On December 8, 1977, Sister Alicia Domon and Sister Leonie Duquet, French sisters, Religious of the Foreign Missions, were disappeared, with twelve other women, as they left the church of Santa Cruz in BuenosAires. These sisters had been working in solidarity with the families of the disappeared in Argentina, 1977.
These women lived among the poor and were examples of the accompaniment that evangelizes that Pope Francis writes about in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, ¶ 24.
Sister Alicia explained why she did what she did:
“We did not go to the villa miseria [the shantytown] to tell people what they should do but to help one another to share the good and evil in life by taking ourselves as we were. We receive a great deal, perhaps more than we give.”
She and Sister Leonie and many others, especially women religious, are examples of what Pope Francis described
An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance.
In her standing with the families of the disappeared, Sister Alicia saw her solidarity in terms of her faith:
“I feel in communion with so many families suffering the drama of the disappearances. We seek an answer from the Lord in the light of the Gospel. I am deeply convinced that this situation of passion is united to that of Christ and it preceded the resurrection.”
Pope Francis’s words might have been written about these modern martyrs – these French sisters in Argentina in 1977, the US women killed in El Salvador in 1980, Sister Dorothy Stange killed in the Brazilian Amazon, and thousands of women (and men) killed because they stood with the poor. They evangelized by their lives, being faith disciples, as Pope Francis might say:
The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.
May their witness of accompaniment and their courage in the face of opposition move us to be evangelizers who stand with all those in need.