For me, life is always meant to be shared in fellowship – the joys and pains, opportunities and constraints we experience, the obstacles we overcome, the unselfish service of giving and loving – this has been my life experience with the refugees as I work in collaboration with JRS Mae Hong Son. These five years of loving service is a blessing. The work is tough and laborious, tedious at times but challenging and despite everything the Lord has granted me intense consolation no one can ever fathom.
Our Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus having an Ignatian spirituality, makes my work in collaboration with the Jesuits quite natural. Five years ago, as a response to the call of the Church in our Congregation to serve the poorest of the poor I offered myself to do pastoral care. I worked among children in a place that needed the most help in order to be in solidarity with them and to acquire a direct experience with the poor and the needy. And the answer was JRS - to accompany, serve, advocate and defend the cause of the refugees.
My first experience was when the JRS truck reached the check point at the entrance gate inside the jungle of Camp One and looking at the panorama surrounded by mountains, rows of trees and small bamboo huts, my heart seemed to be struck by something. This reminds me as well, of the experience of our Mother Foundress Candida Maria de Jesus as she kissed the floor and bare walls, the cradle of the Congregation in Salamanca, Spain exclaiming: “Here is my peace, here is my rest forever.” My feeling was indeed a mixture - a Christian paradox of joy and grief, of wonderment and unbelief, of exclamations and interrogations. From then on, my calling to be here and to hold His people in my heart was confirmed.
There were tough moments due partly to cultural adaptation. I worked with Marcel, an ex-seminarian, my KnED (Karenni Education Department) counterpart, middle/high coordinator who had been helpful to me in my adjustment and knowledge of the refugee life. I have learnt to miss lunch, exercised patience when people do not appear on time and many others. All of these experiences I offer to the Lord and in His great love He has granted me freedom from superfluous needs leading me to a life of simplicity, inner peace and joy.
Besides the managerial work we also join the special feast days celebrated in the camp like Christmas, Easter, Feast of the Nativity of Mary which also coincides with the Dee Koo Karenni festival and Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Sometimes Fr Bernard would come to participate in these activities. Two years ago on Easter Sunday, he concelebrated the Mass with Frs Mark and Dominic. They usually have very solemn Masses — everybody sings with all their hearts in full volume and the Church is customarily packed with Catholics. That day was made very special for them as we distributed Easter eggs, candies and cookies to all present. Indeed, it was a memorable experience for all of us.
After three years of full time service I still continue working part time, training English trainers for Vocational Non-Formal Education program and teaching English to KnED head and deputy head teachers, staff and high school students. For me, this is a great challenge to live and to witness a call of a radical following of Jesus Christ, to do God’s will and all for his greater glory. I can never thank the Lord enough for all He has done for me. I only pray to be more open to the will of God with a generous spirit, unconditional love and total surrender. With a grateful heart to JRS in the name of Fr Bernard for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share in the work of accompanying, serving, advocating and defending the cause of the refugees.
Sr. Madeleine Capistrano, F.I. Daughters of Jesus
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