Saturday, May 4, 2013



Finding answers for the heart

Thursday 2 May 2013
Kairos  Vol 24, Issue 7

Words Laura Meli
Picture courtesy of Sr Regine Fohrer

VOLUNTEER recruitment director of Heart’s Home in New York, Sr Regine Fohrer, who recently visited Melbourne, has found her vocation—and her home.

At the age of 22, while working as a software program translator in Dublin, Ireland, Sr Regine Fohrer felt questions rising in her heart about the meaning of life and her place in the world.

Sr Regine was born in France, where she completed her studies in languages and sciences and yet, despite pursuing a successful career, she was constantly bothered by ‘the meaninglessness and absurdity of life and not having answers’. After four years of full-time work in a stressful job, Sr Regine made a decision to fulfil a childhood dream of volunteering in a developing country.

As Sr Regine began her investigation of organisations, three different people gave her the name of Heart’s Home, ‘an international, Catholic non-profit organisation that works to promote a culture of compassion around the world’. She read an article by Fr Rev. Thierry de Roucy, the founder of the organisation, and was inspired by the way he lived the life and values of which he spoke, and she realised, ‘this is what I am looking for’.
Sr Regine volunteered with Heart’s Home and was sent to their mission house in Bangkok, Thailand, for two years. She went with all her questions and laid them before God, saying: ‘I need answers—you have two years.’

Living and working in the slum areas of Bangkok, Sr Regine was struck by the joy of the people. Many of them were living in absolute poverty and yet ‘they were literally celebrating life more than living it’, and ‘when we came to visit them, they would stop everything and celebrate the moment together’.

Sr Regine was captivated by the capacity of the Thai people to stand strong in the midst of their difficulties, suffering and pain.

There was one particularly meaningful moment that Sr Regine shared with a woman about her own age who was suffering from a terminal illness. On the last occasion that Sr Regine saw this woman, they exchanged a long gaze. It was a moment which echoed the words of Christ: ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’

In this gaze, Sr Regine experienced the true meaning of the Christian life: ‘In that bread, in that woman, the same person was there: Christ. I touched him and saw him.’

From that moment, Sr Regine started reading and soaking herself in everything she could about the Faith and ironically she recalls that it was ‘in this Buddhist country I found God, I found Christ’.

When Sr Regine left Heart’s Home in Bangkok, she admitted that she did so with two resolutions: ‘I will never again live community life and I will get married.’

It would seem, however, that God had a different plan. After returning to Switzerland, Sr Regine found a good job and good friends and yet in her heart she knew that ‘this was not it’.

She asked God to reveal his plan to her and, soon after, her company restructured and Sr Regine was made redundant. She knew that this was God’s answer. At this time, Sr Regine met the founder of Heart’s Home at a retreat and asked him about pursuing a vocation. Although it was not something she had previously considered, Sr Regine realised: ‘I couldn’t deny that if I was true in my heart, there was something here that was deeply corresponding to my heart.’

The first two years in the novitiate with the Sisters of God’s Presence were not easy, but at the end of this time, Sr Regine knew that she had found her home: ‘I never chose my vocation. He called me and showed me that this is who I am. I found a happiness I had never found before and it all makes sense.’

Sr Regine completed studies in theology and philosophy in France before being sent on mission to Brooklyn, New York. She had seen material poverty of Bangkok, but the poverty of loneliness in New York was still more confronting. Along with two priests, three lay consecrated women and two other volunteers, Sr Regine’s life was transformed as she began visiting housing projects, the elderly, two nursing homes, a woman’s shelter, and reaching out to artists in need of a community.

Essentially, Heart’s Homes mission is to spread a culture of compassion and to live with the compassionate heart of Mary who stood at the foot of her son’s cross.

In living out her vocation with the Sisters of God’s Presence, Sr Regine has chosen to embrace a poverty of heart and a ‘poverty in friendships,’ which is essentially the realisation that ‘you have the same heart and needs of the heart as these people’.

In choosing this life of poverty, however, Sr Regine’s life has been blessed with an incredible richness. In place of the endless questions that plagued her, Sr Regine has found meaning and answers within her own heart’s home, which is now Christ.
In March, Sr Regine visited Australia where she spoke to young people at the CulturEd Cafeabout the work of Heart’s Home. The mission of this Catholic volunteer program is based on three pillars: compassion, community and prayer. It consists of small centres where volunteers and permanent members ‘form personal relationships with the most suffering and isolated in deprived areas, orphanages, jails, nursing homes’. Since Heart’s Home was founded in Argentina and Brazil in 1990, it has expanded to 55 centres in 25 countries and has commissioned 1300 volunteers from 38 nationalities to minister to the poor.

No comments: