The welcome, affection, respect and acceptance from people were the ground on which I can still learn today, even by making mistakes.

My name is Shyla, I answered God’s call twenty-six years ago, despite the opposition of my brothers. After the years of initial formation in India, I finally realized my teenage dream: to become a missionary!

Since then, but above all by working with the young people who asked to begin their vocational discernment, I have always had the desire to enjoy the original writings of our founders, to know them in the original language, to savor their missionary passion and learn from them to live it. In 2019 my dream comes true again: I am sent to Italy on the occasion of World Mission Day 2019 which we remember with the theme: “Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world”. I arrived in Milan at the end of February 2020, when even in Italy, due to the pandemic, everything was closed or suspended: schools, visits, outings, meetings, celebrations. All we could hear around were ambulance alarms and the television mostly announced news of death. However, I have not lacked time to think and reflect on how God is present and educates us in every situation. I wondered about the meaning of this apparent “sterility”. In India, I would have been much more “fruitful” and committed, but here I was instead given the opportunity to live the faith that I “taught” there. 

In that period , despite all the “closures”, I continued to attend dad lessons with PIME to learn Italian. However, I can say that I began to savor the beauty of the language when I was transferred to the community of Rossano (CS) on 16 October 2021. The welcome, affection, respect and acceptance from people were the ground on which I can still learn today, even by making mistakes. Everyone I meet asks me: How are you? What did you eat today? With ‘voi’, just like in my language, Tamil, we use to address the elderly or the ‘nobles’. Moving everyday from the community to the pastoral places, I see hills and valleys that often remind me of the outline of India, all decorated with the famous prickly pears that thrive here spntaneously. Even at the table there is no shortage of spices and chili peppers for palates like ours. Who would have ever imagined it! So, at the table, with these “condiments” I started to feel at home. 

But this was the first step… of a long climb which, starting from children and reaching the elderly, it often requires me to exercise a lot of patience and I would say “death”. I don’t forget what Mother Dones wrote in one of her letters: “the works of God flourish in the midst of great sacrifices”. The sacrifice of accepting being awkward, embarrassed and sometimes held back by fear. Of making mistakes in expressing my thoughts, or even just in speaking my mind. It consoles me to hear from sr. Antonia, with me in the community, that for her too it was easier to learn Portuguese than ‘Calabrian’. Yes, because in Rossano it’s not just about speaking Italian, but about becoming familiar with the popular speech of the people which varies even from Rossano, where we live, to Corigliano where we work! It’s like thinking that the two muncipalities have been unified for a few years. “Flourish where God planted us!” This is another challenge, no less tiring, than the one that calls me to make the works of God flourish within and around me. 

Sr. Shyla Rayappan, Italia


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