09 may, 2017
Lebanese residing in Fatima since the year 2000, Sister Gloria Maalouf, who will read the supplication in Arabic in the prayer of the faithful on the Mass of the 13th of May, irradiates such a joy and excitement that catches everyone who speaks to her, without suspecting she had a life filled with danger, persecutions and privations.
Born in the middle of a cristian family in Lebanon, she left the country when the civil war started in 1975 and accompanied her parents who found refuge in Kuwait.
“There I lived in a Muslim world, with many restrictions, divisions I didn’t understood, and end up drifting away from God. It was in a period in which, as a young adolescent, I lived a rebellious phase against religion, against God”, says Sister Gloria.
A job opportunity in Iraq lead the family to move once more. By then, she started to be interested in philosophy and got closer to religion and to God, making a journey.
Until the Golf War came and the family’s life changed again completely: “suddenly, we had nothing. No job, no money, in constant danger and escape”.
“We fled to the desert. It was there where I had the first feeling that my life needed to change: behind, I left everything and there was nothing. Before me there was nothing. So, I prayed and decided that God was who I should look for, it was God who had to grab me”, she told, with a big smile.
“And so it was. My parents decided to emigrate to Canada and I decided to emigrate to Jesus”, she says laughing.
Sister Gloria entered the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Congregation, in Italy. There she was invited to open the congregation´s house in Fatima, in 2000.
“I was the first of the sisters to arrive at Fatima. To me it was all very new. I didn’t knew Fatima, I didn’t knew anything about the Apparitions, didn’t knew the Message of Our Lady”, she explained.
“I studied, read, and fell in love with Mary, with the Message. I am still in love today”, she says smiling.
Her pass as a refugee and emigrant is something very special to Sister Gloria, who will pray on the 13th of May´s Mass the supplication in Arabic precisely for the refugees and migrants: “For Migrants, for the poor and refugees, so that by Mary´s interception, who knows their pain, they feel welcomed by all who offer them dignity and reasons for hoping”.
In her collaboration with the Shrine, Sister Gloria runs the stores network of the Shrine. In addition, she contacts daily with the pilgrims who come to the Chapel of the Apparitions.
The fact that she is Lebanese, today with a double nationality, and speaks Arabic has allowed to avoid embarrassing situations.
“One day, passing by the Chapel of the Apparitions, I saw that the prayer was being lead in Arabic by women dressed with the chador (vests which cover the entire body, except the face)”. I got closer and saw that they were praying to Fatima, not to Our Lady of Fatima but to Fatima, the daughter of the prophet”, she referred.
“I notified the authorities of the Shrine and since then more attention has been given on authorizing prayers in Arabic”, she told.
Even nowadays she says she finds many Muslims praying to Fatima in the Chapel of the Apparitions.
“I talk to them and I think: God and Our Lady know what there are doing. If Our Lady, in her message spoke to all, why not to them? She must know”, she added.
A few years ago she found in Fatima a Muslim sheik with who she talked for a while.
“I told him about the Apparitions of Our Lady, told him about the Little Shepherds and the Message. In the end, I offered him Sister Lucia´s Memoirs in Arabic, which translation I had made, and a rosary. Months after he came back and brought me a prayers book to Fatima, daughter of the prophet, and a Muslim rosary”, she told.
“Maybe he was trying to convert me and I convert him!”, she concluded with another laugh.