In January 2000, the Holy Year of the Great Jubilee, I was transferred to Rome to coordinate the service of many religious women who were opening the holy doors of their convents in Italy to receive and retrieve foreign women who had fallen victims to trafficking and exploitation. So I began to walk on the streets of this city at night; especially along the Salaria Street, where I met the true face of the night and street world.
During my first visit together with the anti-prostitution group of the parish of St. Frumentius, I met, among the many Nigerian women lined up on the roadside, three young girls in skimpy clothes. They had just arrived and were fed to those who would have looked for them to use and leave them on the roadside again. I saw in their young faces, especially in the eyes, shame, fear, terror, and death. In particular, Josephine was terrified. She was trying to hide because of shame. She wanted to run away. But where? Who would have paid the huge debt she had contracted with her exploiters? And how would she have broken free from the chains of the sorcerers’ voodoo rituals, which would have cast spells and revenge on her and on her family in case of rebellion?
One of the following nights, Josephine was not in the group. I searched for her and found her on the roadside; a bundle of rags on the floor, asleep. She could not bear it anymore. The workload, abuse, fear, and hunger exhausted the girl. How would her mother react if she saw her in such conditions?
That is why so many religious women, mothers, have welcomed so many crucified women in their half-way houses and recovered them, so that, after having walked the Calvary of humiliation, contempt, and fear, they could discover the joy of breaking their chains and feel loved and free creatures again.
During the year of the Jubilee of Mercy, everyone’s commitment – but especially ours, that of religious women – has to become even stronger. We have to learn how to bow with love and compassion on this wounded humanity, to dry its tears and give it life, hope, and dignity back.
Lord, remembering your passion, I also feel the need to ask forgiveness on behalf of all the women, including religious women, for our silence and our indifference. We feel guilty for not having been able to listen to these daughters’ and sisters’ cry for help and we have not been able to dry their tears and soothe their wounds. Lord, have mercy on us.
Sister Eugenia Bonetti
from the Order of the Missionaries of the Consolata,
head of the Women and Children Trafficking Office
of the Union of the Major Superiors of Italy (Usmi).
She led the Fifth Station
“Jesus meets His mother and the women of Jerusalem”
of the Via Crucis “In Support of Crucified Women”
organized in Rome on February 26, 2016
by the Pope John XXIII Community
together with the Vicariate