By Devin Watkins
Temara is situated some 20km south of Morocco’s capital Rabat, along the road to Casablanca.
In this suburban area, three Daughters of Charity run the “Rural Center for Social Services”, providing around 150 children with material and psychological care.
Pope Francis took a moment during his Apostolic Visit to Morocco to greet these three sisters and the local Muslims for whom they care, during a private visit.
Care for poor families
Sister Gloria Carrilero, Superior of the community, has staffed the Center since 1990. Sister Maria Luisa Quintana arrived two years later, and Sister Magdalena Mateo came in 2006. All three hail from Spain. They live in the midst of their Muslim neighbors without a fence around their house or bars on their windows.
The Center was founded 44 years ago to cure the burns that children and adults often suffer as they cook over open fires outside their homes.
The Daughters of Charity are assisted by local Moroccan teachers and nurses, as they open their doors every morning at 8:00 AM to welcome 40-odd children between the ages of 3 and 15. The children are provided with breakfast, a snack, and lunch, and with school lessons.
The sisters also help local women with formula, diapers, and food for their newborns. They even organize courses to help illiterate women learn to read and to count change when they go to the market.
‘A grace to be among Muslims’
Sister Gloria Carrilero told Vatican News that the Daughters of Charity’s ministry is aimed at Muslims, since the closest Catholics are the Franciscan Fathers in Rabat.
“I’ve lived with Muslims for more than 28 years,” she said, “and I believe it has been a great grace from the Lord to share their lives and to serve them. Muslims have taught me so many things, all of them good: generosity, openness and welcome, hospitality, and care for the poor. They’ve taught me a lesson, and they’ve show me how to put it into practice. And as a Catholic I’ve accepted it.”
Sister Gloria said she often reminds the Muslims she helps that they share the same God. “We have the same God, and we journey toward Him by different roads.”
She said Pope Francis’ visit to this Muslim-majority nation “is a great richness and grace.”