There are times in life when being close to certain people is a source of joy and fulfilment. Thus was my experience of proximity with the late French sister Marie Madeleine PORQUET, fmm, in my community and with Mrs. Fati, a sick and needy person who resided in the National Hospital of Niamey in Niger where I worked in the social pharmacy set up by the FMM in order to help some sick and needy people.

Having retired as a nurse, Sister Marie Madeleine weakened by the burden of age, ensured a presence in the community through prayer, little ways of rendering service, welcoming all those who came to her and caring for the domestic pigeons.

So I decided to be close to her and spend my free time after working hours and on weekends with her. I sometimes slipped away from the pharmacy to go to see her in the house for a few minutes, to listen to her, to tease her a bit before getting back. So, one day I saw a woman trying to trick her. The lady ran away when she noticed me. This bullying scene could have turned out differently if I had not arrived in time. That is how many needy people deceived her, but she said: ‘Blessed is the missionary who allows herself to be deceived by seeking the good of others’.

Sometimes we would walk around the neighbourhood at her own pace or drive around the bustling city of Niamey to visit families she knew, to admire some of the renovated infrastructure, or memorable places like the river with its vegetable gardens in bloom, or the first FMM house near the river where one could contemplate the setting sun. She was always in awe of many things and that was her joy. During our interactions, we shared a lot of experiences such as the slap she received from a child who was afraid of injections.

In this experience of proximity, I was also marked by Mrs. Fati, who upon her release from prison had taken refuge in the hospital. Since she was in need of being listened to, my approach was to accompany her in order to help her to reintegrate into society and her family from which she was recovering psychologically and with difficulty.  Remembering Sister Mary Magdalene’s saying: “Blessed is the missionary who allows herself to be deceived by wanting the good of others”, I helped her to obtain the licence she had insisted upon. At first, I did not think she could do it, but what a surprise it was when one day she came, holding up her licence, her face beaming with joy. She kept thanking Allah, her God, and blessing me for the trust placed in her. Soon after, she was employed in Mecca by another lady. Since then, her social status had changed and I saw her blossoming day by day. Sister Marie Madeleine, on the other hand, never ceased to show her gratitude to me, very touched by the attention I showed her, especially a few days before her death.

Praised and blessed be the Lord for having accomplished my aim of being close to others under the guidance of His divine grace.

Sr. Victoire OUEDRAOGO, fmm