History of the Foundation of Comedor Madre Emilia Gamelin, Santiago, Chile 1986-2018
Comedor Emilia Gamelin is a dining room facility that was founded in 1986 to be a place where the hungry could sit and have lunch, those who previously came to our door, at the Motherhouse at 509 Providencia St., and later to the new Provincial House at 140 Terranova St.
In those years, the Sisters of Providence distributed food on Terranova St. However, this street is narrow and the residents complained about the discomfort that this practice generated for them and their young children, especially because the beneficiaries sat there to eat.
The municipality and the police requested that we solve the conflict. What should we do? Where could we open another door?
Mrs. Carmen Grez, mayor of Providencia at that time, met with the provincial superior, Sister Claudia Vargas, and asked her to solve the problem, offering a financial contribution to support an eventual solution.
Our Provident God, a Father who never abandons his children and for whom the needy have priority, offered us a solution: the 1985 Valparaiso earthquake destroyed the House of Providence of that city. This Home received young girls, female teenagers and boys up to 10 years old, for over a hundred years. It was a Home where children were cared for and educated to reintegrate society with dignity. How to rebuild a house that had made so many children and teenagers happy?
A project was presented to the Roncalli International Foundation in Montreal (Canada), who faithfully approved the draft project. Each month we received a check from the Roncalli Foundation.
Everything worked very well, until one day the check was stolen from the mail. Sister Liliana Contador, Provincial Treasurer, told the Provincial Superior that she had asked Mother Emilie Gamelin, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in Canada, that if the check showed up, she would build a room for their hungry brothers and sisters. The check reappeared and consequently the dining room was built with the support of the City of Providencia, fulfilling their promise and contributing for 50% of the costs.
The construction was designed by León Rodríguez – architect, who has since returned to the Father’s House, and Alberto Etchegaray – civil engineer. None of them charged professional fees.
The dining room, blessed by Cardinal Francisco Fresno, is still open today. The Sisters of Bernarda Morin Province administer this beautiful work of mercy with the assistance of volunteers.
This gives us reason to once again say, Providence of God, I believe in you!
Sister Claudia Vargas
*In the picture: Sister Margarita Rubio, instigator of the Comedor Emilia Gamelin, serving the soup to the people in need. Bernarda Morin Province Archives