'And God saw that it was good' - Portobello

'And God saw that it was good and God saw it was very good!'

This is not a fairy story but about real life in our neighbourhood where it is God’s delight to live among us!

Cecile and Hilda live in Portobello, London, close to the famous market. Hilda is Flemish and Cecile from the north of France. Their flat all on one level is very convenient and practical. It is God given. God also gave them many friends!

'Yes, God saw it was good in every way!'

Anne and CatharineAnne and CatharineTheir oldest friends are from the Travelling community, mother and daughter and all the relatives from at least four generations. Very big problems often came their way either in the family or among distant or close relatives. Anne and Mary always manage to stay on top and continue to be such an example around them of how to go on and keep a smile even when life is tough. They have made Hilda and Cecile a part of their family and treat them as their own.

'And God saw that it was good!'

George, Hilda and CecileGeorge, Hilda and Cecile
The bell rings. It is George, a neighbour, who is Greek Orthodox from Crete. George was a chef and now despite his poor health he loves to cook but above all to share! He arrives bringing two home cooked meals. He is well known in the Supermarket and it is his joy to buy the very best for special friends! George knows about life and he loves to share about what is going on in the world and his comments are always full of wisdom. Yes, building unity is about caring for each other.

'And God saw that it was good.'

A Muslim friend who knew Madeleine Dominique values the continuity of our friendship. Cecile visits her and sometimes she phones and comes round. She loves to have a chat. It is always a special and sacred moment. Another of our closest neighbours who is Muslim whenever he meets either Hilda or Cecile tells them that he prays for Hilda every day that God may heal her. We feel we belong to one world-wide family.

'And God saw that it was good.'

Another friend comes every Saturday carrying a bunch of flowers. She could tell many a story but now the wonderful flowers of every colour she brings for the chapel are a reminder that life is full of joy and colour when you share. She likes to bring good coffee too because that keeps you going even when life is tough!

'And God saw that it was good.'

A Methodist friend brings fruit and vegetables from the market. She does not stay long as she shares with several people in the neighbourhood. All that is given to the Little sisters is shared again sometimes even before it gets to the fridge or store cupboard!
'And God saw that it was good.' Afternoons can be quiet. A Lithuanian lady who is also orthodox experienced a tragic accident in her family. She comes regularly to pray silently in the little chapel. She finds there peace and courage to continue.

'And God saw that it was good.'

A polish friend called Ursula often comes too to pray. These quiet moments of adoration give her strength. Although she works long hours she finds time to visit. Her deep faith is expressed by being so available and her support and friendship are a gift. How good to have such loving neighbours who are a living witness to their faith.

'And God saw that it was good.'

A Vietnamese friend called Kim, who as a young adult made a life turning choice, to leave her home in a small fishing boat, risking her life to be able to live her faith in freedom, visits regularly. She is now a busy grandmother. She is one of our family and deep ties unite us through her love for the spirituality of Br Charles. It is always a joy for her to meet new Little sisters from far and wide. She tells me how happy it makes her to be able to love and care for others.

'And God saw that it was good.'

The faithfulness of our friends never stops amazing us. Eileen a former neighbour comes punctually every Sunday to take Hilda to Mass in her car. And let us not forget another very close friend who gives all her time and energy to helping others. She is available not only to offer the service of her car but above all, her time. She is nourished through long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament and that not only in our little chapel.

'And God went on seeing that it was good.'

Cecile and Hilda in chapelCecile and Hilda in chapel
‘Hilda and Cecile conclude with a few reflections. Hilda exclaims: ‘At 84 and 87 we are like roots rather than flowers! Roots are important for future generations to grow up and then there will be many new flowers! After a long working life I am old. I cope with my aches and pains and illnesses because of being in the company of Jesus and praying for everyone in the world especially for those near us in our neighbourhood. Spending more time in adoration I understand others better and I become more compassionate.’

'And God saw that it was good.'

Cecile who is still quite active takes every opportunity to meet people in the parish and neighbourhood as well as in a little local club. ‘I want to be there, just open for others and to be able to carry each one in prayer.’

'And God saw that it was good.'

Sometimes people say: ‘What do you do?’ Being loved and being ready to receive love and kindness from others is witnessing to God himself who is there quite simply to love us and to receive our love. That is more than enough to fill a life!

'And God saw that it was good, very, very good!'