Four months after the arrival of the first two members of the Austrian team in Vienna, our center was officially inaugurated last Tuesday 10th May, during Father Thierry’s visit to the Austrian capital.
We want to share with you some extracts of Marylouise’s letter about these very first steps :
"Overwhelming. I think that is the most adequate way to describe them—all the stories and experiences I want to share with you, all the graces and miracles the Lord has given me, all the thankfulness I have for your sustaining prayers and support—I am overwhelmed.
My experience thus far has been none other than a return to infancy. It is appropriate that the birth of our mission coincided with the birth of Christ, for how did Christ change the world? He was born. He came to be with us, to be the most humble teacher. I had ambition, a college degree, and what I thought to be inexhaustible love welling up in my heart when I arrived in Vienna on December 14th. Yet I soon found that all the strength and wealth I thought I had to give through this mission of presence was naught. I had to learn everything anew and be expanded, stretched, and molded by God’s grace. In this way, the poverty I have experienced has been my greatest treasure. Every person and event has become a mother, father, teacher, and guide.
Like Sidonia; We were walking down the street one afternoon when Alina told me that we were going to stop and speak to the woman begging a few steps in front of us. “We pass her by and smile at her almost everyday—I want to know her name,” she said. So we did—we sat right down next to her, introduced ourselves, and from that day on there wasn’t a week that went by that we didn’t greet Sidonia—a Romanian mother of three boys who could not get work in Romania so she came to Vienna to beg everyday so she can feed her three boys, and hopefully have some leftover money to buy medicine for her youngest son who has been sick for two months. If we are not hurrying because we are late to mass, we always sit down with her, exchange the usual European embrace (double cheek kiss) and attempt to communicate. She cannot really speak much German, and I cannot speak Romanian, so we get by with mixes of languages, hand gestures, and even drawing pictures. Over two months she is no longer a woman on the street we were reaching out to—this strong and beautiful woman is my friend.
Alina and I were living with Monika – a native Austrian and a former Heart’s Home volunteer in Naples, Italy - for the first two and a half months because of many unforeseen delays with the apartment. We were so excited when the last day in February arrived and we moved into our new home. For the next month and a half, we set to work cleaning every surface in the apartment from the soot left behind from years of a poorly ventilated, wood-burning stove. All of these inconveniences are outweighed by joy and thankfulness for another friend who offers to spend a Saturday helping us paint, another who comes over unannounced with full sets of silverware and glassware to donate, and another who tells us where we can find an entire free kitchen.
I am thankful also because it seems as if the time we have spent cleaning, re-cleaning, scrubbing, painting, the Lord is doing the same work on my soul. He is scrubbing, sweeping, mopping the floors, washing and repainting the walls, refurbishing the appliances and redecorating the rooms of my soul so as to make the dwelling fit for His presence."