Sister Rosaria Assandri: mission, Africa and the amazement of every day
Sister Rosaria, where do you come from, how old are you and how does the story of your vocation in the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians begin.
I am from Bergamo, from Caravaggio, I am 63 years old. The story of my vocation begins thanks to the poverty of my family. After elementary school I wanted to continue and go to middle school, but where we lived there was no school, we had to go elsewhere and, because we had no economic possibilities, I chose to look for a job to pay for my studies. At that time the Salesian Sisters of Melzo were looking for girls, called daughters of the house, for housework and then they offered the opportunity to attend school. So I began my journey. The goodness and joy of those nuns conquered me. I adored playing…and seeing those nuns playing with children was the last straw for me to then ask to become a nun. I was very young so I had to wait, but then once I became a nun I did everything with a lot of enthusiasm.
You have been on a mission for 32 years: was it the mission that chose you or the opposite or both?
I cannot give a before or after… The Lord played a lot on my unconsciousness, He guided everything and with humility I must say that he played well. I am happy with who I am, life has not been easy, misunderstandings, difficulties and everything else have done nothing but give me a push to go on trying to change my flaws, but I have not always succeeded.
Africa is now your Country of adoption. In fact, for 32 years you have been on a mission in this continent, between Ethiopia, South Sudan and South Africa. What is your current commitment?
After opening an orphanage in Kenya, and the new mission in South Sudan, my superior, at the invitation of the Bishop, sent me to open the mission of Gubrye, in the Guraghe area. Approximately 170km southwest of Addis Ababa. Here we have no schools, we offer children, young people and women the possibility of a place to find hospitality and recover or improve education. Women are offered the opportunity to learn a job such as a cutting and sewing school and bakery. We offer young people the joy of sport, especially football, trying as much as possible to keep them off the road. Mission is very beautiful, cared for and always orderly, I believe very much that beauty educates and gives peace and serenity. And we all need this aspect. I do all this with my sisters, there are three of us and thank God it is a beautiful community.
In your mission path there is also a disease, cerebral malaria, which led you to paralysis: what was it like living it on a mission and what did that period teach you?
The disease was a gift, after the coma and physiotherapy which lasted 9 months, here comes the rebirth. In the meantime, I have to thank the staff of Sacco hospital in Milan very much for the professionalism and kindness I was able to experience. It was a very peaceful time and in that time I understood something very important. Sometimes we lose a lot of time due to community difficulties. I therefore returned to the mission with the decision not to waste more time and energy, I came back with this awareness: I came to lend a hand to these poor people and this is all I have to do with love, the rest does not count.
What strikes you and amazes you about mission and being a missionary, even if several years have passed since your beginning?
It strikes me so much that I was able to make certain choices, but I still have to admit that I have a good dose of unconsciousness and it is the Lord who brings everything forward. I love Our Lady so much and every day I experience Her presence, Don Bosco said that it is Our Lady who did everything, even if our collaboration is not lacking. This is the amazement of the beginning and of every day.