The Portrait of Jesus in Tala Leprosarium

Some parts of their body are missing. Some have incomplete fingers. Some have distorted nose. Many of them are bed ridden. Many are in the wheelchair. They are men and women, young and old.

They are imprisoned in leprosy. The disease is considered a curse, a sickness for sinners, as they say. I don't believe in that. It is more easy for me to believe that the disease is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), affecting human since the the beginning of the human story.

They are outcasted, rejected by the society, even during Jesus' time. That is why they learned to live in a different world, to protect themselves from the judging, disgusting looks of the so called 'healthy' human beings.

I can feel their insecurities. I can feel their hesitations to mingle in the society.

I remember Sr. Elvia - the Novitiate level coordinator of AWFP Formators - telling me that we, Novices, should be very careful of their sensitive nature. We cannot just call them lepers. We lovingly and reverently called them brothers and sisters.

It is not easy to win their hearts - wounded and broken - by their conditions and by the rejections of their own families.

I cannot see their smiles, at first. But as we started with the program, I started to see their precious smiles. I am grateful and appreciative of my co-Novices' genuine efforts to make them feel accepted and loved. Leading this year's batch of AWFP Novices becomes easy because of the support of all the Novices and our formators who just allowed us to grow.

Our mission was to bring Jesus to the patients of Tala Leprosarium. And we did all our best to make them see Jesus in us. But at the end of the day, I realized, I was the one who saw Jesus in them. I saw in them a carefree Jesus in the way they laughed. I saw in them a loving Jesus in the way they treat each other. I saw in them a happy Jesus in the way they appreciate our efforts to entertain them, I saw in them a communitarian  Jesus in the way they support and love each other as they live together.

(This article is first published in Pahatid -  the Official Newsletter of the Association of Women Formators of the Philippines - 2016-2017 issue)

By: Sr. Mary Irene V. Rafer, OP
AWFP Novices - 2016-2017
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