Sunday, June 17, 2007
Greetings from Rome!
Taken on the terrace outside our room at the VOICA house
Picnic in Y'voire with Therese and Paul
Ilaria, Lucy, Diggy and Mary in St. Peter's Square
Convent of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa
Diggy, Sr. Lisa, Ilaria, Sr. Pat, Mary and Lucy after one of our sessions
Statue of St. Magdalene of Canossia, Foundress of the Daughters and Sons of Charity of Canossa
View near the Canossian Institute at night
Dear Family and Friends,
I am thrilled to be at this first stop of my mission journey: Rome. Overall, my trip here went smoothly after recovering my passport which was accidentally given to another passenger at check-in, and being bumped to a Lufthansa flight and routed through Frankfurt rather than an Air Canada flight via Montreal. I arrived in Paris June 7 (with my guitar, but minus my checked bag), and got on TGV train to Lyon where I spent two days resting and exploring.
The evening of June 9, I began my stay with Thérèse and Paul, wonderful models of French hospitality. The following day we picnicked on the shore of Lake Leman by the medieval village of Y’voire and went on to see Evian and other villages in the area. Not sure that they had shown me enough that day, they got up at 5:30 the following morning to show me the town of Chambéry before my bus left from there at 8:30. The bus took me through amazingly long tunnels (Fergus, the longest is 13 kilometers) to Milan where I took a train to Rome where I arrived about 8:30 in the evening. I was met in the train station by Sr. Lisa, the assistant director of VOICA.
Sr. Lisa drove us through the crazy traffic of Rome to what will be my “home” for the next couple months. The Canossian Institute is situated on a hill a couple of kilometers south of the Vatican in full view of the Dome of St. Peter. The walled grounds are filled with grass, parasol pines, walkways lined with tall hedges and birds constantly singing. Across the road is and immense park. It feels like we live in the country, but in the middle of Rome. It takes about twenty minutes to walk to the Vatican. The buildings and land of the institute were donated by a childless countess. What is now the convent used to be servants’ quarters. What used to be the barn is now volunteer housing for VOICA. The buildings are hundreds of years old. They tell us there is even a tunnel from the convent directly to the Vatican (now sealed). I feel like I’m living in a fairy tale . (My lost luggage even arrived by courier the day after I did.)
Three other volunteers will be participating in formation this summer along with me: Mary, a nurse from Minnesota who will spend a year in Togo, Lucy a pediatrician originally from Malaysia, but most recently from Louisiana who will serve for two years in West Timor, and Ilaria, a banker from the north of Italy who will spend a year serving in Togo. Diggy also lives in the VOICA house. She is from the Philippines and served in Papua New Guinea and Togo. She also helps in formation. We began formation sessions on Thursday with Sr. Pat, the director of VOICA who spent sixteen years in Hong Kong teaching before becoming the director of VOICA ten years ago. The language of the formation sessions and the house is English.
In formation sessions we’ve begun to learn about the history and spirituality of the Canossians. June 25 through July 24 is missionary month when sisters and priests from all over the world come to share their mission experiences. In August we will learn more about theology, mission spirituality, culture and working in mission. September 1 is the planned departure date.
I will be going to Aru, Congo, near the Ugandan border where there is a great need for teachers. The Canossian community was established in Congo fifty years ago, but I will be the pioneering lay volunteer going there through VOICA. Sr. Pat says I will be working mostly with Italians, so I may want to learn some Italian along with my French. Mama mia;-0. I plan to spend a lot of time studying.
Today Mary and I attended mass in French at St. Louis church where the French Catholic community of Rome is centered. It happened to be their parish party/concert/gathering for beginning of summer break. I stayed for several hours and met quite a few people who speak French including a man from Acapulco, Mexico, who teaches biblical studies courses in New York and used to live in the St. Louis community in Rome. He introduced my to several other people there.
I love the international and Catholic flavor of Rome. The day after my arrival I attended a Mass and party in honor of Filipino Independence Day! Half of the church was filled with priests and sisters and the other half with diplomats.
My time in Europe so far has been filled with delight, surprises and excitement for what is to come. There are many, many opportunities to learn, grow and prepare here and I am thrilled to have begun.
A bien tôt, hasta pronto, ciao!
Love and prayers,