Reception as a prophetic sign
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, many were fleeing the ongoing war. The emergency situation raised the question for everyone: How can we help these brothers?
As a Province, we have entered into dialogue with the CARITAS of Albano Laziale, making the little house available, which has not been used for some time.
In the meantime, many institutions have started to find places and forms of hospitality. Through the National USMI, we received a request from the Community of Sant'Egidio for the reception of Ukrainian brothers who arrived in Italy through the Humanitarian Corridors.
Some of these, with serious health problems such as the need for dialysis, were initially welcomed in an emergency facility, but in need of a more suitable environment. Thus it was that, in dialogue with CARITAS, we agreed to welcome ten people. Nine arrived, two families and three without families. Then came Alina, a teenager who was reunited with her family. Following a kidney transplant, a family unit moved to another more suitable place and another couple arrived.
Opening the door of this house has offered us Shepherdesses, in collaboration with the Community of Sant'Egidio, to participate, in a small part, in the great suffering of the Ukrainian people.
They are very simple people and, despite the difficulties of the language, open to dialogue, made up of smiles and gestures. Mobile phone translations have come in handy for communication and thus open sharing with speech as well.
In the group there is Oksana, a wonderful woman who, despite her great suffering, always has a smile on her face. Oksana has a husband on dialysis, two young daughters with her, a third daughter who is married and with a small but distant daughter and with her husband defending the country. Her thoughts often go to her elderly mother, who remained in Ukraine. The others in the group are open, available in the care of the house and the environment, suffering but serene.
The day of their arrival among us was very significant: May 7, 2022, Feast of Jesus the Good Shepherd! How can we fail to read this coincidence, a gift from the Good Shepherd who gave us the possibility of expressing pastoral care for these brothers of ours?
The little house had been carefully prepared by the sisters so that our guests could feel at home in the new structure. For them we have remained available in accompanying the first steps necessary to place themselves in the new reality. Volunteer members of the Community of Sant'Egidio, who live in the Castelli area and who still continue to follow them, were immediately present for their needs. All this takes place in dialogue with the leaders of the Community, who are grateful for our willingness to offer them the house and utilities and our support.
By now we are used to their presence, to the simple encounters that take place while walking in the space in which our homes are located. With them, due to the diversity of language, they exchanged few words, greetings, smiles and sharing of what providence offers us.
During the Christmas holidays we created a moment of fraternal encounter between us Shepherdesses and them. On this occasion, mutual understanding was fostered and the fraternal spirit lived from the beginning was consolidated. In this circumstance, Oksana said: “When we arrived we didn't know a word of Italian and we didn't understand anything, but your eyes, your smile, your hugs made us feel welcomed. Now we feel like we are under a roof that protects us, in you it is God who protects us".
It's been almost a year since they arrived and we still don't know what their future will be like. Given their health needs, they will have to find a stable location. The leaders of the Communities of Sant'Egidio are taking care of this, so that they have a home and the assistance necessary for their subsistence and very precarious health.
We are happy to be able to live this experience of solidarity, albeit with only one regret, not being able to have a sister available to accompany them. However, it was an opportunity to see lay people who with great willingness dedicate themselves to supporting, with their presence, brothers who find themselves in a situation of suffering due to the destruction of their country.
Pope Francis recently gave an audience to those who have arrived in Italy through the Humanitarian Corridors and our guests went to this meeting together with two of the sisters who have more opportunities to enter into dialogue with them in the simplicity of everyday life.
On this occasion Pope Francis expressed himself as follows: «To you, promoters of the "corridors", to the men and women religious, to the individuals and organizations who participated in them I would like to say: you are mediators of a history of integration, not intermediaries who earn taking advantage of need and suffering. You are not intermediaries but mediators, and you show that, if you work seriously to lay the foundations, it is possible to welcome and integrate effectively". May these words encourage our commitment to increasingly experience integration as a prophetic sign for today's humanity.
Sr. Cesarina Pisanelli, sjbp