The work for a member of a secular institute, as for every lay person, is a fundamental aspect of one’s vocation and is lived above all as a service. It is a way to fulfil oneself, to feel valuable, but above all to build society and, perhaps, improving it. After all, work, unite people in daily commitment and in developing infinite relationships, it is a constant source of fraternity.

Testimony of my work in the light of our Charism.

While growing up I always felt the urge to help others. Coming from a large family instilled in me the values of self-giving, forgiveness, respect and love for others. I got these values from my loving mother who was always so caring and generous. Finishing my secondary education, I was determined to enrol in the nursing school to become a nurse but it was not meant to be because I failed an exam and I had to wait for another year to prepare for the exam. During that year I went to work in a factory. I got used to the job, made new friends and was happy experiencing a new life style and above all being independent. Notwithstanding experiencing all this, deep down in my heart I knew that this was not what I really wanted from life. The deep desire to help others was still inside me. It was during this time that I started discerning what to do with my life and through a friend I was introduced to the Gleaners of the Church: a Secular Institute. At first it was all so new to me since I never thought of giving myself totally to God but taking this experience step by step, through discernment and with the help of my spiritual director I said Yes to God.
My dream to become a nurse was fulfilled and I was very happy in my profession, it never crossed my mind of doing anything else, but it seemed that God had other plans for me. Through another gleaner within my community, I got to know that Caritas was looking for staff members to work within a team to help youths coming out from their drug addiction. I was encouraged to apply for the job and although I was not that keen with this proposal I decided to go ahead. Discerning and praying I came to the conclusion that if God is calling me, He is going to show me the way so I handed in my application and set down for the interview, surprisingly, I got the post. This was the start of a new journey in my life and I was really excited but also anxious because I was aware that this was going to be a tough job. At that time, I had misinterpretations and very little knowledge about drug addiction and the addicted person. After so many years working in this field I can confidently claim that a person who abuses drugs is someone looking for acceptance and love. The drug abuse does not define the drug addict.
This year is my thirtieth year working in the field of addiction, thirty years of joys, pains, disappointments, frustrations, successes, sincere friendships, all this I will keep cherishing in my heart as long as I live. And each day I thank God for giving me this opportunity which I perceive as another call from Him. Being a Gleaner helped me to remain in this profession and I see myself privileged to be working with people that are helping me and inspiring me to live our charism. Pia (our foundress) says that “the work of the gleaner shall be little in the eyes of the people, but it shall be great and precious in the eyes of the Lord if carried out with the greatest love”. (1989)
I always try to remember one of Pia’s sayings so as to keep love and hope in my heart, to instil hope where there is no hope. Pia says “The mission of the gleaner is a proclamation of hope (…) like Mary the gleaner must be always attentive to the needs of others and must be a messenger of joy and hope”.
Each day I pray that I would be able to see with my heart so as to see the person in the image of God. To see each person as a living tabernacle where God is being loved. Pope Francis says: “Only those who see with the heart see things well because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother or sister apart from his or her mistakes, hope amid difficulty. They see God everywhere”.
As I stated earlier with regards to being a gleaner, a consecrated lay person helped me to remain in this profession. I must admit that this is not an easy job but one solid decision that made me remain consistent is the job is the fact that I belong to the Secular Institute Gleaners of the Church. Ongoing formation, our Charism and the community support are the three main gifts that helped me throughout and continue helping me to keep journeying. I am going to end this testimony by quoting again Pia and with her………
“I pray the Lord that our name Gleaners of the Church may always express the lived reality of our Charism: an apostolate that gives preference to those who are most poor and in need of grace and love: the ear of wheat forgotten in the furrow.

                                                                                                                                                       Nancy Scerri

The main idea of all the activity is to make reparation with ardent and active love for the coldness and the betrayals that Jesus receives, especially in the tabernacles of the world.
The “Spigolatrice” is animated by the greatest zeal for the salvation of souls. Among these persons she always has a preference for the poorest and the most abandoned. She loves them with a priestly heart, that is to say with the same love of Christ and she gives them her full attention so as to present them, shining with grace, to Jesus.
The apostolate is not useless even though it is for only one soul; it is the ear of corn, dropped by reapers, that would be completely lost if it were not gathered by the humble and industrious “Spigolatrice”.
The “Spigolatrice” works in the apostolate with humility and perseverance without worrying about external success always animated by strong faith and holy enthusiasm.
The apostolate of the “Spigolatrice” is insignificant before men, but great and precious to the Lord provided it is carried out with great love.
A few experiences by some ‘Spigolatrici’.

Experience 1 – Working as a nurse.
Experience 2 – Working in the field of drug abuse.
Experience 3 – An experience in Albania.
Experience 4 -A Missionary Experience.

Experience 5 – Working as a teacher and in the parish community

Experience 1 – Working as a nurse.

Therese, a Spigolatrice, works as a nurse in a Home for elderly and sick priests. She regards her job as an opportunity to be of service.

“I have been working at my present job as a nurse for nearly three years. In the morning I have to leave home very early to have time for prayer and Holy Mass at my place of work. We are always very busy, as we have to look after so many sick priests and help them as much as possible. There are also so many other light duties such as making beds and serving at meal times. We have also to work on a shift basis and that includes night duties”.

For Therese this is an enriching experience:

“My close contact with the elderly and the sick has helped me to become more aware of the fact that every person is an individual and has his own particular traits of character, some good while others are less appealing.
I keep in mind also that the priest is a consecrated person who has worked unceasingly in the Lord’s vineyard. Now that he has grown old and is at times even infirm, others should be there to help him. It is priceless work!
As with any other job my work has its own difficulties but thank God the Sisters who run the Home are always there to help. But above all the important thing is to ask for God’s help at the start of each day. Each day brings with it its own particular burden and reward”.

Experience 2 – Working in the field of drug abuse.

Nancy, another Spigolatrice, has been working in the field of drug abuse for the last sixteen years. She remarks that being a Spigolatrice helps her in a very demanding profession. Here are her exact words:

“I have been working in this field for these last sixteen years. Working in the field of drug abuse can be very demanding unless one is provided with adequate support. In fact the Organisation we work with offers both spiritual and psychological support.
However I must admit that even though I have all this support many times I return home over drained and very tired. I believe that being a Spigolatrice motivates me to remain in this job. I have always and I still find a lot of support from all Spigolatrici especially my community. Everyday before I go to work I find time for prayers and for the Holy Mass. Being in union with God in prayers and receiving the Eucharist motivates me and gives me the strength for the day”.

Experience 3 – An experience in Albania.

During the summer holidays of four years ago Maria, a kindergarten assistant, together with four other Spigolatrici, went to Albania to spend a few days helping the local people, especially youth. Maria tells us about this visit to Albania:

“We arrived in Albania on the eve of the Assumption of Our Lady. We stayed at the parish of Mamurras where a Gozitan priest from St. Lawrence, Fr. Manuel Cutajar, has the pastoral care of this parish. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady and a painting of Our Lady ta’ Pinu was sent to this parish from Gozo.
We had planned to arrive in Albania on that date to be able to celebrate the feast with the Albanians. The feast consisted only of the celebration of Holy Mass by Fr. Manuel Cutajar. These people have no Sunday clothes. Every day they wear the same outfit and a pair of plastic slippers on their feet.
On the 16th of August, the feast over, we started the work we had planned. The children and youth were all eager to learn. We organised a cookery course and another in English language. We were so glad when every morning the participants came to tell us that they had tried at home the recipe we demonstrated the day before.
What impressed us most was the yearning to learn that these young people had.
As these people are deprived of many necessities, little things make them happy. No advertising is necessary when organising activities. The day before we left we organised a social gathering for youth. They enjoyed very much the games we played together and the refreshments we offered them. But it was the ice cream they liked most. They even asked us if we had brought it from Malta”.

Experience 4 -A Missionary Experience.

Maryanne, how did your adventure in India start?
I made my first voyage to India in March 1983 for a three-month trial in Kerala with the Indian Spigolatrici. Then I moved over to Bihar with Marcette, another Spigolatrice who is Maltese.
I must honestly admit that these experiences were a real social, cultural and environmental shock, seeing the precarious conditions in which the majority of the people of Bombay and Culcutta lived. At Dumka, the missionary camp of Marcette, we visited several villages where I understood the big amount of work she did. When the first difficulties were overcome, this became a positive experience. Back home, after a serious reflection and hours of prayer, I informed my superiors of my decision to return to India and this time with the intention of staying there.

What were your duties in India?
I made my second voyage to India in March 1984, again accompanied by Janet, who was the Spigolatrice in charge at that time. Immediately we set out to Bihar where Marcette was awaiting us. I was assigned several activities related to sanitation. As I was already a trained nurse, I attended a six-month course on the treatment of leprosy, an illness, like T.B., very common in India. Twelve other students and myself attended this course held at the leper hospital. I must admit that this was a rather difficult experience, but however it prepared me well for this kind of work.
The first work assigned to me was the care of children suffering from polio. The “School Health Programme” in the Diocese schools was also assigned to me. Accompanied by one of the native girls I often visited families who had sick members. I cannot remember how many babies and children I have given vaccines against contagious diseases!

What memories do you have of this missionary experience?
I stayed in India for twelve years. At first it was really difficult, especially when I was alone, in a foreign country and with nobody to communicate with. But in spite of all this I can say that this was the most beautiful experience of my life. Although problems and sufferings were with me everyday yet I felt a certain satisfaction that filled my heart with peace and joy. In circumstances that demanded a great spirit of sacrifice, I turned to Him, everlasting source of light and peace, to enlighten the way. But not all was dark; the people loved me and showed me respect and gratitude and I felt like one of them.
Now I am back home but my heart is still in India. Although I am not physically there, yet I feel very close to the Indian people and I always remember them in my prayers.

Experience 5 – Working as a teacher and in the parish community

Anna, another spigolatrice, works as a teacher in a primary Church school. In her job she helps children who encounter difficulties in reading and writing. She considers her job as an opportunity to live the charism of reparation where she can help those children who need special attention.

“I have been working as a teacher for these last 21 years. Throughout these years, I taught children of different ages. In these last 10 years, I worked with children encountering difficulties in reading and writing. This experience helped me to live the charism of our Institute “Spigolatrici della Chiesa” which urges us to help those who are most in need.  From this experience I have learnt how important it is to empathize with those people who need special attention in order to help them”.

Anna  also performs  voluntary work in her parish community.

“Besides working as a teacher, I teach catechism in my parish community. I teach adolescents who are preparing themselves to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.  I also give communion to sick people in their homes. Working with people of different ages and experiences help me to widen my knowledge of how different people live their lives. Moreover it helps me to aid the people I meet to be more aware of what is going on around them. I thank the Lord and his Holy Mother for helping me in doing this work. Definitely it is their help that continuously sustains me to do this work in the field of God and try to love God in the persons I meet everyday”.

The work for a member of a secular institute, as for every lay person, is a fundamental aspect of one’s vocation and is lived above all as a service. It is a way to fulfil oneself, to feel valuable, but above all to build society and, perhaps, improving it. After all, work, unite people in daily commitment and in developing infinite relationships, it is a constant source of fraternity.

My work and the fullfillment of my Charism

I am engaged in working as a warden in the nursing college of St. Martha’s hospital managed by Good Shepherd sisters. Situated in the city of Bangalore, the college accommodates both students and staff: 420 students ranging from the age of 17-21 and staff numbering about 40. The college offers two courses, 4 years of BSC in nursing and 3 years of general nursing. The students who hail from India and abroad (USA and gulf countries) are obliged to stay in the hostel during the course of their study. Of the number of students stated, 60% are catholic, 20% are Buddhist and 20% constitute other.

As far as my work is concerned, I stay in the hostel with the students so as to cater to their needs round the clock. The working hours of the students have been stipulated from 7.30 a. m to 9.30 p. m., and are alternated by different shifts of duties and classes. The college and hostel are located in the same building. We also engage in various social, spiritual, cultural, and economic programmes.

Social: It is permitted that the students can meet the visitors on Saturday from 3.00pm. to 6.00pm and Sunday from 10am to 6pm and are allowed going for shopping. The use of the mobile phone is permitted under certain conditions. Celebration of their birthday is one of the happy moments.

Spiritual: As far as the spiritual life is concerned, catholic students are given the possibility to attend the Holy Eucharist every day at 6.30 a.m. The para-liturgical services like rosary and adoration are organized for catholic students. Apart from the annual retreat, confession, participation in various prayer meetings, membership in Jesus Youth and CGNI (catholic guild nurses India) are also ensured. The students of other faith are given the freedom to conduct the prayers as of their faith. There are also a few sisters (Nuns) whose spiritual needs are looked into with special attention.

Cultural: The chief festivals of the various religions are celebrated and the inter-college competitions of different categories are conducted to improve the talents of the students.

Economic: The college offers various loans and scholarships for economically poor students. The integration of the students is one of the challenges as they hail from different states with a different religious, socio-religious narrative. The students are entitled to have the home holiday once a year.
Apart from my engagement as a warden of the hostel, I am given the additional responsibility to be the Gleaner for the students. It allows me to interact with the students as well as the staff of the college.

It was mentioned by Sig Pia in “our origin” that she started with the teaching of catechism to the school children and then moved onto the young people and through the youngsters garnered the access to their families. I do maintain a good relationship with the families of our students.

Secondly, it was recalled that Sig Pia always felt God called her to accomplish a mission for both, the rich and poor. My work shares this semblance as we have students coming from rich or poor background. It is the fact that some of the students are orphans coming from various institutions and at the same time, there are also students from USA and Gulf countries making a blend of rich and poor. To mitigate various challenges coming from the status quo, I have formed a group of students who are ready to help their friends when they are in need. It turns out to be very successful.

As far as the fidelity to our Charism is concerned, I would like to say that reparation must first take place in the heart of the “spigolatrice” herself that one must consider herself as a living tabernacle. I assume that my availability and commitment to the students is how I am called to fulfil my Charism.

The work of the “spigolatrice” will be of little worth before men but great and precious in the sight of God provided it is done with great LOVE. I am grateful to God who has offered me the opportunity to serve these students.
Thank you