My decision comes from a personal journey that started with the various experiences of volunteer service I had in Tanzania and in Ethiopia with the Comboni Lay Missionaries group, of which I am a member.
This journey through time ripened in me the idea of embarking in a long-term missionary commitment, so in December 2013 I left for Brazil, headed for Minas Gerais where I remained until December 2016, three years! Those three years literally changed my life, because mission changes you, if you allow it. What you see, what you touch, what you feel, what you live through, transforms you and leads you to discover a God who wanks through your steps, a God who has the face of the people and the histories you meet, an extraordinarily beautiful God in the defense of Life and for Life and in a commitment to serve and share so concrete and strong, that you fall in love with it, I did!
I lived for three years in a violent and poor neighborhood, in the periphery of an existential and structural world, but full of humanity and strength. Besides the various pastoral activities connected with the parish, carried out by the Comboni Missionaries, I got involved specifically in the prison ministry of the diocese of Belo Horizonte. I had never been in a prison and Brazil was my first time, a place where the prison situation is one of the worst in the world, made worse by violence and criminality, abuses of power and violations of human rights. Our job was to follow the inmates both spiritually and humanly and often to denounce situations where human dignity was not respected. Most of the Brazilian prisons’ population comes from situations of life where the family and the social structure are fragile and vulnerable. They all come from favelas or other very difficult environments. The inmates and the families I met, all of them carried the deep wounds of violence, lack of opportunities and poverty. This pastoral work taught me that no one is beyond redemption, because only Love heals, only those who are accepted and loved can be reborn, because no one can escape Love, I am convinced of it! Mission for me was above all sharing, walking together with others and share problems and hopes. It is not in doing great things, but above all, in Being present with the heart, the head and the hands!
Needed are a heart for loving, a head for understanding and interpreting without prejudice, hands to lead and build together. Today, my missionary commitment makes me leave for a second time, again for three years and again in Brazil, in a new experience, in a new city, Salvador Bahia, where I will live in a community that gives shelter to moradores de rua, street people. Last year, with our mission center, we went to visit this community and the project was born to share experiences with them, helping those who take care of the re-insertion of the street people who decide to get hold of their own life and start from scratch. I am ready to start again and to live the joy of meeting and discovering, but above all the joy of sharing and walking together.
Emma Chiolini, CLM