A 10pm phone call can leave me wondering but recently, for me it was a very pleasant surprise.

When I heard, “It’s me, Luz Marina from Ica” my heart jumped.  Luz Marina is one of the very special friends I had parted with when I returned to Ireland after a long missionary journey in Peru.

In spite of many thoughts of home and family reunions the parting was painful and emotionally draining.  While I had told my companions that the time had come for me to leave, and felt peace with my decision, I was not ready for the impact of what it meant to me and to the loving people I had encountered over my forty plus years in Peru.  “Why are you leaving us?”  “You are still healthy”

So many more painful comments brought tears to my eyes from time to time. A trip up the Andes to Recuay where I had shared life with the people in the Highlands of Peru in the 80s and the farewell celebrations there prepared me for the more immediate partings awaiting me in the desert town of San Martin, Ica in the South of Peru my last mission in my beloved Peru. They would say “Madre we are going to miss you.” Trying to swallow and keep calm till I got to my bedroom was my tactic but it did not always work.

A community Mass celebrated by our bishop followed by a get together to send me off proved almost more than I could handle.  The Spanish word, “Despedida” is a loaded one especially if you are the one to be sent off. The whole world seemed to be there and now that we are in the age of technology I was not the only one with a camera as was the case in the 70’s. They all wanted a photo to remember.

My heart overflowed with love and gratitude when people like Julia Rojas who had never missed a night at the Bible meeting approached with her beautiful family. As we posed together I recalled the last time we had a family picture taken with her was when her post earthquake house was being blessed.  She has never forgotten the joy and wonder of her solid brick house which was one of the many we, Columban Sisters were able to provide after the 2007 earthquake, thanks to so many great benefactors overseas.

So you see there are many reasons to be over whelmed with joy and gratitude and pain when a missionary comes to the moment of departure from a beloved and grateful people.

The process of leaving the familiar and facing the unfamiliar is no easy task.  The unfamiliar being a completely changed culture in the Ireland I had left so many years ago.

A welcome home day for Returned missionaries organized by IMU helped me to realize that I am not slow, stupid or mad!!  Meeting twenty other returned missionaries who like me had been overseas for 40 or 50 years helped me to realize that I am just a normal returned exile needing time to adjust and fit in if ever!! to a whole new and radically changed Ireland.

Sister Eileen Rabbitte 

Categories Reflections