Monette M. went to Deva, Romania, in October 2008 for a 18-month Heart’s Home mission. The following text is an extract from her last Sponsors’ letter, in which she shares some moments of her apostolate in "The Gregorescu".
The poorest neighborhood we visit is called “The Gregorescu.” It was named after a famous Romanian artist, but the fact of the matter is that “The Gregorescu” used to be literally, a pig stock turned into “housing” after the communism. The people who live there and around there don’t call it, “the Gregorescu,” they still call it, “porcherie” – pick stock. This is the neighborhood that is filled with the most kids, there is also a lot of violence, no privacy, prostitution and garbage is strewn about everywhere.
One day, I was in the house of 14 year old Bete (Beatrice). It’s a favorite activity for the girls to do each others hair and the kids love it. I had noticed that Bete’s hair was very disheveled and in knots. I asked her if she would like me to brush it out for her and of course she agreed as all the girls do. It was taking a while to get all the knots out, but she really had beautiful, thick, dark hair. As I was brushing her hair, two other teens from the neighborhood came in. They sat down, and within a few minutes, they started insulting Bete saying all sorts of terrible and vicious things. My first reaction was to get angry and tell them to stop – that I didn’t like what they were saying, but this only made them insult her all the more. Bete sat there heroically in silence taking their attacks, not trying to insult them back. And then suddenly it dawned on me – the girls were jealous. Their insults were really cries of pain, what they themselves believed. And the longer I am here, the more I see how many lies there are - in poor areas as well as affluent ones.We all want to believe the truth, but cling painfully to the lies we have been told. And what did these two girls, and Bete, want to believe but the truth: that they weren’t created for a “pig stock,” that they weren’t created to live in a violent and garbage filled neighborhood; that they are three young women, all uniquely beautiful.
At the same time, in this neighborhood, there are many families who fight for the truth. One father, of a boy named Raul, I admired very much how he carried himself with incredible dignity. The family didn’t have any money, so he went fishing in a nearby river to provide food for his family. He cleaned the fish with incredible care, and he spoke to his wife with utmost respect. One mother, Rita, was making sure her son would be clean for school the next day by having his father cut his hair and heating water on the “soba” for him to wash. They have incredible courage, even if their neighborhood’s “apparent” condition contradicts the dignity of the human person.