Message from Sr. Sophie of Jesus – ACAY Executive Director

Such a strange time!

Subject of so many controversies, in France as in the Philippines, it was a time out of time and out of the ordinary and yet for ACAY a time of incredible fruitfulness.

Certainly, our mission in Manila was initially shocked by this forced quarantine that cut us off from our usual external missionary reality. Impossible to meet our young people in detention, or even those in the reintegration stage and those at work, and the almost immediate setting up of an environment with drastic sanitary rules to guarantee the safety of our girls and our teams.

Once the shock was over, the missionary momentum gradually regained its predominant place as we adjusted to the present reality. What to do when nothing can be done? Well… make do with it! Like everyone else, online contacts were intensified. In collaboration with the employees of the government detention center for minors, we established daily contact with our young people and lived a daily time of sharing with them from a distance. Connected to the general sound system, the entire center could hear us. Training online was started with those in the Aftercare program.

In our neighborhood, with the permission of our Bishop and the Homeowner’s Association, our community of sisters animated an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday evening from our terrace so that all those who wished to join us could come while maintaining the compulsory distancing.

For their part, the team in Marseille worked from home and continued the accompaniment of the young people. For those released from detention, they were coached remotely by telephone or via social media. The objectives for monitoring the young people were achieved even if at a slower pace. The team also had the brilliant idea of starting a fundraising race for ACAY, which enabled us to help about 200 families by offering them food baskets and financial support. The needs were real: the stories of people in working-class neighborhoods who live from day to day and in the slums are heartbreaking!

How many families were not on the government lists and were left without support. If by misfortune a case of Covid suddenly arose, the neighborhood was completely barricaded with a formal ban on going out. So, many thanks to Laurent, Christine and Inès in Marseille and thanks to all of you who have run for the Philippines!

Finally, supported by a large majority of our employees, the work within the School of Life has intensified. As I write this editorial, our girls are still obliged to be in quarantine. The last three months have brought a rare quality to our relationships. We had just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the School of Life, and this quarantine has definitely been a return to the roots for me. I felt as if I was reliving the start of the School of Life twenty years ago with the 15 girls present (including three former girls as support).

The slowing down of our exterior activities has refocused us on the quality of our relationship with the girls and a deeper path has opened up for them. “Living the moment”, was how Glenilyn, our very first girl in the School of Life, described this quarantine. Yes, “living the present moment” and dwelling in it with presence, sharing, and training that transforms from within.

While this “new normal”, as it is called here, is setting itself in motion with its share of activities, let them no longer rob us of this taste for the deep.