For years, Don Agustin Lazarte was an itinerant catechist in our St. Francis Xavier parish in the village of Monte Verde, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He would spend a week or a month in a village, helping with ceremonies in the chapel, visiting the country schools and consoling the sick, or reading the novena prayers for the deceased. His education was minimal, but he once confided that he had read the whole Bible seven times. The local people, who all respected and liked this humble, sincere missionary, would invite him for meals and offer him a cot for the night. The years, the heat and the roads eventually took their toll on him, and he wasn’t able to continue.
For some time he lived in a tiny one-room house by himself, while his good neighbor Don Jesus provided meals. Eventually I talked to Agustin and suggested he move to a rest home for the elderly in the city. He agreed. I visited him there every few weeks, and he seemed content and never complained.
But one day Don Jesus came to visit me and told me that he too had gone to see Agustin, and that Agustin was not happy at the home and wanted to return to the country. Agustin had not mentioned it to me because he did not want to offend me after initially agreeing to follow my suggestion and go to the rest home to live.
Don Jesus said, “I would like to bring him to my home. Our family will take care of him as long as God gives him life. We want him to be happy. We are grateful for his service to God and the Church through the years.”
What a lesson in service and compassion this family gave me.
Michael Gould, M.M.
My dad was in hospice in his last days and just lying in bed, slowly fading away. I called our parish priest and asked if he would give my dad the Last Rites. My dad was a person who never went to church but took Mom and us four kids to church every Sunday. He was a very upright and honest man.
“Let’s do it now,” our priest, Father Jerry, said. I picked him up at the church and we visited Dad. Father Jerry stood on Dad’s left side and I was on his right. We placed our hands on each of Dad’s shoulders. We prayed and when Father Jerry said, “Your sins are forgiven,” Dad literally jumped, rising a little off the bed. I will never forget that moment. It changed my life.
I took Father Jerry back to the church and then went home in time to get the hospital’s call saying, “Your dad just died.”
San Antonio, Texas
The secondary school students from Issenye parish in the Serengeti region of Tanzania, where I served as a Maryknoll lay missioner, were home on school break. They wanted to contribute to and serve the elderly in the parish. They decided to help Sampson, a poor recluse who lived in a dilapidated plastic and mud shack up the hill from the parish, and an elderly couple, Floredea and Francis, who lived in a crumbling mud and stick one-room dwelling not too far from Sampson.
On their own initiative, the students proceeded to build two small traditional watertight houses of stick, mud and thatch. One was for Sampson and the other for Floredea and Francis. When the new houses were completed, everyone celebrated the students’ endeavor and the elderly were secure in the homes that love and mercy built.
Margo Cambier, MKLM
“You cry because you have a lot of love in your heart.” These were the consoling words I heard from the women of the Legion of Mary in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, where I was beginning my first overseas mission. I thought I had everything together, but as I began to speak, tears rolled down my cheeks and I started to sob. The women understood my homesickness.
Three years later when I was leaving St. Lucia, my tears again started to flow. The women of the Legion of Mary again offered consoling words. “Sister,” they said, “now you cry because you have become one of us.”
Sister Agnes Ann Gardt, S.C.