Sr Bernadette de l’Arbre on the occasion of the thanksgiving mass for her mission at the ‘Je Sers’ boat.

Sr Bernadette de l’Arbre on the occasion of the thanksgiving mass for her mission at the ‘Je Sers’ boat.

Good morning to all. I am a Little Sister of the Assumption. My religious family was founded in 1865. Our founder, Father Etienne Pernet, an Assumptionist, discovers the great misery of the working class families of his time, especially when the mother is ill… He looks for ways to help these families… prays for a long time, and discovers as an evangelical response, “the sending of women, religious women, to bear witness to the love of God, by an attentive presence, by simple gestures of service…  the little sisters are born”.

            Each one of us was called, to follow JC the Servant and Saviour and sent…


            During the 12 years here in Conflans, on the Je sers boat, the community was sent to reach out to the migrants. I met many of them, coming from everywhere, I especially remember the Armenians, the Malians, the Ivorians and then the Tibetans…

            What I remember is that when they arrived, these people were often sad, distraught, barely speaking. Yes, I realised that the first contact is very important, to be there for them, simply to welcome them; a smile, a listening ear, a warm attitude. I remember one person who said, when she came back several years later: “The boat is my second family, I was welcomed there when I had nothing left.”

            I came two to three times a week, to “live with” them: to be there with them, to meet them, to listen to them, for us to set the table together, to do the dishes, to answer their questions, to assist them in a procedure. Not knowing the language was a real challenge…. but we were learning to communicate in a different way.

            With the arrival of more and more Tibetans, people with weakened health… Dany, a retired nurse, and I opened a welcome centre to listen to them and respond to their needs. Several times I accompanied them to medical visits and examinations. It was a time of greater closeness, of deeper sharing of their suffering… leaving everything, family, children, work, it was very hard. But they bounced back with courage.

            The new year, the parties, the outings, allowed them to forget the difficulties for a while. Many of us were at the service of families, and we regularly met for a moment of conviviality; sharing our experiences, mutually enriching one another, supporting and encouraging each other.

            In another field, and with a team, I was able to accompany several adults who wanted to prepare for baptism and deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.

             I remember a young, dynamic woman. Just after she was baptised, she developed cancer. I accompanied her for three years. She had a child, wanted to live for him, accepted the various treatments and operations, but the sickness took her away, leaving the father alone with their 5-year-old son.

            In our community prayer, we brought all her sufferings, the misunderstandings and also the joys we encountered, to entrust them with the Lord.

    Now, we are going to thank the Lord, the faithful friend, to offer him all this experience, and to entrust him with the future of the “Pierre Blanche”.

            Thank you.

Bernadette de l’Arbre (Little Sister of the Assumption)

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