Amidst the multitude of tin shacks, children find a field and watch as a crowd of older boys and some young men kick a soccer ball. It is 2010 and the Soccer World Cup is about to be played in a country ready to welcome the nations of our Globe. It is a moment of joy and hope again for a land long familiar with human struggle and suffering.
Barcelona is one of the many informal settlements or ‘squatter camps’ in Gauteng, South Africa, populated by Africans from various parts of South Africa and the other states of Africa, in search of a place to stay and to find employment. The people chose this name for their area as its beginnings date back to the time of Soccer World Cup in Barcelona, Spain! As the majority of the people are unemployed, life consists of tough times. Children live with dreams, teenagers try to cope with harsh realities and adults hope for the tomorrow when families will experience some semblance of a more human life together.
The courage of people is visible in their attempts at entrepreneurial skills. Basic needs such as running water in the ‘shacks’, electricity, refuse-removal, sanitation, good roads, drainage and so much we take for granted, still needs to be developed.
A thick growth of magnificent wild cosmos flowers in their array of red, pink and white, decorate the road on either side as one approaches Barcelona, concealing from the outsider the trauma and drama enacted daily in their lives.
While people endure the harsh realities of crime, poverty, hunger, family distresses and worry, I have also witnessed many courageous acts of kindness to one another. A little bit of sugar, a few tea-bags, some mealie-meal are passed to the neighbours in their need. Yet, the family that shares can ill-afford to do so.
There is a promise to care for the home, the children, next door as another needs to accomplish a task, a visit, a walk to the clinic. No one is ever refused some help. People greet one another with laughter and kindness, despite the rains of 2010 that penetrated every hole in the tin shelter, constantly leaving blankets, clothes and the sand-floor, wet. Mosquitoes plague the people, yet they continue to find means of helping one another.
Into this world, familiar to so many pastoral people, I, a Dominican sister was privileged to enter. My ministry consists mainly of gathering with groups who wish to enter the Catholic Church, so we work through the RCIA programme together. We hope that in the near future we will have our own piece of land and a place of prayer, worship, study and gathering. At present we still gather in the homes, so our ‘centre’ is rather confined. A wonderful group of Ladies in the U.K. who gather with Sr. Regina McGarry continue generously to provide what they can so that families receive some help. Bless them.
Why are the Dominicans a presence here? Simply because our mission is to be sent to the poor. And there is no greater joy than to participate in Jesus’ own mission. The call and the challenge to live for others in our evangelizing mission is given to each one today. You are welcome too. Are you willing, within community, to give your life to God and the people, in the joyful ministry of selfless planting and growth of the Christian message?