|Fr. Nardo talking with the mother of Fr. Alfredo Turco in a special gathering of Xaverian families|
I am in Italy for medical treatment and for a little vacation. I was invited to write something about my mission experience and I do it willingly for Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I have been working for 38 years. The mission of the Xaverian Missionaries are scattered all over the world and have the task of bearing witness to the gospel that was entrusted to us by Christ. The contexts are different and the missionary is called upon to adapt to different situations that arise with the passing years.
Lots of Changes
When I left for Africa in 1972, it was a different world. In those days we worked to the bone in the forest. Now it is much harder after many years of hard work, as if we should start over. Missionary work in the last 15 years is of particular importance, given the state of war that surrounds and affects all life in the Congo. The war is over mineral resources and the interests of great business and governmental powers.
The Regard of the People
We wish to cry out to the injustices that occur almost daily in our country and the lack of interest on the part of the rest of the world regarding Africa’s problems. We missionaries live with the people and their challenges with dangers of every kind because we feel less alone. With all our faults, we can say that the people look at us with love, because we are their only refuge. At the slightest hint of danger international organizations escape. But we stay with the people.
One evening, after several days of looting, some mothers asked if we had eaten something. They brought us bananas and rice and they told us: “We stayed here because you are left behind. You are the only ones who love us, do not go away and stay with us.” What better affirmation could one want.
Widows and Children
The city teems with people, especially mothers and children who flock from the countryside and forests to escape the violence and looting in their villages. The cost of living has increased. Then there is the problem in such a state to send their children to school which requires a monthly fee. Thus, the most disadvantaged are the children who are often illiterate. In my small way, according to the possibilities, I try to help some girls to complete primary school, so that one day they should not be ashamed because they can not write their own name.
Then there are the poor widows who can not pay the rent for half a hut to shelter themselves. We are the days of the Old Testament, where the widows are the poorest of the poor. How many of them are forced into prostitution in order to have something for them and their children!
A third priority in my opinion is healthcare. There is no assistance. We are in daily contact with people who need care and should undergo surgery, but have no money.
We read the end of the Gospel of Matthew that the corporal works of mercy are the best proof we give to show our missionary identity. What is given with love has a value greater than any sermon because we love in deed and not in mere words.
I invite all to pray for us, because the Lord gives us strength and grace to witness the gospel without fear and without losing sight of the vocation we have received.
Father Riccardo Nardo, SX (Xaverian Missionary in Africa)