All Worthwhile

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[googlefont font=“Cormorant Infant” fontsize=”20″]By Joseph G. Healey, M.M.[/googlefont]

Driving across the grasslands to a distant chapel
to celebrate Easter during the rainy season in Tanzania.
Halfway through a swampy plain the mud becomes so thick
I abandon my truck and walk the last mile and a half
ankle-deep in mud to arrive wet, dirty and tired.
The people run toward me clapping and dancing.
“The Padri has come. We will have Mass.”
I forget my soaked and muddy clothes and my weariness
as we prepare to celebrate the Easter Eucharist.
Looking out at the happy, excited faces I know
this community is what Maryknoll mission is all about.
This makes it all worthwhile

All Worthwhile, Tanzania

Photo by Sean Sprague

I accompany a young couple and bless their marriage,
baptize their firstborn, a baby girl named
in honor of my deceased mother, Virginia.
Later, after moving to another parish, I often wonder
How is their marriage? Christian life? Children?
In the first grade Virginia writes me a letter
filled with scribbling and drawings and love.
This makes it all worthwhile!

Chacha, chairman of our local Catholic council,
gets caught in a legal battle over cows.
The judge sends him unfairly to jail in far-off Mugumu.
We grieve and talk and talk and grieve.
Trips to the court, to the judge, to the prison
in endless attempts to get him released. Silence.
Suddenly he appears at the rectory and shouts:
“I am home. I am free.”
This makes it all worthwhile!

I send our Catholic bishops copies
of articles and reports on missionary work.
For months and even years no reply,
no thanks, no acknowledgment.
I wonder, “I am wasting my time?”
By chance the bishop of Bukoba sees me
and says, “I never get a chance to write
to thank you. I read everything.
Please keep it coming.”
This makes it all worthwhile!

All Worthwhile, Tanzania

Photo by Sean Sprague

At the diaconate ordination of Sabinus
we talk about how the 14-year journey
to his vocation started by filling out
the application forms when I was his pastor.
The long years through high school seminary
and into his final year of theology.
He reminds me I gave him a book with an inscription
that said, “My prayers will accompany you
on your journey to the priesthood.”
He has remembered this all these years.
So have I.
This makes it all worthwhile!

All Worthwhile, Tanzania

Photo by Sean Sprague


 
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About the author

Joseph G. Healey, M.M.

Father Joseph G. Healey, from Baltimore, Maryland, celebrates this 50th jubilee as a Maryknoll priest this June. He has served in Tanzania and Kenya, and this poem celebrates his mission to the people of East Africa.