by Sr. Jo Anne Kelly MMM Ireland 06.06.2022
Vocation –A call from God, Everyone gets that call. In the scripture for Vocation Sunday we read: “The Lord said I have made you a Light for the nations” Who would not want to be a shining light for others? That’s our vocation..
One morning I visited the grave of a close friend of mine who died recently. A quiet unassuming woman she was truly a shining light as a totally dedicated doctor who saved the lives of numerous women and children, helped to keep marriages together through her advice re natural family planning, and passed on her skills to new doctors year after year. She was equally a shining light when she gave a listening ear to us in community, shared her reflections on a passage of scripture, produced a beautiful handmaid Feastday or Birthday card, or sang a song at a party.
I was reminded of my first mission in Nigeria where I worked with people who had leprosy. Everyone in the village had the illness, all at some stage of treatment. But one day two women came from a far off village with a small girl. The story was that the mother had died in a tragic incident and the child was abandoned. One of the women took the child to care for her and when she noticed she was not moving her legs she carried her to us. They didn’t know her name but called her Blessing. She was very malnourished, listless with little response of any kind but as she got stronger it was indeed obvious that something was wrong with her legs. There had been a recent outbreak of polio in the area and it seemed that was the problem. Blessing did not have leprosy but we had to keep her.
We gave her to a woman who had been on treatment for some time and no longer infectious, and she cared for her like her own child, tied her on her back when she went to farm in the early morning, or to her daily task in the village. Some evenings I would visit when the women were preparing the evening meal with the pots on top of three stones over fires of sticks, and delicious smells filling the air. News and stories of the day were shared and Blessing sat on a mat enjoying all going on around her. As she got stronger we realized she was a bright child.
With regular exercise her right leg began to move well and over time she graduated to walking first with a little wooden walking aid and later crutches. But all that took time and her foster mother went home and a series of foster mothers followed. All took good care of her despite their own troubles and disabilities.
In that area there are many minority tribes, each with their own language and Blessing, as well as speaking English in school, picked up the languages of the women who cared for her.
Blessing was still in primary school when I was assigned elsewhere and I lost touch with her.
Many years later I got a message from her. I went to visit. She was sitting outside her home with her little son on her knee looking so lovely in her long traditional dress. I noted her crutches were nearby. It was a lovely visit. She talked about how much she loved all her mothers and how the village was such a happy place. With her ability to speak so many local languages she was now the official interpreter for the doctors in the local hospital many of whom were from other parts of the country.
All those women were truly shining lights in the life of that little girl.
We can all be shining lights in our own way where ever we are.
Pope Francis tells us that vocation is about making God’s dream come true. All are called to be guardians of each other and of creation. And then he adds a most beautiful phrase “Welcome God’s gaze and respond to it” A sure way of being a light for the nations.