Sr. Matilde Ferreira, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, is originally from Portugal and, as an FMM, has lived a rich missionary experience in Portugal and French Guiana. Since her return to her country, she continues to be very committed, because for her, MISSION is unquestionably linked to her FMM religious consecration.
Born in a small village, in a family of nine children, the Lord took me and sent me on a mission. Opening up wide horizons before me, He places me in another world to be called to a new birth, like Nicodemus.
During the previous years I have seen wonderful days in my country working in the public schools, in the youth secretariat, in the factory, in parish ministry, in the military headquarters, in the prison and in occasional missions among the remotest populations.
In the joy and youthfulness of my heart, I set out on a mission! The Lord was waiting for me in French Guiana!
The internationality of the community and the internationality of the people were really fantastic! To tell the truth, I think that in this country I met people from all over the world! I was in charge of catechesis in a parish where the 700 children came from 46 different countries! Then I saw the life of the local Church, the commitment of the laity, the way the Church looks at young people and the different forms of celebration, the closeness of the Bishop! I have known the fleet of the greatest minds in nanotechnology and the poor districts of illiteracy!
On all these paths the Lord led me and “called me into the wilderness”! In this way I learned to put many things into perspective and to open my hands to the essential! The rhythm of life, with its madness, provided guidance for us all, as well as the practice of faith and the search for God. In my parish office, people came to confide in me and ask questions about faith. Seeing their way of life helped me to grow and to purify my personal faith.
I still retain a certain nostalgia for what has marked me in our FMM life: the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the community meetings. The words LISTEN and WELCOME were stuck on the palate of our mouths, and were key words!
Yes, I can say in all truth: The Lord has guided my steps; I have touched the garments of the Lord!
Mary of the Passion, our Foundress, used to say: “Be prepared!” As a Franciscan, I try every day to respond to this call. Throughout my missionary life, and now not compelled but taken by the hand for the world in confinement.
Here, in the north of Portugal, where I was sent seven years ago, a few months after my arrival, at a diocesan Mass for Catechesis whose liturgy I animated, one of the priests present said to me: “Sister, you will go with me to the prison.”
Thereupon, I had just enough time to regularize the papers and I was plunged into the ‘prison sea’. Today, I work in two prisons!
When the virus obliged us to confinement, we had to find ways not to leave the 450 men in custody without the comfort of the Word of God each week.
The diocesan bishop then appealed to all the pastoral workers, so that, through social networks, they could provide spiritual support in the various sectors.
As we know, within these walls, EVERYTHING is controlled, monitored, regulated. How, then, do we communicate with whoever is inside? It was necessary to go through different authorizations, to obtain the “visa” from the prison director, so that through digital means of communication, the written messages reach the prisoners.
Thus, since the beginning of the pandemic, and after being requested, our bishop, a tenderhearted man and pastor, very present to the world in confinement, began to write the Sunday reflections which are then transmitted to the inmates of the prisons.
Matilde Ferreira, FMM