I am Martha Appa, I come from an extended family of nine with three mothers and a father, but in my biological family, there are five of us, including parents. It sounds strange to others, but for me, growing up in such a large family has been a blessing and a special gift from God that I always treasure.
Born and raised in a family with a strong Catholic tradition, I could say that I received this vocation through my family. They are the ones who taught me Christian values and showed me an exemplary life and thanks to them, I am here.
Arriving in Rome, a holy and foreign land was an unexpected gift. I never thought I could do my novitiate here. In these two years, I have lived many beautiful and surprising experiences.
I have accompanied autistic children and adults in the game of rugby and have been a volunteer in the service of disabled people. From them I learned humility and simplicity. Their dependence on others and their always smiling faces gave me a message of hope, courage and a reason to live. They made me reflect on the value of my life, they made me experience God’s closeness and love.
At the beginning, it was not easy to fit into their culture, their lifestyle, their way of doing, thinking and speaking. It was challenging to learn Italian, I couldn’t express myself as I wanted, it wasn’t always clear what I wanted to say, I wasn’t always able to fully communicate what I thought. Sometimes discouragement made itself felt, but I learned to be humble and patient.
I participated in a social camp at Calabria and one episode in particular struck me a lot. One day, at dawn we went to the streets to meet street girls and prostitutes, with the intension of helping them. We met a very young girl, 22 years old, who shared with us her story and how she ended up in this life. After telling her past, she said that a good man wanted to marry her but she refused because she was ashamed of her being a prostitute and she was afraid of being judged. Fear of others’ judgment, prevented her from taking a step to change her life.
I felt very sorry for her… because she could not free herself from her judgement, from the labels that others attached to her and this did not allow her to be herself. It also happens to us that we are afraid of who we are, we give more weight to what others think of us, to what others want from us, to current fashions, we follow others because everyone does this… As Blessed Carlo Acutis says, “We are all born original, but many die as photocopies”.
That little episode made me reflect on myself and the courage and freedom to realize who I really am. The journey I am taking to become a missionary always places before me courageous choices, to bear witness to my faith, to tell about Jesus with my life, even when this involves going against the tide. I thank the Lord for all those wonderful experiences I have had and I sincerely thank all those who help me and support me with their prayers in many ways during my formative journey.
Martha Appa, International Novitiate, Rome