As a missionary when I look back to my experience, I feel joyful because I can truly say with all my heart that I could be nothing else in my life but to be a missionary.
Since an early age, the prayer of priests, of missionaries, attracted me because I knew they were those who bear witness to Jesus to so many people who did not have the opportunity to know Him. In fact, I have always been very impressed by Jesus’ words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few”, although what was fundamental for my choice to become a missionary was a film entitled ‘Molokai, Father Damiano, Apostle of the lepers’. It is about Fr. Damiano, who spent his life serving leprosy patients.
When I watched this film, I cried a lot. I came home and I told my mother that if Jesus had called me to choose the same life, I would have been ready to serve those sick people.
I met the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate by chance thanks to Fr. Romolo Campus, Missionary of PIME in India. After a long correspondence with Sr. Grazia Villa, who was also a vocation promoter, I left my beloved Sardegna to go to Milan without my father’s permission. At the end of the novitiate, our Mother asked me what I would like to do in the mission… and I had not forgotten my wish: I told her I wanted to take care of leprosy patients! Later, I was very happy and I studied nursing with a specialization in leprology.
After a few years, I was destined to India. I remember that when Mother Ausilia destined me to India, I lifted her from her chair out of joy. I left Italy in 1977 to reach my beloved and desired India.
I spent my first years in Andhra Pradesh, in Bhimavaram, where I learned, not without difficulty, the Telugu language and then Hindi in order to understand and to get closer to my patients’ sufferings and style of life.
In those first years in Bhimavaram I met a poor woman, a leprosy patient, who came to get medicated. When I removed the bandage, I saw a tangle of worms… My first thought was to run away but a kind of inner strength stopped me and I did the dressing with joy. Since then I have never had such a feeling of detachment and rejection again and I have been in the mission for 43 years. I thank Jesus for being so loving and healing, and for teaching us to do the same.
Later in time, I was destined to Bombay, where we have a small leprosy patient hospital, a hostel for girls. That place has now turned into a true home for me.
Thinking of the most beautiful things in missionary life, I certainly feel the joy of having fulfilled my dream of witnessing Jesus. The people I met already own the meaning of God but, through my service among the poor, I feel that I can show some features of Jesus’ mercy, which does not exclude anyone, in a culture where a leprosy patient is often judged as cursed by God.
I find it fundamental to say to those who have to insert themselves in the mission, to have an open heart, a welcoming attitude and a spirit of adaptation. Considering my own experience, I can definitely say it has not always been easy, but what’s important is giving value to every experience, both in the community and with people outside, even though it might be different from our culture of origin. It is essential to take everything to Jesus, without whom it would be impossible to turn our actions into an authentic free witness of His Gospel.
Go…. I will be with you every day until the end of the world
These words warm our hearts and save us: the presence of Jesus who has always been ready to show me the way, to support me, since the first day, for these 43 years, till the end of my life!
sr. Lucia Pala, India-Hyderabad