Friday, July 7, 2017

My arrival and first weeks in Jordan

It has been a whirlwind here in Jordan! I’ve been doing lots of things since I’ve arrived and meeting so many wonderful people!

First of all, I have to say I’m so happy to be fluent in Italian because Arabic is so difficult! I have an intermediate level of Arabic from FIU, my university in Miami, but I studied it in 2010 and hardly used Arabic in all these years! The official language of the Salesian Sisters where I live in Amman, Jordan, is Italian and they also speak Arabic in the Middle East houses. Sister Jacinta is from India with whom I speak in English and Italian, but everybody else speaks Arabic: Sister Rita is from Lebanon, Sister Rasha is from Syria, Nataly is from Jordan but knows English, and our chef Gioia (which means “joy” in Italian) is Armenian from Lebanon.

My journey to leave everything behind in the US was such a herculean effort! I still have to deal with some paperwork and expenses back there but this experience is worth a million so I’m dealing with all that while trying to keep a positive attitude! Thank goodness for my family and friends who are helping me to deal with all that from Miami!

I left Miami on a Monday morning and arrived in Amman on Thursday after a quick stop in Washington D.C. to fulfill another dream! I had a four-hour oral assessment at the State Department for a non-appointed consular position in Latin America, a position to which I had applied about a year ago, and I passed it! I started the hiring paperwork on that same day but later while in Amman, and thinking about it, I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted so I withdrew my candidacy. But the feeling of passing the entire and long process at the U.S. Department of State was very rewarding!

So… I arrived in Amman very exhausted! And the sisters were so nice to me! Especially Sor Jacinta, who told me to sleep and rest until I got recovered from the long trip and jet-lag. They also had bottled water for me for the first three days so I didn’t get sick!

Our Parish Church of the Annunciation
Underneath is the Caritas Mercy Restaurant

The first days were quiet so I went to mass every day and helped in church with candles, flowers, and altar preparation, before and after rosary prayer and the mass. VIDES is a Catholic organization but you don’t have to be Catholic to volunteer with them. But, if you are, like I am, then it is fulfilling to go to mass every day, and especially to Sunday mass, which is required, and I very much look forward to it, since I used to go to Sunday Mass back home. The only challenge is that mass and rosary prayer are in Arabic!

Virgen Mary, people bring flowers to her almost every day!
The church has beautiful mosaic work on the main walls and on the altar, it's a beautiful church!

Mass for the 100 years of Virgen of Fatima at 
La Salle School - The Bishops attended!
May was also the month of Virgen Mary so there was daily rosary prayer at the church, and there was a very important celebration for the 100 years of Our Lady of Fatima the day after I arrived in Amman and Sor Rita invited me to go with her. It was so touchy to observe the devotion of the Christians of Jordan to Virgen Mary, particularly, living in a country with a Muslim majority. 

I attended to another important Mass with the sisters, followed by a reception celebrating the Fourth Anniversary of Pope Francis, at the Our Lady Nazarene Church, which is the base for the Patriarchal Vicariate of Jordan. At the end of the mass, the Nuncio for Jordan and Iraq, who is the Ambassador of the Vatican, read about the work of Pope Francis in these four years where the Pope stressed how important is for all of us to contribute to peace in the Middle East. 

The Nuncio, Alberto Ortega, is from Spain and is a very cordial and humble person. I greeted him at the reception and Sor Rita encouraged me to ask him for a private appointment to speak with him! I met him two days later at the Vatican Embassy where he welcomed me very warmly and where we had a candid conversation about the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and about my life vocation. He is based in Baghdad; I’ve been praying for him and for all the Christians who so bravely live and work in the Middle East amid the current hostilities from ISIS and other Islamic extremists.

Mass celebration for Pope Francis
Bishops Shomal and Moroun, followed by Nuncio Ortega

At the Pope Francis reception, Sor Rita introduced me to many people, including a priest from the Chaldean Church of Iraq, who works with Iraqi refugee children and their families, and an Argentinian priest who runs a church with an orphanage and a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. They both do a great job in their communities; I’ll talk more about them in coming blogs.

Humanitarian and Community Outreach work

Caritas Mercy Restaurant
In every Catholic place, you'll find a picture of
Pope Francis and of King Abdullah!
I’ve been volunteering at the Restaurant of Mercy with Caritas. The restaurant serves food for about 200-500 homeless or poor people, daily. The ones who benefit the most are Muslim, which is beautiful being Caritas a Catholic (Christian) organization. One of the ways in which the restaurant raise funds is by catering for events. Their food is delicious! The restaurant delivers food to the elder or sick at their homes, some people come with containers to take food to their families at home, and some others come to the restaurant, where they sit and we go and serve them at the table; I really like the concept of “serving the poor at the table” – I think it restores their dignity and it gives us the chance to share with them our humanity as equal brothers and sisters.

At the Mercy Restaurant, I’ve been serving food to the poor, drying dishes and kitchen utensils, and putting them away. 

Serving food for the poor - usually there is soup and two other dishes
After drying dishes and everything else!

I was fortunate to help at a big celebration for the 50th Anniversary of Caritas in Jordan with a beautiful mass celebration and reception for 2,500 guests! I helped by organizing food on serving trays and by helping clean-up one of the rooms after the reception, and I had the chance to participate in the mass as well! The celebration was held at the Our Lady of Peace Center (Regina Pacis Center) near the airport of Amman, which was founded by the Catholic Bishop Salim Sayegh in 2004 as a rehabilitation center for kids with disabilities, serving Jordanian Muslims and Christians. The center also works in peace initiatives and with Iraqi and Syrian refugees in different programs. It’s a beautiful property on a green hill, and very peaceful!

I was so proud of my tray!
Although the carrot flowers were already cut lol
We prepared plenty of these trays for 2,500 guests!
The majority of the Mercy Restaurant team,
including the Manager or Caritas Jordan!

Caritas Mercy Restaurant, such a wonderful team!
The team at the restaurant is very diverse! There are Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Armenians, and Iraqi refugees working and volunteering, a girl from Switzerland who is spending some time in Jordan volunteering as well, and some other volunteers who pop-up almost every day. The atmosphere at the Mercy Restaurant is amazing thanks to the leadership and kindness of Sawsan and her husband Ramez, and Carol - they did a great job creating a family atmosphere where everyone enjoys what they do and spend almost the whole day there... Sor Rita told me to go one morning to check-it-out and I spent almost 8 hours with them!

I also participated at the oratory with young adults from Jordan and Iraq where I was asked to speak about the meaning of doing volunteering work. Sor Rasha would like me to speak about VIDES with them, so we are looking for a time to do it soon!

At the Oratory with Sor Rasha in the back!

I am living out a dream to serve in the Middle East! I’m a fervent advocate of interreligious dialogue and this mission is already very fulfilling, in particular, because I’m serving the Muslim community through Christian organizations! 

Though I do not know fully what is in store for me, I am offering my time and talents to touch the lives of the young people and of those in need – one person at a time while living out Salesian loving-kindness and joy. I am just happy to be of service!

On my next blog, I’ll write about the Syrian refugee camp we visited, so stay tuned!

You can follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see more pictures!

If you haven’t contributed yet, please go to my personal fundraising page by clicking on the link below and be part of my mission!

And to those who contributed, a big THANK YOU! 😊

May God bring peace to the Middle East and grant us peace in our hearts,

Natalia Liviero, VIDES+USA Missioner


  1. Wonderful Natalia! ... Keep well and I hope to see you in the Holy Land one day.

    1. Thank you for your nice words Nasser! I'm actually going to Nazareth in September! I'll be in touch :)

  2. Natalia, This is so awesome! I pray peace upon you and wish you the very best in your missions work.

  3. Natalia I am so happy to see you fulfilling your dream as you indicated during your Cursillo. My prayers are with you and the beautiful community you are in. De Colores. Ana Lorenzo

    1. Ana, you remember! Yes, I'm so happy! Thank you for contributing to my mission and for your generosity. God bless you :)