Learning begins by observing. It seems easy to say, but if we really think, we acknowledge that many things prevent us from observing well such as prejudices, fears, insecurities, and one’s own ideas. For me, these first months in Bangladesh (after my arrival in Dhaka on 30th October 2019), have certainly been the time to learn. Learning a new language, learning to adjust to a new climate, learning to eat different food, learning to accept one own’s difficulties, and often one does not understand what is going on there around.
Yes, it is time to learn, but is it also time to observe? In order to observe we need patience, humility, silence, to observe one must often be silent. Most of the time, the opportunity of observing depends on me! Last Christmas, I had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Muladuli, the apostolic community of MSI situated in an area of villages, where our sisters do the work of evangelization, in the pastoral care of the parish, family visits and work in the school. This was a favorable time for me to observe especially Sr. Gertrude and Sr. Philomena, Missionary sisters of the Immaculate for many years in Bangladesh.
One day, I went to visit a nearby village with Sr. Philomena. We went together with the parish priest for an outside mass in an interior village. After the mass, they provided us food as for the Bengali tradition. Noticing that I was not very comfortable eating with my hands as they are used to doing here, they immediately looked for a fork and they found it. Since I am a beginner at Bengali language, they wanted me to say or understand something, in order to make me feel involved in the community. Then, the head of the family, a man in his 40s, said to me: “you know, Sr. Philomena was at my parents’ wedding! She also knows all my children and my grandchildren … four generations! “. I continue to observe.
Just after Christmas, one afternoon we went to visit the houses on foot, to greet and to see our Christians in the village. Here all the houses are built according to the economic possibilities in clay or mud or rarely in bricks, with a small vegetable garden and, where it is possible, a few cows or goats for the family’s sustenance. I saw sr. Philomena going freely to the courtyard and looking towards the vegetable garden saying: “Well, when did you plant this? I had never seen it in your garden. How many shoots on your tree this year, you will see how many fruits will come! We shall thank God”. And I still observe.
And it is there I seem to learn, to change for a moment from an idea of a decisive, organizational, decision-making mission, which prepares programs, which changes things… It was the time to perceive a mission that stays close to people, that lives with them, which in ordinary life becomes a simple and transparent presence of the care of God.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Mt 10: 29-31).
For a loving heart, everything concerning the others deserves attention: what you have eaten, how you have slept, what vegetables you grow in your garden, who are all the members of your family etc… And in that care many people who are often forgotten by the dominant culture we all of us possess. As Christians and missionaries, we are expected to be a presence that rediscovers and transforms the reality in which we are present a place loved by God. A beautiful adventure!
…and my formation keeps going!
sr. Lorenza Radini, Provincia Bangladesh