Jakarta, 30 January 2013
For the past five days I have been staying in Bandung at the formation house with Nance O’Neil, Gera Philips and the three postulants, Eni, Yola and Fili. Bandung is north of Jakarta and higher above sea level so it is cooler and with 9 million fewer people, less noisy than Jakarta. Bandung’s tree-lined streets have given it the informal title of ‘the Paris of Java’, - surely a fitting place of formation for the Indonesian and Timorese daughters of Sophie Barat.
One story which the group recounts while I am here is about the day that Muslim university students came to ‘the convent’ to learn about Christmas. It happened like this: some students were talking with Gera at a gathering before Christmas and they said that they would like to understand more about the significance of this special day for Christians. So in the spirit of the season Gera invited them to come to her home. Nance O’Neil takes up the story and tells how every member of the community prepared for the visit by cooking, wrapping small gifts and mostly by sharing the responsibility of preparing an ‘explanation’ of the essence of Christmas for those of our faith. Nance recalled how the hostesses had to quickly accommodate the Muslim students when they needed to pray the prayer of Sholat in the midst of their visit. So of course they were offered our most sacred space and prayed to Allah in the chapel. Nance commented that “We hadn’t known that the direction to Mecca is just beyond Sophie’s picture.”
What touches me as I listen to the retelling of this story is that a step towards communion was taken by both the RSCJ community and the young Muslims who came in search of understanding their Christian neighbours. The young women in the formation community talk of having their cultural and religious horizons broadened. The young Muslims also spoke of barriers which were broken through. It seems to me that this event is a profound example of the open heart of our RSCJ symbol.
Anne Corry, rscj
Province of Australia-New Zealand