I did not know how to start to write this report, since the experiences in Krakow for these three and a half months have been very meaningful in our life with new feelings, knowledge and growing.
So, one day I sat down and I asked God for the wisdom to write. I started when I was in Oswiecim in Poland “my faithful love, my bastion, my citadel, my Savior; I shelter behind him, my shield.” (Psalm 144, 2)
In the text we will find many questions perhaps some will have answers and others will not, since they do not need to be answered, because the silence is the answer or perhaps we know already the answer, we do not need to respond to it, otherwise it will take time and many pages.
We, María and I lived in the community in Krakow with Sister Ania nds, who received us with a beautiful welcome. We lived Sion´s spirit and charism in our community life, prayer life and apostolates (JCC-Jews Community Center- and the Montessori’s School).
“Community life is built through the active participation of each member. It is strengthened by faith, mutual support, sharing, service of each other… Our community life is both the gift of God and the result of our efforts.” (Constitution 48). We had beautiful sharings and outings together.
We had a good integration and responsibilities as members of the community. We realized that now it is not only our family names or given names, it is also “Notre de Sion” that is part of us.
In addition, María and I had the opportunity to stay for 5 days in Oswiecim in the center of Dialogue and Prayer. The silence and listening were part of this experience. We had heard about the Shoah and the World War II before but to stay in the place where it happened, certainly become other feelings and experiences. Personally I felt like Moses when God said to him
“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”(Exodus 3,5).
Therefore, I decided to take my sandal off (it means, take my sandal off inside as an act of humility, empathy, openness, prayer and join the people´s histories who were there in the camps in which I am now walking).
We started to walk through all the exhibitions in Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps and had time for reading, seeing, touching, listening and reflecting. It was very significant. Something happened inside us, the silence came to us and we could feel our hearts beating as to how people’s lives changed, you can see it in their faces. The form of walking was different, we could only listen the steps of the people because the silence was around us with prayers, questions and thoughts.
In one of the exhibitions was the writing: “How can I sing – My World is laid waste. How can I play with wrung hands? Where are my dead? O God, I seek them in every dunghill, in every heap of ashes… O tell me where you are.” I felt that God had invited us to continue walking and with the words, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I will give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand.”(Isaiah 41, 10)
In the first day Sister Mary O’Sullivan rsm, our guide at this time mentioned four important points that resonated a lot with me. It was to listen, “Shema”:
- Listen to the voice of the earth,
- Listen to my heart,
- Listen to the voice of the people
- And listen to the voice of God.
As I was walking sometimes I asked myself: Where am I? Am I in the world? Where was the freedom? Where were their lives, dreams, rights? Where was one allowed breath? Where was the hope?… I saw different pictures of children, women and men, their faces and their eyes wanted to say: “Where are my sons, daughters, wife, husband, mother, father, parents…? Are they alive? Who am I? Do you recognize me? Am I a human? Where am I?”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Psalm 22, 1)
This place not only represented the history of people, their tragedies and sufferings but we need to take something of this land that we can receive life from death, from darkness to light. We can do this through reconciliation, hope, dialogue and also through the importance of Nostra Aetate and our charism to the Church, to the Jewish people, and to a world of justice, peace and love. (Constitution #13)
“God, do not remain silent, do not stay quiet or unmoved, God!” (Psalm 83,1).
As I mentioned the silence has been part of this experience, the silence made us reflect and ask ourselves many questions. The Holy Spirit will lead us to go deep within ourselves. Sometimes we wanted to escape this silence because we feel afraid, but God gave us the grace to have this time. The silence of God is unique and special. God’s words move us and go very deep within our heart.
For instance, when the people were in Egypt and God said to Moses
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters” (Exodus 3:7)
So, God listened, saw and remained in silence. After He chose to speak with Moses, His voice is a sweet and penetrating silence and when we are silent, we put our hope in God.
“No, I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a little child in its mother’s arms, like a little child, so I keep myself. Let Israel hope in the Lord henceforth and forever.”(Psalm 131, 2-3)
Sr. Ania, María and I had the opportunity to visit two ghettos in Warsaw and Krakow. Today only the land and the walls know how many people passed from there with their families during 1940-1945 with hunger, fear and cold. When we were walking one child was with his parents in the street smiling and they were walking together…today we can find light, life, peace, but If we go back to the past we can find unimaginable things that happened here. In this time the people who hid a Jew in their homes were in danger since if the authorities knew about it all the family could die. One guide asked us: Could you receive or hide a Jew in this situation? Other questions came to my mind: Are we ready to open the door of our house to Jews and live our three-fold commitment?
God invited us to have hope as in Psalm 27:14
“Put your hope in the Lord, be strong, let your heart be bold, put your hope in the Lord.”
David says it twice “put your hope in the Lord.” One rabbi said in one video: Why in the psalm is it said twice? It is because sometimes we forgot to put our hope in the Lord, so we need to repeat it.
So, we need to be a witness with our lives through the listening, the silence and the hope. “Our responsibility is to promote understanding and justice for the Jewish community” (Constitution #14) and especially “the history of the Jewish people makes us particularly sensitive to the rights of minorities, of the poor, and of all who are marginalized in our society. These situations provoke our reflection and our prayer; they demand concrete commitments.”(Constitution #15)
We thank God for each experience that we have lived since we have grown personally and spiritually. At the same time, we are grateful for discovering and confirming our gifts and our calling in the congregation through our ministries and experiences. We thank Sr. Ania nds, for her hospitality, preparation, arrangements, welcome and all our sharing together.
“The future starts today, not tomorrow” (John Paul II, Krakow 1977)
Andrea Chacon Carmona, Novice NDS
Community St. John in Montana
August 11th, 2017