After eight years in São Paulo, Brazil, our family recently returned to João Pessoa, a coastal city at the most eastern point of the Americas, where we had previously served with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. In order to reconnect with partners and explore ministry possibilities, my husband, Flávio, and I are visiting several communities.
I was delighted to discover that Elaine, a leader who participated in a course I facilitated 10 years ago with Maryknoll Sister Mercy Mtaita in the community where Maryknoll Father Frank Higdon ministered, is now coordinating an association called Women Center’s Garden of Hope. She invited me to come and see how I could collaborate.
At our first gathering, the women said they would like to start with activities to reduce stress and anxiety, a common complaint among women on the periphery of Brazil. We decided to come together for yoga, breathing exercises and sharing on mental health challenges. When they asked me what they needed for our gatherings, I mentioned that a canga, the ever-present Balinese cloth that Brazilians mainly use at the beach, would be helpful for some of the exercises.
When I returned for our next group and was catching a motorcycle ride from the bus stop to the Garden of Hope center, a woman who owns a tiny clothing store shouted out, “I don’t know what you’re doing in the neighborhood, but keep it up. I’ve never sold so many cangas in 24 hours!” I jokingly replied that I should get a special price for my canga. She didn’t laugh, but on my return to catch the bus home, she was waiting with a canga for me.
Kathleen Bond, MKLM
In our United Nations camp at Malakal, South Sudan, the Catholic community celebrated the feast of Christ the King with a band of electric guitars, drums and a small organ accompanying the choirs, youth dancers and the congregation singing with enthusiastic energy. It was as if the roof of our tin-structured church was lifted off and the joyful sound was being heard all the way to heaven. Words from Psalm 42 came to my mind: “How I would lead the rejoicing crowd into the house of God amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving. A throng wild with joy.”
What a day it was as we celebrated for three and a half hours, making a joyful noise to our God, who is with the poorest ones seeking peace in South Sudan.
Michael Bassano, M.M.
In the altiplano of Peru, I was teaching more than 50 years ago in a one-room school for girls. They had no blackboard, but they did have a substitute! Hanging next to the open door was a small piece of wood, about 16 inches square, where the teacher would write the lesson. The students would painstakingly copy what they saw on the miniature “blackboard” into a notebook called el borrador (“rough draft”), not worrying about spelling or meaning, much less neatness!
Each student took her notebook home and copied it into another notebook called el limpio (“clean copy”). They knew this notebook was very special, so they wrote legibly, underlined titles, etc., and saved it for further study. Many of these limpios were preserved very carefully in homes from year to year since there were no textbooks available at that time. They also showed that the girls had been able to go to school!
Helen Phillips, M.M.
When my husband Erik and I were serving as Maryknoll lay missioners in Tanzania, I visited Paula, a frail elderly woman from a rural village lying in her hospice bed with an intravenous drip running into her arm. Her aged husband stayed at her side to care for her. When Paula said she felt chilled, I asked if she would like a knit cap to cover her head and help keep her warm. She beamed in appreciation of a little tender loving care and selected a beautiful tan cap, which had been lovingly knit and sent by a friend in the States. How happy I was to pass on this gift.
Margo Cambier, MKLM