After 46 years of missionary work in Africa, when I returned, I felt like a stranger in my own country. Today, at my age, I would still like to be useful where I can be of service. Talking with my Sisters in my community helped me find opportunities to be useful. Near our home is the "Vincentian Social Centre", which has a charitable drop-in centre: a non-profit association of social service to welcome people who are sick, in great distress, or homeless. The homeless can shower, shave, have a coffee and even an all-you-can-eat breakfast, take away a parcel, and even clothes. The most interesting thing is the "weaving" of relationships between them, the volunteers, and me. The volunteers accepted me and gave me the task of talking to the people who use the center. Sitting at the same table, chatting, and asking them for news is a welcome gesture of equality for these people whose dignity is wounded. For my part, I know something of their world, and I want to be an attentive and liberating listener, despite my limitations. Like Jesus, who was attracted by the little ones who were poor in heart, who had nothing to show, and who manifested himself to them. The bread to give in the streets around us.
Every time I see a poor person, it is a confrontation, and I feel indebted to them. We know that uneaten food ends up in the rubbish, often the poor empty the bins at night in search of food or anything else they need. The sisters in my community observed that there was food thrown away in the garbage of the restaurant in front of our house. We agreed with the owner of the restaurant to collect at the end of the day what was not sold (which was going to the garbage) so as to distribute it to the poor. In the evening, I collect the leftovers, and then the Sisters help me prepare carefully. The next day, I leave with the cart to look for friends in the streets of our neighborhood. It is a relationship of friendship that I try to have with these people. By asking the question, "Have you had breakfast?", the dialogue continues, the friendship is strengthened, and I have the impression that I have gained a brother or sister.
One of them is Polish, sad because he slept under the colonnade of the Vatican in the cold and had his blankets stolen eight times. To come and beg, he dragged his briefcase with his few belongings; he walks with two crutches. He wanted a bed and a place to take a shower. I tried to help him, but without success. I thought it would be better to ask the Pope's chaplain at the Vatican, and he replied kindly. I appreciate his availability, and within two minutes we were in front of this man, who explained his case in Polish because the monsignor is Polish. They agreed to transfer him near Tiburtina Station to a center where there is also medical care. We became great friends. He comes back to beg; he takes bread, says what he needs. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than making someone happy with small things.
On the first Tuesday of every month, I volunteer with the Sisters of St. Teresa of Calcutta in the Vatican, who house between 15 and 20 homeless women. I help prepare the meals. Afterwards, I meet the women and spend time talking to them. Sometimes the Ambassador offers meals that she has prepared beautifully. It is a pleasure to see this procession of women in elegant clothes serving their delicious meals with such refinement, and it is a feast for all.
Via dei Gracchi, Italy, Rome