Sacred Heart Sr. Florence de la Villeon is getting a preview of some of the challenges she and others will face in December.
De la Villeon and nine other sisters are spending two months in Rome at the International Union of Superiors General training to minister to refugees in Sicily, Italy. But they won't be administering humanitarian aid; they'll be ministering to spiritual needs and helping to build bridges between the refugees and the Sicilian population.
So while Doctors Without Borders handles things such as food and shelter, the intercongregational, international and intercultural group of sisters will work with local dioceses and local sisters through the Union of Major Superiors of Italy to provide for the spiritual needs of people who have left everything behind and fled for their lives.
Global Sisters Report (GSR): This seems like a very different mission than we usually hear about when it comes to the massive flow of refugees into Europe.
De la Villeon: Yes. The church is already doing a lot of things in Sicily. I think what they're asking from us is to make bridges between the Sicilian people and the refugees. We have 10 sisters from eight countries — some speak the language of the migrants, and the bishops are very excited to get sisters who can speak the language.
The NGO can do all these material jobs that are urgent, but the need of listening to people, taking time with them, counseling them, that's for us to do. The Sicilian people are trying to do it, and the local sisters already there are doing it, but there is a great need. The migrants are traumatized, and very often they discover a new world once they arrive. They need to share and speak about their journey, what they went through, this difficult experience.
Most of the refugees are Muslim, so we're not going to proclaim the good news of the Lord, but I hope our lives will say it.
We are very excited, but we see that the challenges are very great.
The entire interview may be read in the Global Sisters Report of October 28, 2015. ncronline.org - Global Sisters Report.
Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook..