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My journey with Victoria



Victoria was one of the parishioners I got to know when I was assigned to Ashbourne in 2008. I got to know Victoria and her son Mark in my ministry on RCIA (Rites of ChristianInitiation of Adults). He was one among the candidates for baptism. Victoria is a jolly woman, full of life and very friendly. I never thought that behind the bubbly personality is the dark shadow of emotional, psychological and physical torture that she endured for many years from her husband.  She came to the parish office several times to re-schedule their son’s baptism because her husband had no interest to have their son baptised. But their son was getting excited to receive the sacrament of the First Holy Communion and she doesn’t want to disappoint him as he is looking forward enthusiastically to participate in the programme.


One day she came to me crying, telling me all of her difficulties, pains and suffering in her married life. I came to know that she has been a victim of domestic violence for sixteen years.I brought out my concerns during our weekly parish team meeting. We tried to see what possible help we can offer her. I went to visit them in their house one day and to give the letter from the parish priest, Fr. Jim inviting her husband to visit him in his office. The reason for this is to talk about their son’s upcoming baptism. The husband was very welcoming and hospitable during my visit. He related well with his wife in front of me but I sensed Victoria was tensed. He came to see Fr. Jim the following day in the office. He said he was just worried not to be able to find a sponsor for their son. So to solve his worries I offered to stand as the boy’s sponsor and Godparent during his baptism.


During three years I was assigned in Ashbourne I became Victoria’s friend and confidant. I felt I that was somehow sharing with her the heavy burdens on her shoulder. I could see myselfas Veronica, Mary, Simon Cyrene and other disciples in the Gospel helplessly watching Jesus march in agony to Calvary.

Many times she would avoid talking to me because she felt tired and feels she is a burden to me. During our conversations, she would become emotional. Her self-pity is so strong. She would apologise for telling me the same stories over and over again. That he hit her and embarrassed her in front of their son. For few times, her husband told their son that she is a prostitute. That she is good for nothing person and she doesn’t deserve any respect. That one day he will kill her with a knife. One day she discovered that her son did a search on the internet on how to kill a person with a knife. I was shocked and couldn’t find the words to utter.


Several times neighbours went to the local Garda office to file a complaint about the noise whenever she is beaten.  But whenever the Garda would come to their house he would make up stories that it  wasn’t his fault. My dear friend lost hope. She felt paralysed. Always in fear as he threatened to kill her if she’ll run away or report to any authority. He was so suspicious that he would play detective behind hersometimes. Her husband would inspect her bag, purse, jeans and everything that she wears everyday including her mobile phone to check to whom she was in contact with. Things were getting worse.

He became suspicious that his wife is confiding to me so he warned her to avoid talking to me. He told her that he’ll kill her or kill me if she’ll continue being in contact with me. I became cautious since then and I told our parish priest about this. I kept on encouraging her to come out and stand up against him. But she was so crippled with fear. She can’t even leave the country because her husband took her passport.

I was somehow happy to hear that she was taking one of  those government educational course as an assistant teacher and she was about to finish her thesis. However her husband destroyed all her materials so she was forced to stop. Both of them have no work and dependent on the subsidy they receive from the government. She wanted to find a job and whenever she finds one he would force her to resign.


One day, I was at the local supermarket to buy groceries. I spotted Victoria at the entrance of the shop,staring blankly out into the heavy rains outside. I saw the sadness in her eyes. She didn’t see me so I greeted her. She told me another sad story. That morning, arriving back home after bringing her son to school, she was not allowed in by her husband. She was told that she can only be allowed in the house when their son is collected from school. That meant she had to stay out nowhere to go until it was time to collect her son in school after classes. I got so angry and I didn’t know what to say. I thought to myself, “for God’s sake this human being is treated like an animal!”. I then remembered the story she shared with me when their son was just few months old. Her husband would order her to sit still in one corner of the room and won’t move while him and the baby sleeps. She had no choice but obeyed rather than be beaten again. I prayed to God to help me. What else can I do? I had spoken to the social workers and they advised me to listen to her and never to push her to go to the Women’sshelter against her will. Our parish curate, went to see the Garda (police) to file a record when Victoria told us that her husband hit her. She went to the GP so she had a record to show that she wasn’t making up the story as what her husband always tell  anyone who would come to investigate. We certainly did everything! So I had no more words left to say.


After listening to her, I told her that I’m finishing in the parish and would be going home in April the following year. “Oh no!” she said. And she looked sad. I was sad too! “So I have nobody to listen to me anymore?” She continued. “Well somebody will come in my place”.I gave her a reassuring smile and patted her on her shoulders. I invited her to go for snacks because I knew she hadn’t eaten any food yet but she declined. I gave her 20 euro so she can buy food but she refused to take it afraid that her husband will find out. I told her I’ll be away for few days from the parish so she won’t see me around. I gave her the number of the social worker to whom I spoke with that she can ring. I left her there as she waits for the time to collect her son from school. On my way home I felt heavy. I pour out my emotions as I cried with anger, disappointment and frustration. And there was nothing I can do but pray to God for miracle to happen.


One day, I was on my way to the parish office when I saw my friend walking down the street. It was snowing and was too early for her to be out. There was no classes because it was Saturday so I thought, 'why would she be out in that weather'. Only to discover that she was forced by her husband to stay out of the house. I invited her to the parish office. I made a cup of coffee for her and sat with her to listen to her agonies.


A week after this meeting, she came to the parish office looking for me. She was in a panic and was looking for help. She has finally decided to leave the house. But not without her son. I phoned the social worker right away and spoke to her about Victoria’s decision and so that they can instruct her what   to do. The next day when I came to the parish office I was informed by the parish secretary that  Victoria is in her friend’s house hiding and ready to go. After collecting her son from school that afternoon, we brought her to the Women’s shelter in a nearby town. The Social worker at the shelter gave me an assurance that they will do everything to protect her and her son. That night when I came home I learned that her husband went looking for Victoria in the parish office. The following night he came to see me in our house crying for help him find his family. He asked me if I knew where they were and I denied. I was shaking with fear but had to compose myself. I managed to pretend I wasn’t nervous and had everything in control. Thankfully I had companions in the house that day so I felt reassured that if he was going to do anything to me at least there were people around. As part of my commitment, I journeyed with Victoria in her struggle. I know that like me there are many missionaries putting their lives at risk so “others may live.”


My friend is in good hands now. She has gained her confidence and self-respect back. I know it is not easy to stay inside the shelter knowing that her battle is far from over but step by step she’ll get there. Mark is causing her pains and is troublesome. It is another layer of her personal struggle of being a mother to her son who is also a victim of the circumstances. The boy is undergoing psychological therapy now but she knows it will take some time for him to recover and be healed. The last letter I received from her told me that she moved out from the shelter with the help of the Social worker. She has finally found a home for herself and her son. She is still struggling with her son but she’s hoping for a brighter future ahead.


My journey with Victoria has taught me patience and endurance amidst difficulties. To be more trustful to God and to love unselfishly. She told me that if not for her son it would have been easier to make decisions. And yes indeed she was right.

It is my wishes and prayers that someday she’ll harvest the good fruit of her labour! Behind the clouds, there is the sunshine!

 

by Lenette T.

Lenette is assigned in a parish in Ballymun.






'A life unlike your own can be your teacher'.      St. Columban

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