Working from home is the order of the day during the current pandemic and, helped by social media, I recently had a very exciting 24 hours. I received an urgent call for clothing from the Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit in Athens.
The plight of the refugees in Greece, and particularly in the island of Lesbos and in Athens is a very current news item. The recent release of so many refugees from the Island of Lesbos has added to the numbers of homeless and displaced in the parks and streets of Athens, and has created an even more urgent crisis. It highlights the desperate need for the world to reach out and respond before an even greater crisis ensues.
In 2019, I travelled with Sister Carmen to Athens. We walked the walk in the streets with the frontline workers, to gain first-hand experience of the lot of the refugees and the efforts of the Community of Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit, who took on the apostolate to the Refugees in 2017.
We wanted to experience their ministry first hand, and to offer our solidarity, encouragement and support. The Sisters daily welcome the people arriving from North Africa, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. They get to know them, so that they can best ascertain how to respond to their individual situations and social, physical and pastoral needs.
Working with the sisters, visiting the Mother Theresa Centre and sharing bread with entire families of refugees, visiting and working with Caritas as they fed the refugees each day, we saw first-hand where the clothes from the Apostolic Work Ireland were distributed, and how they were so appreciated.
Bishop Denis Brennan and Fr. Willie Purcell, later in 2019, travelled to Athens and attended the European Meeting of the Immigrant Council. Fr.Willie has helped us pack endless cartons of much needed items to help the Sisters reach out to the people they encounter daily. “As the saying goes, “If you wish to understand me, come and walk some miles of my pathway with me.” That is simply what we did, and it was a learning never to be forgotten.
Since that visit, we have tried to make people aware of the plight of refugees and their suffering on the long journey to different parts of Ireland.
So, when I received the call from Athens for clothing, I sent out a “May Day Call” for T-shirts and shirts, and I was overcome by the response and generosity, when bags of beautiful items in a range of sizes (over 390 pieces!) were left at our door here in Dublin House.
Keeping their social distance, and with a smile expressing deep appreciation for our invitation to involve them and allow them to share and to assist in the crisis of which they are all very aware.
All the clothes items were collected by DHL and sent on their way to the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit. Sister Eva and her group of volunteers, the front line workers, received our consignment on 21st May. These Sisters and volunteer group are the welcoming Face of Christ to all, and offer caring and hospitality to those who have already spent long days travelling, having left everything behind and given up the familiarity of the war torn countries they called home.
From OLA Dublin we are deeply grateful and proud of all who shared: our hospitable neighbours and the SMA Dublin Community who responded in ‘jig time’ by offering up some of their prized possessions.