Sr Leah, Missionary sister of the Immaculate from Papua, is preparing for her new mission in Guinea-Bissau by studying the language in Portugal.
I am Sr. Leah Baitu, Papuan Missionary Sister of the Immaculate, in preparation for the mission in Guinea-Bissau, a small country located on the west coast of Africa. One of the most important moments in preparation for leaving on a mission is the study of the language. By studying the language, you also get to know the culture, understand how the people of that country think, live, and know their habits and customs.
On 26 September 2022, I arrived in Portugal to begin my Portuguese studies at the Cambridge School. The Comboni Sisters warmly welcomed me. When I started my studies, I was excited and eager to immerse myself in a new culture and to explore this beautiful country.
Portugal is a country with a rich and diverse culture that has been shaped by its history, geography and people. Portuguese culture is known for its warm and welcoming people, rich traditions, vibrant music and dance, and delicious cuisine. The Portuguese people are known for their hospitality and friendliness. They are warm and welcoming to visitors and often go out of their way to make them feel at home. The Portuguese are also known for their love of family; family values are an important part of their culture. One of the most important traditions of Portugal is the “Festa dos Santos Populares”, which is a celebration of the country’s patron saints. This festival takes place in June and is celebrated with parades, music, dancing and lots of food.
During my time in Portugal, I visited many historical places and museums, which broadened my knowledge of the country’s history. One of the most important places I visited was Lisbon, the famous capital of Portugal. The city has a blend of modern and traditional architecture and the people are hospitable and friendly.
In Lisbon, I visited Belém, the famous neighborhood known for its historical significance. The Belém Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, two iconic landmarks of Lisbon, fascinated me. The intricate design and detailing of these monuments demonstrate the rich culture and heritage of the country.
Another place that left a lasting impression on me was the town of Sintra, an hour from Lisbon. The city is known for its unique architecture and picturesque landscape. The colorful buildings, castles and parks of Sintra create a fairytale atmosphere, leaving me in awe of the beauty of Portugal.
Besides the historical sites, I was also very happy with the opportunity to learn about the rich culture of Portugal. I enjoyed the traditional Portuguese cuisine with its unique flavors and tastes. The friendly people and their warm hospitality made my stay even more memorable.
In addition, I met many people of different nationalities, which broadened my horizons and made me appreciate different cultures.
The majority of the Portuguese population is Roman Catholic, with religion playing a significant role in their daily lives. The country is home to many beautiful churches and religious sites, including the famous Fatima Sanctuary, which attracts millions of pilgrims each year. I too participated in the traditional celebration of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, the day on which the apparition to the three shepherd children took place. On that day, children up to the age of 10 were blessed and placed under the protection of the Blessed Virgin.
As I walked to the shrine, I could feel the energy and devotion of the thousands who had gathered there. The atmosphere was filled with a sense of peace and tranquillity and I could feel the love and compassion of the Virgin Mary surrounding me. People moved by their faith to the sanctuary, the crippled, the sick, the old, the blind, the young and the elderly. The procession in the night that left me speechless. Despite the winter season, the night came with its terrible cold, but the people’s faith was stronger than the cold they felt on their skin.
During my stay in Portugal I also attended the youth group of the parish close to the community where I lived, I participated in prayer with them, I animated the liturgy by singing in the choir.
The Cambridge School has given me the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds, exchange stories and learn from each other. Overall, my experience in Portugal was enriching and I will cherish the memories forever.
The country’s unique history, culture and landscape have left me with a deep admiration for Portugal. Full of cultural diversities, beautiful landscapes and pleasant encounters. It is a place that I will always love and hold dear to my heart. It was like my first mission. It was truly an amazing experience.
Sr. Leah Baitu, Guinea-Bissau