In Mwanza, Tanzania, where I serve with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, I help run a program for girls to learn life skills, handcrafts and entrepreneurship. One day a group of us went on a visit to the home of a 20-year old girl who originally joined the program but dropped out because she was pregnant. She was afraid to attend the program because she was ashamed of not being married and was worried about what people would think. The facilitators had several phone conversations with her before the girl admitted she was afraid to tell her mother.
So a facilitator, two young mothers in the program and I organized a trip to go and visit her, give her moral support and help her tell her mother about her pregnancy. When we arrived, we discovered that the girl had already told her mother, who not only wasn’t angry but was relieved!
The girl had been sick in the first few weeks of her pregnancy and the mother thought the worst: that her daughter had contracted HIV/AIDS. The mother responded with joy and assured her daughter that the new baby would be a blessing to the family and that she would give her full support.
As we sat in their tiny living room eating the boiled eggs, peanuts and sweet potatoes that the young girl cooked for us, we could see the relief of the young soon-to-be mother and her appreciation for our support.
Katie Reid, MKLM
Teaching religion to fifth-graders at our neighboring parish, St. Ann’s Church in Ossining, N.Y., is a wonderful experience. I usually bless each child as they leave the classroom. When the temperature went down to zero degrees this winter, I told the children to zip up their jackets before they left the classroom. Oddly enough, I didn’t recognize one of the last students to leave. He was zippered up to the top of his head and none of his face was visible. Then I realized he had on a Spider Man jacket and hood and could see through the black material covering his eyes.
Since I wasn’t about to unmask a superhero, I blessed the jacket and sent the little crime fighter off to have a safe journey home.
Dora Nuetzi, M.M.
We had three days of cold rain in Mymensingh, Bangladesh, which was very difficult for people used to a subtropical climate. During that time, I was out in a distant village to celebrate an anniversary Mass for Ronu Nokrek, a local father who died last year. It was raining so hard the family urged me just to bless the grave, have a cup of tea with them and leave. But I wanted to have the Mass, so almost as a joke, I held out my hand and said: “Rain, stop!”
For the next three hours, there was not a drop of rain! We were able to have the Mass for Ronu in the chapel at Doroti Village with about 150 people present. After Mass, the ground was dry enough for us to walk to and bless Ronu’s grave. After that, the guests were able to sit on the ground and enjoy a traditional tribal meal of rice, pork and rice wine, and then clean up before the rain resumed.
Life here has many challenges but is always very interesting, and God’s loving hand is clearly seen!
William McIntire, M.M.
While I was in Virginia helping my mother after an illness, her Methodist pastor came to visit. After learning I was a Maryknoll lay missioner, the pastor pulled out a prayer card with the icon of Jesus of Maryknoll and said her church had used it the day before for prayer at a meeting. The pastor had never heard of Maryknoll before receiving the card and was interested in learning more about what we did.
No matter where we are, we can spread the word about mission!
Deborah Northern, MKLM