Reliving 11 Formative Years

 

SistersJean Boutin, former DHS, spent a good part of a late June afternoon sharing and reliving some of the most poignant highlights of her younger years in Chile. As she explained, when she entered the Congregation in the mid sixties, her intention was to serve as a missionary in Africa.  However, the trends of the Church being what they were at that time, and the Daughters of the Holy Spirit responding to the call of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council to send members of religious Congregations to South America, Jean gracefully accepted to be missioned to this lovely southern hemisphere country characterized by topographical and societal contrasts.

SisterThe enthusiastic 24 year old soon discovered this was also a time of political unrest in Chile; a coup was in the offing and a new ‘reform’  government was making every effort possible, above and below board, to gain ideologic control of this very populous and mineral rich area of South America. It was not long before Jean fell in love with the Chilean people and identified with their plight, their poverty resulting to a large extent from political ploys, their struggles to obtain basic necessities and medical care, especially for their children. 

As Boutin read her well-prepared autobiography that focused on her Chilean experience, there were times when she paused to hold back tears of emotion as she recalled how she and the other Sisters tried to reach out to individuals who were being persecuted by government forces because they were suspected of being partisans of the ‘other’ side, how they offered these persons temporary refuge, risking their own safety,  while the former awaited transport and passage to other countries sympathetic to their situation. Examples of men and women who had been tortured in outrageous ways simply because they were in the wrong place at the right time, dotted Jean’s presentation and left the audience breathless and shaking their heads in disbelief.

SistersFor Jean, born and bred in Chicopee, Massachusetts, far from the horrors and the nightmarish conditions she experienced between 1973 and 1984, this phase of her life was a wake up call, a boot camp on collaboration with the suffering-innocent, awareness of one’s surroundings, cleverness and creativity in various forms of outreach to the people whom she and her DHS Sisters from the US and France were serving; they were indeed formative years, years that impacted her life permanently for the good.

After fielding several questions, reacting to comments from the Sisters in the audience and their applause and affirmation of a ‘job well-done’, Jean shared how difficult it had been for her to write this part of her autobiography because, while they were years of growth and many positives, it made her very sad to recall the unjust suffering she had witnessed, personally experienced and left behind unresolved; yet as she looked up at her supportive listeners, a huge smile lit up her expression and she cried out with burning love and sincerity “ İ VIVA CHILE!  to which every person in attendance spontaneously responded: “İ VIVA CHILE!  İ VIVA LAS HIJAS DEL ESPÍRITU SANTO!

 

 
 

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