FROM OUR STORE OF TREASURES - Northern Ireland

Sometimes we use the word "pearls" for the stories we tell each other of meeting God in our daily experiences. In the course of our lives as Little Sisters we have collected a vast treasure house full of such pre¬cious gems. Here are three from our sisters in northern Ireland:

1-Who Welcomes Whom?

Charity shopCharity shopI am Emiko, a Little Sister from Japan who has lived in our community near the town of Downpatrick for over ten years.

I saw in the newspaper that ten refugee families—fifty-one people, including a little baby—would be welcomed in northern Ireland. These were the first refugees to reach our island. One day I went into town, where we do our shopping, and I called in at St. Vincent's, the Charity shop where L Sister Jocelyne works as a volunteer once a week. I noticed a young family with two children. The mother was veiled, and was looking around the shop. She had a friend with her who spoke her language. I understood she was looking for pencil cases for the children, who would be going to school the next day. The friend explained to me that the family had just arrived from a refugee camp in Syria. The young father spoke very limited English.Emiko at Charity shopEmiko at Charity shop When he saw my face, he said to me, "Where do you come from?" I replied, "I am from Japan." He turned to me with a very broad and joyful smile and said, "Welcome!"

I can still see and feel the kindness and warmth in his voice, as well as his wife's look of kindness. My heart was lit up by his big smile. It is an experience I will never forget.

2-The Wealth of Friendship

I am just back to London after spending two weeks with our community in Bishopscourt, near Downpatrick. It is a rural part of Ireland where Christianity has deep roots going back to St. Patrick in the fifth century. But life there has been marked by suffering over the centuries, and society is still very polarized politically and religiously.

I was struck as I always am when I visit the Little Sisters there by people's generosity. They "give till it hurts."
I am reminded of the widow in the Gospel who put her last coin into the Temple fund, even what she needed to live on. I met such a person in our neighborhood, who gives all she has, even to the point of being without an adequate daily meal.

I was puzzled, but when I heard her story I understood better. She had once met a visiting family from an African country who had suffered during their civil war. A big friendship had grown up between them, even though they lived on two different continents. It was no longer possible for her to have more than her friends, and that meant sharing literally all she had. Friendship for her implied being equal, giving and receiving as belonging to one family.

3-Seeds of Hope

At the neighbour'sAt the neighbour'sMargaret and Brian belong to our local Catholic parish. We have known them for many years, but a special bond with us grew after the death of Little sister Asia (see News Notes 2015, p. 27), and they visit us regularly.

One day they arrived with several trays of seedlings for Emiko to plant in our yard, mostly cauliflower and turnip plants. As the soil in our yard is so stony, we asked a friend who is a gardener and who belongs to a different Church community if she could plant them for us, and we would look after them—she had offered once to give us a large patch in her beautiful garden.

All summer she showed Emiko how to water and weed around the plants and care for them, but sad to say, it was all to no avail I The worms and slugs and birds had a feast, and nothing was left.

We thought of the parable of the sower, but our story ended differently! The plants never produced the harvest we'd hoped for. But—they seeded a friendship that is growing between our different Churches and communities
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