When I visited The Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome on my pastoral experience, I experienced different incidents. First, I participated in a service called “Bathroom for the Homeless” ── The Community arranged the homeless to take a bath every 2 weeks. Each time, there was around 50 people. When they arrived, we would enquire on their needs. Usually, we would arrange brand new underwear and socks for the homeless. We would invite them to choose the colour, size, length; at the same time, we provided them with bath products. After taking a bath, we would prepare hot coffee or tea for them, and talk to them on their current situation. I could experience Jesus’ presence amidst this friendliness relationship.
At the same time, I visited a “Drawing School” for the mentally retarded ── The Community provided an opportunity for the mentally retarded to draw at a relatively remote community every week. This was a wonderful journey because through their work, we could enter into their indescribable innermost being. One lady was deaf and dumb, but, her eyes could substitute everything. She used her eyes to listen, and her hands to draw her own world. Although her paintings were black and white lines only, they were full of colour and power in expressing her inner self. Her firm eyesight told us all about the beauty of her inner world. I also worked together with another youth who expressed the Ukraine war with blocks of destructed houses which became hollows in his eyes. When I invited him to choose a colour, he only chose greyish black! Although we were not able to communicate with words, our body language bridged our two lives together!
Besides, I also visited the “Refugee Centre”, I saw many broken families caused by war, especially those from Ukraine. Majority of them were female and children. The Refugee Centre provided all necessities for them ── legal adviser, language class, daily necessities etc. The Community was able to take care of the refugees’ needs in different aspects through donors’ generosity, with a view to assist refugees with social integration. When they reached the Refugee Centre, they could choose their daily goods. The Centre was like a department store whereby all supplies were categorized, if necessary, they could even use the “fitting room”. We respected the dignity of life of each individual, we were not “almsgiving”, but “sharing”. After that, The Community would arrange volunteers to talk to them and heal the wounded soul.
When we are still living in a society which has relatively more freedom and materially rich, are we aware that in another corner in the world, there are brothers and sisters who are suffering, they are facing challenges in life and looking for hope among difficulties and despair. Let us join our hearts with these brothers and sisters who are suffering, pray to the King of peace ── the Word of the Lord, for the blessings and hope for those brothers and sisters affected by war, wishing that “peace can be expected soon”. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, please pray for us!
Fr. Francis Tam
18 December 2022