Oh yes, this year we will blow out 20 candles!

A few years later, I started to belong to this MSI Lay Associates. I made my first mission experience in 1998. It all started at the age of thirty when I started to ask within myself those existential questions that did not make me feel comfortable! I am Christina regular to the church for the Sunday Mass. I felt the desire to have a serious conversation with my parish priest. In the formal talk with him I expressed what bothered me. At that moment he invited me to the oratory to take care of the children. I accepted the invitation. Later I felt to have been part of the community. Eventually it made me to realize the purpose of my life. In other way it can be said that I was accepted as one of them. Slowly I became part of other parish groups including the missionary group.

One evening, during a decanal meeting, I met a missionary sister belonging to the Purification congregation missionary in Brazil by chance, she invited me simply to visit her mission. My reaction was immediately to say: “But what can I do?” And then I declined the invitation. However, this sister left me a telephone number to contact the organizer of the group. Even though there were so many fears within me and above all a great sense of inadequacy, that invitation did not leave me indifferent. The time passed quickly. Then, an article written by that same sister in which she greeted her community before returning to her mission. Having been surprised, I decided to telephone, even though I had all my fear. I left for São Luis do Maranhao (Northeastern Brazil).

In this first experience the impact with the reality of the place was tangible and heart-rending. There was lot of difference between the existence of poverty somewhere unknown to me and the same in front of my eyes. I could experience it personally in Brazil. We visited families of the locality who were poor and receive help from Italy at a distance.

When I returned from Brazil, I resumed the parish life. The parish life ran with tight schedule which probably did not let me do anything else. Once again I happened to meet a person who told me about the successful journey of Youth and Mission organized by PIME as well as the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate. In order to know their work and the mission better, I made an appointment with one of the responsible persons in charge of this journey. In that brief conversation I felt my life to have been part of the mission. So I started the journey of Youth and Mission.

In the following summer I was asked to return to the same mission in Brazil. They organized a summer work camp for the expansion of one of the schools run by the sisters. I immediately accepted the invitation (We became a group of friends at that time!). And I must say that that was a special experience. The reason was that we lived in a small house near the school in the midst of the people. The Brazilian masons provided us a drink cerveja (beer) after the work. Almost every evening we used to receive regular visitors that highlighted a truly unique human experience.

After that summer, I decided to start the Vocational Journey organized by PIME. Unexpectedly, in the month of August two proposals of mission experience were proposed to me:  one in Brazil the same mission which I already did and the other one was proposed by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate, with a destination yet to be defined and with unknown companions. The Word of God that echoed at that time within me was the episode of the rich young man to whom the Lord asked to sell everything and follow him.

What did the Lord ask of me? The mission is to rely on someone who is greater than us and I was asked to leave all my fear (which were there still anyway) and also all my certainties and certain priorities (I need it so much!). I arrived to the new destination to Cameroon and with a new companion together with another girl who continued the vocational journey.

In Cameroon I was able to live the mission in a different way. There, I was able to know the life style of MSI and I would say that I fell in love with the mission: their openness and acceptance of all, their availability, being always among the people, speaking the local language and, in a particular way the human promotion. All these made me to realize that this was the life for me.

Once I came back my home I would have searched for a journey that would make me feel at home. But I would not have been happy to the same journey of Youth and Mission which usually begins in September and ends in June as I had done until now. I would have searched for something that would involve my whole life. I was asked by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate to be part of their Lay Associate Group. At the time, I did not know the existence of the Lay Associate groups associated to Missionary Institutes. The proposal left me a bit perplexed but I wanted to participate in one of their meetings anyway. At first sight for me it was quite interesting. Despite the difficulty of not knowing anyone and not understanding what they were doing, I finally felt at home in this way, between the moments of discouragement, difficulties and others of enthusiastic moments. I became a member of this group and have taken the name of MSI Lay Associates.

It has passed twenty years since the foundation of the MSI Lay Associates. In the past few years we studied attentively on the theme on mission Ad gentes. We have studied, reflected, meditated and prayed upon the Church’s missionary activity. Many of us have short experiences in this field. Now the time has come to put into practice what we have learned, perhaps a project in collaboration with the sisters in the mission. It is a dream for the moment. The rays of small light can only be seen in the silent of our heart. Mother Giuseppina Dones used to say, ” If God wants it will be done”!

Roberta Corbetta – MSI Lay Associate – Italy

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