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Extraordinary Mission Month: ‘You Evangelize by the Simple Fact that You are Here’

Oran (Agenzia Fides) – “I symbolize the mission in Algeria which I have been experiencing for more than 10 years, like a jug full of fresh water representing the love of God with which we are filled and the way in which He offers himself to the people we meet”, writes to Agenzia Fides Sister Sandra Catapano, of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles. The small Church which is in Algeria lives a mission of proximity, a mission which is not made of great proclamations. It practices closeness, charity, friendship, dialogue and the testimony of life.

“This is the evangelization that we live, in the silence of the human word, but with a presence that cries out in the ears of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Here is an example – continues Sister Sandra. One day one of our sisters is questioned by a police officer who insistently reproaches her for evangelizing! The nun defends herself by affirming that she knows very well that this is forbidden. She is a simple physiotherapist. The police officer explains to her that she is not preaching, but says: Sister, you evangelize by the simple fact that you are here!”

Sister Sandra explained that from the first day she arrived in Algeria she felt called simply to spread the love of God to these brothers and sisters. “We are in the Diocese of Oran on the border with Morocco. The Church is made up of intercultural communities of sub-Saharan university students, mixed couples, immigrants, men nd women religious, priests and volunteers.
Our Institute is present here with a single community made up of Sister Lydia, a Nigerian nurse and midwife; Sister Philippine, from Togo and catechist, and myself (I am a nurse). Our community is located in the far west of the Diocese and our parish is 15 km from our house.
There is a strong presence of sub-Saharan youth of other Christian denominations and so we began to experience an ecumenical celebration every three weeks instead of Mass.

This is creating a greater, visible and positive unity also for the Muslim neighborhood”.
The missionary continues her testimony by underlining that in the territory of about 1,500 square kilometers in which they operate they constitute the only presence of nuns with formation and literacy activities for women, support courses in French and English, a service of home nurses, social assistance, visits to families in difficulty and with handicapped people, Christian immigrant prisoners, in addition to the parish catechumenate. “This is a people who have great possibilities and need to see their values recognized, but who must still grow in unity among ethnic groups, respecting minorities and religious difference, so that everyone can fully live their citizenship and build an Algeria protagonist of unity among African countries”.

“The Church in Algeria has a mission – writes Mgr. Paul Desfarges, Bishop of Algiers. We must be weavers of friendship, brotherhood and peace with everyone. We are called to disarm our hearts. We are a Church of encounter. The beatification of the 19 martyrs, killed for not wanting to leave a Muslim land in the black decade of Islamic terrorism which from 1991 to 2002 claimed 150,000 victims, was a blessing from heaven. More than a year has passed since the beatification which took place in Oran on 8 December 2018. The life of each of them was a life given to God and to Algeria. Stories in the name of sharing and service. We associate our Blessed with the thousands of Algerians who lost their lives. Even today they repeat to us: our Islam is that of conviviality”.

“Don’t go away! You are the stone that allows the door to remain open”: this is what the population said to the missionary nuns of Our Lady of the Apostles in the 1990s in Algeria. The presence of the 19 future martyrs of Algeria represented this: a friendly voice, a hope that the country would not be closed. (SC/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 19/10/2020)

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