On Wotje island in the Marshall Islands, we Maryknoll sisters were planning to head back to the main atoll of Majuro, but the plane was canceled until the next day. So I decided to take a long walk around the island, something I had never done before.
After walking along the shore for about 90 minutes, I realized it was going to be a much longer hike than I had intended. I hadn’t seen a path into the interior for a long time. I began to wonder if I should turn around and return before it got too late. While I was debating, I saw some children’s footprints in the sand, so I pushed on. Sure enough, around the next curve, a small group of children was playing in the sand.
I asked the oldest, a boy about 8 years old, if he would show me how to get inland. He got up with all his little siblings following him and led me on a small path. We went inland and ended up at a home. An elderly woman was sitting on the ground washing clothes in a tub. I stopped to chat with her.
Then I turned around and saw the boy, still surrounded by the little ones, coming back toward me bearing a cup of water in his two hands. He presented it to me as one would offer a Communion chalice. I hesitated because drinking unknown water is normally not safe. But this was so formally presented, and all those big eyes were looking up at me and their big brother, so I took the cup in both hands, thanked him for his thoughtfulness, and drank deeply. When we continued on past the house, I was relieved to see this was a family that had a closed water container of good rainwater.
Carolyn White, M.M.
In Nicaragua in the late 1980s, I was heading back to my parish of Terrabona from the capital, Managua, in my pickup truck after doing errands. As I passed through one of the communities, a couple of lay leaders flagged me down.
“Father!” they exclaimed. “Don’t you remember the Mass for first Communion we have programmed for tonight?”
Oh no! I’d forgotten about them, as we had so many communities. I told them I’d be right back. I went into town where I lived, got my gear and returned. I was already bushed from the trip, but a commitment is a commitment. There were about 90 confessions and Mass to follow. It was 11 p.m. when I finished hearing confessions, and then the people asked me to go after Mass to hear the confession of a sick person. I said I was too tired and it was too late.
But getting into Mass, I said to myself, “I’ll go if there are enough consecrated hosts left over.” Many people went to Communion that night, and I ran out of hosts. “Well, there’s my answer,” I mused.
But lo and behold, as I purified the chalice, there was a consecrated host on the corporal that had fallen off. “OK, Lord, I get it. Your will be done.” I went off into the darkness after Mass and anointed a sick woman who hadn’t been to confession for 20 years. She was very happy to receive the sacrament, and she died before morning.
Ted Custer, M.M.
I offer theater workshops in a women’s prison in São Paulo, Brazil, where I serve with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Many of the women are near the end of their sentences, so my hope is to help them prepare to leave prison. Their conversations often focus on their hopes and objectives in life and the obstacles that have been in their paths. Naming these barriers and discussing ways to overcome them can help their chances of successfully re-entering society upon release. When we finish our weekly workshops, I always ask them to reflect for a bit on our time together. They often tell me that the best thing about the workshops is they forget that they are in a prison because they have so much fun being together and sharing.
Prison can be a place of extreme isolation and loneliness. During our time together, I too forget that I am in a prison with women condemned for various crimes. We are a group learning together in spite of the difficulties that exist and hoping for a new life.
Flavio Rocha da Silva, MKLM