night with a much more flexible responsibility at the Centre for Arabic Dialectal Studies. Then, I was offered an opportunity to take part in the Transition Session for Missionaries of Africa and Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa in Rome due to begin in September 2016. I immediately accepted feeling a bit confused that after 3/4 of a century of life, I still had a lot to learn! Indeed it was to be a turning point. It was a new experience as I found myself with a group of MSOLA whom I had known way back in my early years of training. We were all of the same generation. While in a school one does not feel old because one group of young people is replaced by another every year but now I expressed the surprise I felt at the time, “But I am the same age as my mother!” It provoked me into looking at my future. It was a new experience for me to stand before my ‘future’ when I thought I had gained a lot of ‘experience’ in life. As St. Paul says: “I continue my pursuit towards the goal…in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3, 14). So I was happy with this time of reviewing, prayer, reflection and sharing, especially working in small groups where there was a richness of diversity among the M.Afr and MSOLA participants. In this we perceived the wonders of God and His discreet but active presence in our hearts according to the different missions and circumstances of life, all done in an atmosphere of peace, rest and leisure with the help of our experienced guides.
|Melika in the Raspail garden of Tunis
I seized the moment of grace when it presented itself! What could I wish for now? Now, the Lord has offered me this year (2017) to live near my older sisters and to know them better. Their smile, their patience, their fidelity to prayer, their love of Africa, their missionary zeal… and their joy… in a setting that seems austere to me after a life of activity and relationships.
|Melika with Massika (training of an instructor at the Centre for Arabic Dialectal Studies).
At the Centre where I am now, my activities are more adapted to my strengths. I still feel ‘in transition.’ But I recognise the need to persevere. I do a little mental exercise: I try to project myself into the future and ask myself: What do I need to change? What help should I look for?
What is life like in this new nursing home environment? What qualities does this new “novitiate” demand of me? I am no longer living in the framework of a classic community; my daily life is now shared with laypeople. At first, it is good to keep in contact with the world, discover the ‘peripheries’ nearby. Yes, discovering a new field of apostolate can motivate me, but I still need to prepare myself for it. Will there be others in the same situation ready to share our difficulties and doubts? Not all nursing homes are the same. Adaptation is necessary. What is the Lord asking me in this situation? By faith, we know He is there! But a great deal of spiritual help is needed to accept daily life and its annoyances, to maintain the availability, the generosity and the good mood! A lot will depend on how I coped with the previous stages of my life.
In this situation where initiatives and strengths are limited (?) ; it is necessary to remain positive. Certainly, many things are organized for the enjoyment of life. However, we can find ourselves in a situation where we feel humiliated, forgotten, neglected; it is a time of diminution. I would appreciate any help in recalling God’s gifts and graces, to see in them a call to go beyond myself, to follow Christ and to nurture my desire to meet Him. (A neighbour of mine has replaced the word ‘death’ in the “Hail Mary” with “pray for us now and at the time of the meeting” pointing upwards and not downwards)! Small things that can help me live. I hope to find a way that will keep me open to the world, to prevent myself from falling asleep too much, to retain a healthy curiosity about things that can make me feel alive: biblical reflection, high-quality reading, to be aware of the evolution of the world and, if the faculties allow it, to benefit from the progress and the contributions of technology (Internet, why not…). No matter what hare-brained ideas I may have, I know that from the time of Abraham, it is God who provides! So, basically it’s trust! As Article 22 of our Constitutions says:
“In Christ, to begin again each day, to persevere in difficult situations, accept sufferings, departures, diminutions, everything becomes a source of Life.”
And let us not forget the joys and happiness of so many decades. May God be blessed!
Sr. Marie (Melika), msola