Experiences of our new missionaries to South Africa
By Sr. Honorata Lyimo Mamiro SAC
The 22nd of August 2011 was a remarkable day that will never be forgotten. It was then that we, Sr. Sharmila Pinto, Sr. Prescilla Rego and I, Sr. Honorata Lyimo Mamiro had to say goodbye to Rome where our road to a new Mission started. We waved to our Superior General, to the councilors, to all our Sisters and to St. Peter’s Basilica, which we liked so much.
It was a moment of mingled feelings. Joy that at long last we were now setting out our feet to the mission, which we waited for so long. Pain that we were leaving our dear ones and going far from our families and our familiar communities. Warm tears started flowing from our eyes, and our noses also were becoming wet as with a winter cold. As the plane took off we could still see we through the small windows some lights from the City of Rome, but little by little the view was fading as the plane flew higher over the clouds.
Eventually all was dark, and the journey was fully underway. All were in silence, perhaps thinking of the long journey ahead and the new life that we are going to face in the new home. To break that silence, two of us kept ourselves busy watching various movies on the small videos placed on the seats.
The other sister, covered from top to bottom, fell completely asleep. Thank God all was good, otherwise she would be held responsible just as in Jonah.1:6.
At 5:55a.m. on the 23rd we landed at Doha, where we waited for 1 hour before our next flight to Johannesburg and then on to our final destination of Cape Town, on the Cape of Good Hope. Only on the evening of the same day the plane landed in peacefully at 5:30 p.m. Finally after about 17 hours we were in our new home. Each of us, in spite of fatigue, looked happy and in the silence of our hearts we thanked the Lord for the safe arrival as we made the Sign of the Cross. We thought about our missionary sisters of long ago who had to travel through the Sea for two weeks, and we realized how God guards and protects His people.
We found our sisters waiting for us, and suddenly the waving of our farewells now turned into a waving of warm welcome; the farewell tears became tears of joy. The encounter was as if we knew each other for a long time, and right from the airport we just felt right at home. The people at the airport watched as we laughed and jumped around taking photos. They might have very much admired our life as Religious and especially the internationality.
It was cool and drizzling when we started off once again, this time by cars. Imagine from summer in Rome to winter in South Africa! However, the missionary must experience rain, sun, heat, and cold as part of life. We were surprised to see so many roads and very high traffic, and still admiring the beautiful nature. No sooner we arrived at the convent. We had just a glance but all was beautiful!
We were first led to the chapel where we prayed and sang the “Te Deum” to thank our God for His great grace that he brought us safely to our destination, which is going to be our new Home. The sisters also thanked God that He answered their prayers. Now we were able to open a new page of their South African History. God is Faithful in all His deeds! On the following day we visited our sisters in the Frail Care unit. They were so happy and very much concerned about our living situation. For example, one was worried whether we had rooms and beds for sleeping. They always asked us this question – “Are you going to stay with us?” We told them, Oh Yes, we are going to be with you here! “Oh thank you,” they said with bright faces.
As Pallotti said: We are all Apostles in whichever situation we are either in sickness or in health. We are challenged by our sick sisters when we see how they pray and offer their sufferings to the Lord, and pray for all the sisters all over the world, for the sick and the suffering. On their wheelchairs, but still they do something such as knitting blankets for the poor or cutting onions, or making salads in the kitchen, etc. Everybody is useful in the community!
We are now in our third month. We are happy and feel very accepted though we make a lot of noise in the house, but thank God we have not broken any cups! The Sisters are getting used to our presence and it has renewed their hope. They too are becoming younger! We all know that hope always keeps one alive and more trusting. We are learning many things from the elderly sisters. Their past experiences would be very great hardships for us. We are only enjoying the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices. We have seen some nice places including Vincent Pallotti Hospital, which is the next door.
It is so beautiful. Its existence assures the fact that Pallotti will never die in SA. We also visited St. Joseph’s Home several times. It is so amazing how our sisters worked hard for the well being of the poor, sick, disabled, and those rejected by society. Now these children can smile and feel loved and cared for. Isn’t it wonderful to make one soul happy?
Just as Mother Teresa, our sisters in South Africa lived the same life. How beautiful it is to see some of the “Children” who are now grown-ups! Some are married, and come back with gifts; some sends cards to show how their lives got changed at St. Joseph’s. You can imagine a baby of 4 days to be handed to a sister, who has never had any experiences with a newborn. Yet that child grows up, becomes successful, and knows no other mother but the sister. Isn’t it a blessing?
We also had the privilege of seeing other places. We attended Confirmation at Corpus Christ Parish where two Pallottine Fathers are, and met with the Archbishop, who helped us so much to get into the country. He is a very simple and loving person. He was very happy to see new Missionaries in his Archdiocese.
The Pallottine Fathers gave us an outing to Cape Point that is believed to be the end of the African Continent. Our Sisters have also been taking us to nice places where we enjoy the beauty of the country, mountains, the two great oceans, and spring flowers. We met various people and all are very happy that we have come to SA, since they wondered what was going to happen to the sisters, whose number had reduced drastically. They too believe that a new life has started. Among the people, we have met two ladies who became our friends. One is teaching us Afrikaans and the other one is dealing with our papers so that we can be registered in the South African Health Council. We thank and pray for them. To tell the truth South Africa is very marvelous. It is not easy to say how splendid it is. “Come and see!”