“Wherever we are we must become involved in the situation in which we live. Our charism is not defined by activity alone; nor is it limited to a specific task. A presence in faith and hope, an appreciation of the values and significance of cultures and religions different from our own, is already an apostolic response.” NDS, Constitution #16
This quote from our Constitution summarizes very well Sion’s presence in Egypt. Through their ministries each community, Cairo, Alexandria and El Berba, are responding and carrying the Word of God to their own reality.
The apostolic time of Lucia and Nancy was an opportunity to get involved with the reality of the sisters and the people in Egypt. Some of the unforgettable memories that we will carry with us are:
Sister Emmanuelle, NDS memory
We visited with Sr. Wafaa’s family the Manshiyat Nasser, a neighborhood located in the Mukatam Hills in Cairo where the garbage workers („Zabaleen“) live and work. Through their work of selecting and recycling garbage, they have their income and help the country with the garbage issue.
Sr. Emmanuelle lived and worked with the garbage workers for many years. She helped them with the social organization of the neighborhood. For example, she founded Gabal El Mokattam School, which is now run by the Daughters of Mary, and a clinic. This school and the clinic are important sources of education, health and values for these families.
In 1970, a community of Coptic Christians took up residence at the foot of the Mokattam hills in the Southeast of Cairo. They built cave churches such as the Monastery of St. Simon the Tame (a Coptic Christian saint), St. Bola’s Church, St. Marks Church, and St. Simon the Tanner’s Hall. These are among the six additional cave churches carved out of the rock, which continue to serve the community to this day.
Sr. Mona and Sr. Karina ministries
Our time in Cairo was a wonderful occasion to share with Sr. Mona and to know more about her work. She is part of the administration of Caritas-Egypt. They have a clinic and a kindergarten.
Sr. Karina used to teach for many years in different schools in Cairo and now she is a volunteer at Beth Myriam (The house of Mary). She serves and runs this international organization in Egypt. Twice a week she prepares and organizes the food for 33 welfare families. Besides, from time to time, the families participate in learning, prayer time and social activities.
We stayed with Sr. Faiza, Sr. Mary Carmen and Victoria (Faiza’s Blood Sister). This time with them helped us to know more about the presence of NDS there. Our Congregation arrived in Alexandria in 1880. The Sisters founded a boarding school and later they built a school for poor children. They worked there for many years until the school was passed on to the Egyptian Sisters. This transition was the result of the lack of NDS Sisters in Egypt.
Even though the Sisters are no longer involved with the education, they are still giving a service related to it. They have some extra rooms in their house so they use them to welcome students who come to Alexandria for their undergraduate studies.
We are very grateful for the opportunity to have visited our sisters in Alexandria and the NDS School, which carries the memory of many sisters.
During our time in Alexandria, we also visited the city market, the Mediterranean Sea, the Parish where the Sisters belong and the Library of Alexandria and its planetarium. The Library is a famous place visited by people from all around the world. For us, it was another way to know more about the Egyptian culture.
Living in Berba
During our last weeks in Berba we continued our apostolic mission with children, youth and families, doing some painting, handicraft, games and visits.
The closing activity of the garden, before the new school year started on September 23rd , was a full day of games, joy and food for the children.
Kindergarten and School for the Handicapped
The school year only began on September 23rd. so we only visited both places for a few days. It was a joyful experience for us.
The Kindergarten is part of the Developmental Center of the village and the Handicap School is located on one floor of our house. These places give a great service to the village where Muslim and Christian children can receive education, develop skills and have a good time sharing with their peers.
The last excursion we had was the visit of a Coptic Orthodox Monastery called the Monastery of Abu Fanah. We had a good time sharing with Wilson, Azza and their relatives. Wilson and Azza are a lay couple involved with the Church, the Development Center of the village, the Kindergarten and the school for the handicapped. We thank both of them for their time, support and gentleness with us.
People’s mandala – 12 hands and Thank you!
Summer fun; Twelve hands form a circle over the sand. Useful to represent diversity, human nature, teamwork etc. There are male and female hands, different skin colours and ages. One’s have rings and one has a band aid.
We also thank God and the Congregation for this amazing experience in Egypt; especially, our apostolic time in Berba sharing with the people of the village. It gave us strength and courage to continue our journey in Sion.
Thank you to all of you for your love and kindness. We will keep you in our hearts and prayers.
Nancy Mena Fernandez NDS, Novice
Congregational Novitiate Ein Karem, Jerusalem