A community of four Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette was set up in El Meniaa, Algeria, in 2013, in response to the request of Bishop Claude Rault, Bishop of the Diocese of Laghouat-Ghardaia, Algeria.
Expatriation and Acculturation
We primarily attempt to deepen our knowledge and practice of the Arabic language, and even keep up with our French, as we are all Malagasy. We try to deepen our attitudes of openness, adaptation, availability to events and situations, and be of service to our people. The theme of General Chapter was: "Being disciples, we follow Christ in our multicultural diversity, solidifying our La Salette refounding way”. We also welcome the "Mercy of God” which is also important to those of the Muslim faith.
Patience, Patience, And More Patience!In our diocese, our new arrivals spend six months learning the Arabic language. We have even learned the regional Arabic which allows us to listen and speak more easily with the mothers who come to us in their need. Our “Life-Helper”, Aisha – who has served the religious communities that preceded us – acts as our guardian, and helps us a lot when we find ourselves in need of guidance.
We have found that the Arabic language is difficult but our continuing meditation on the message of La Salette helps us. In our La Salette Constitutions for our Community, No. 35, we are reminded of Mary’s words, "I am going to tell you in a different way", indicating that Mary adapted to her surroundings at La Salette, even using the local patois.
We also try to live the three virtues, as they say here: first is "patience"; the second is “patience” and the third is “more patience”. Our presence at the markets, the shops, the activities demand that we know the language and the culture of this country. Fortunately the elders still speak a mixed French and Arabic, which is also helpful!
A Small But Vibrant Community
The Sacrament of Christian Presence
Bishop Claude Rault told our congregation that our first mission in Algeria is to share the Sacrament of Christian Presence in the midst of this Muslim people. We serve families whose children with disabilities need rehabilitation and much encouragement. We help these mothers to meet their doctors or specialists. Sometimes the doctors come to their home and at other times they need to go to the doctor’s office.
We offer tudoring support for the children learning French. We also promote the dignity of women, especially women with disabilities. We also welcome pilgrims and tourists to St. Joseph Church of Bel Bachir and visitors to the grave of Father Charles de Foucauld.
Our Mission in the Beloved Country of Charles de Foucauld
In our ministry here in Algeria, we remember well the words of Mary: "Well, my children, do make (my message) known to all my people." Mary asks us to do this here too. " The “people” that the Beautiful Lady mentions – “That's everyone," Melanie told her examiners. The love, caring and tenderness of our Tearful Mother have no borders.
Fr. Charles de Foucauld wanted to be a universal brother, in the midst of this people! Our community is happy to live the mission of the Church. Even if we do not directly proclaim the words of Mary of La Salette, we bring her attitudes of caring and concern, much like John the Baptist as he made efforts to "prepare the way of the Lord ".
By reflecting on the gestures and words of Mary in her appearance, this allows us as Religious Sisters to guide the choice of our apostolic activities and to understand the spirit in which we must fulfill them" (see Constitutions, No. 35).
(Reprinted with permission from the La Salette Publication, “Les Annales”, Jan.-Feb., 2017, pgs. 16-17)