I am a Life Community missionary of the Shalom Catholic Community and I am working during this time of pandemic on a very special project called “Shalom: Friend of the Poor” in Fortaleza, a city in northeast of Brazil. First of all, I want to say that just like the whole world, I was surprised by this Covid situation and how everything changed so quickly.
Unexpectedly, it has provided a great grace in my life. The pandemic has provided me an opportunity to become a part of Friends of the Poor. My service in this project has revolutionized my life in such a powerful way and so intensely that I can’t describe it.
During this period, I and the others missionaries who work with me have been living in a retreat house so that we are able to fully dedicate ourselves to our activities. This includes the distribution of hot meals, care packages, health care and social assistance, baths, shelter, orientation campaigns and referral to drug rehabilitation centers.
I initially served in the kitchen and was responsible for the preparation of food for the missionaries at the retreat house. I didn’t have any direct contact with those assisted by our project. However, through the gaze and the joyful testimony of the missionaries who served them, I got to know a little bit about their stories. I heard stories about their family, needs, and sorrows. Then I realized that I could also provide aid and follow the development of Mr. João, Mr. Ribamar, Mr. Expedito and many others by offering my prayers and sacrifices for them.
As a dietitian, my concern was to instruct the missionaries in accommodating the poor with better nutrition. However, God revealed to me much more than my technical and professional prowess in the kitchen.
I’m called to live poverty of heart to love those less favourable and in need. Now I learned that whatever my service is, whether people see it or not, God has called me to love freely, for I received it freely. God has shown me that my joy is to be one with the poor. I realized that it is me who needs this service, and being more attentive to the pain of others makes me a better person. It also brings me closer to Jesus and he invites us to love beyond measure without receiving anything in return. And so, being poor, I really can be a friend of the poor of Bethlehem (who is Christ). Once I am one with the poor I am his and I am their friend.
Finally, I will quote a poem by St. Francis of Assisi that summarizes my spiritual experience of these days about the poverty of heart needed to love, “the” Poor (Christ) and whoever is poor: “We have nothing else to do but to be solicitous, to follow the will of God, and to please Him”
Jessica Rodrigues, Shalom Life Community Missionary, 26
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