Agatha, Rosemary and Sarah, three of our novices in Nigeria, recall some recent encounters they had with people and how they have been challenged to think about how they are living out the call of our General Chapter Statement.
“There is an adage which states that seeing is believing. During the course of our formative experience and apostolic outing in the different communities, we saw and encountered an outcry from the old sick poor, the hungry, women and girls in need and those who were accused of witchcraft – and as a result, these people were neglected, abandoned by their own children and rejected by society.
I came across a situation of a very poor old woman who was left alone by her family. In the meantime, I and some other staff from Mary Aikenhead Centre in Okpara Inland, who usually go for meals-on-wheels, met this ‘Mama Mary’ as she was called. It was on the 19th of May, 2014 that we went out for meals-on-wheels and found this Mama Mary unconscious. After making some enquiries from the people around, we discovered that she had been in that condition for five days. We became confused at first because there was no one around to go with us to the hospital but in the end, we found a woman who claimed to be married into the woman’s family so, she reluctantly followed us with the woman to St. Francis Hospital in Okpara Inland and Mama Mary was attended to. She regained a bit of strength and yet no one came to say she was a family member and to support her on her sick bed, but what gave me joy was the fact that I was able to show her some care, love and concern and to crown it all she received the last sacrament the night before she died. Mama Mary in her life shared the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the way of the cross. She like Jesus, was rejected, condemned and despised, having only the consolation of his Father, so also, Mama Mary was met with the Father’s love through us and those who assisted her during her last days on earth. I was happy for that experience, though sad as it sounds, am happy for been there among those who showed her God’s love when she needed it.
Taking Jesus to the sick poor – Rosemary’s perspective:
Satellite Town in Lagos is one of the areas that can easily get flooded whenever there is a heavy downpour. In the course of my outing at St. Anne’s community in Satellite, one amongst the other ministries that I was involved in was visitation. There was this young woman married to a man with three kids. This lady used to be physically fit and healthy but as a result of a serious accident, she has not been able to use her two legs, in other words, her two legs are paralyzed. Whenever I took the Blessed Sacrament to her in her home, she was always complaining of serious pains and how she wished she could do those things that others do for her and how sad she was as a result.
One day, we had a heavy downpour and the road that leads to her home was flooded. Now, it was time for me to take Holy Communion to this lady. On my way to her home, I discovered that the road was flooded and at the same time I could not go back home because I was almost at her residence. Eventually, I decided to walk along the path on the drainage. As I walked, I felt like I was going to fall into the drainage with Jesus in my bag because it was very slippery. So I started saying to Jesus, ‘Dear Lord, please help me not to fall into this drainage with you so that I can take you to my friend and your friend.’ I kept saying this prayer until I got to her gate. On my arrival she was more delighted to have me there than other days that I visited her and she started telling me about how strong she was and happy to see me, telling me about her children’s performance in the school and asking me about the things happening in Nigeria.
I was overwhelmed and joyful by what I saw in her that day and the healing power of Jesus in the Eucharist. I am still very glad and thankful to Jesus for not allowing me and Him fall into the drainage that day. I truly met Him in that woman.
Working with the poor in Bomadi community has really increased in me the zeal to care for the poor. I was very sad when I saw the situation of the old women who are abandoned in that area. I cried when I saw an old woman who was locked up in a room by her family. She could not stand or see anything. No one gave her food or cared for her. That room where she was locked up is the same room she used for every other thing and as result the room was always messed up and would smell bad. She was always calling for food but nobody would come to her aid as she was accused of practicing witchcraft. Her children and other people said they would not give her food so that she would not mess up the room after eating – but if she disturbed them too much they just came and opened the door and threw the food at her and closed the door after them. But today, I thank God that I was able to put a smile on her face. The door which was always locked is now open, the family members became surprised, seeing the way I was coming to clean the room. Even in her condition, she never blamed anyone for thier behaviour towards her. She believed that Jesus is always with her and was always grateful to God. This woman was Jesus to me and helping her filled me with joy.
Working with these poor people has really been an opportunity of encountering the Dives and Lazarus in our society and trying to bring Lazarus and Dives to the same table in a spirit of respect, inclusivity and collaboration. We approached each case with a loving and compassionate heart which is sensitive, welcoming and receptive. This was challenging initially but God gave the grace.
True encounter with these poor people, did not just leave us with the thoughts or ideas that we had served or ministered to the poor people, but these people also ministered and evangelised us. The happiness and joy that came from this encounter or ministry brought to us an awareness and appreciation of God’s presence in all people. For this purpose, we are grateful to God for that encounter and how we were able to respond to each one of them and that every opportunity given to us by God to use in serving his own nobility, the suffering poor, is a privilege and it should be utilized appropriately. Working with these people has made some of them independent, especially those who longed to be enlightened and empowered.”
May our energy for serving our dear Heavenly Father increase
(Mary Aikenhead, 5th September, 1850)