St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Parish Blog.

A Nurse on a Mission

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I’m Catherine, and a year ago, I paired up with Face to Face Ministries to work with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) in Kolkatta, India.

My journey started not when I boarded the plane, but rather when I first heard about the mission. I started to ask myself, ‘what could I really offer others?’, ‘How much am I willing to experience or suffer?’, and ‘Does God want me there?’ As I talked with friends about the possibility of going, my strengths, weaknesses, and perceptions of God, I got out of the safety of my day-to-day life, and applied to the mission.

Nine women journeyed to India together in January 2010. Some had previously known each other, others were total strangers. We bunked in two rooms, shared a washroom, and were together everyday. I had to deal with childish fears of insecurity, and jealousy. I was lonely for my family. We prayed together, and learned about India, God, and ourselves through the reflections the others shared of us. It was one of the first times I explored who I was without my history, family, friends, and city as anchors of my personality.

The kids we met each day captured and challenged my heart. There was a family that lived about half a block from our residence. When we would return from adoration, they would come rushing to us, ‘candy? candy?’ As I shook my head no, I lifted up one of the smaller children into the air as I would my niece. And just like that, a new tradition was born. When we came home from our day, they were all looking for rides up in the air! There was a lot of laughter and it was such a blessing to my heart to be able to share their joy and lightheartedness.  Two of the girls are shown here:

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My volunteer work with the MC’s took place at Daya Dan. Children - abandoned or orphaned - with physical and mental challenges lived at Daya Dan. The women who worked there directed the volunteers - anywhere from 5-25 each day. The Volunteers were from Argentina, Korea, Canada, Australia, Italy, France and Japan. There was a lot of pantomime, and I had chances to use my rusty French, and even rustier Spanish!

HPIM0994At Daya Dan, for the first two weeks, I was overwhelmed. As in, in a near-constant state of overwhelmed from the traffic, noise, language, bodies, smells, and pollution. I chose to stay busy and helpful as I could, and that was through the laundry. Each day, the beds are stripped; sheets, blankets, clothes, rags are laundered in huge cement tubs up on the roof.  The volunteers got to ‘dance’ on the clothes to agitate them and clean them.   We filled the roof with the laundry every day, and it was dried by the sun. ‘Do small things with great love’ became a daily aspiration. My business, accomplishments, and expectations fell away at some point each day at Daya Dan. When I had just myself, my heart and the laundry, I could pray for the child who would wear that shirt or dress.

As the weeks passed, I learned the children’s names, abilities, preferences. Simple games, dancing, clapping, holding, feeding, washing made up my day.  I saw love in what the sisters were doing - each of the 22 children got their teeth brushed every day! Such a little detail that provided one piece of their overall health and well-being. Especially when I stepped outside Daya Dan and saw those who were hungry, sick, or sad.

Kusum is actually a teenager chronologically, but I didn’t learn that until I had been at Daya Dan for weeks. She is blind, and cannot speak, but she can hear. When she heard me or one of the volunteers near, she would reach out. She would grab whatever limb was nearest and pull - she was strong! She would pull helself up out of her chair, wrap her hands around my neck and hold on. She loved to be held. Some mornings, that was my work of love, just holding her, singing to her, talking to her.  

Naina was 3-4 years old by the guess of the physician working with the sisters. She had been abandoned, never taught to sit up or use her legs. At Daya Dan, there were volunteer physical therapists who came in every week to meet with, work with and evaluated the children. They wrote up programs to help the kids get as strong as they could. I worked with Naina the way I now work with my six month old niece - tummy time, trying to sit up, finding balance. When Naina would cry, she wouldn’t make a sound. Maybe she was used to not being heard. Working with her broke and strengthened my heart on a daily basis. 

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I mentioned mission at the top - What was my mission? I participated in daily adoration for the first time in years. Everyday, I brought my fears, hurts, celebrations and delights to God. I discovered my weaknesses and poverty. My lack of trust, my judgement of others, my judgement of myself. I am rich in material wealth, and yet I found I have great need for a generous God and a strong community.

In India, we travelled and moved on ‘India time’. Meeting for lunch could mean an hour of waiting as we all came together from our volunteer assignments. We lived in the freedom of the moment, accepting the unfamiliar forces/stresses with as total foreign and completely out of our control. It was accepted (though grudgingly at times) that if anything was to be done, if a meeting was to take place, if anything was God’s will, He would need to direct it - and He did. In Kolkatta, we could not be in the city without the interplay of the city - its transportation, beggars, markets, and animals. Now that I am in Saskatoon, my continual challenge is with the illusion of control. I decide when I have enough time and energy to pray. I choose to get in my car and go to a certain place at a certain time. I get impatient when I think I might be late. And I have to remind myself that all is well. That I have time enough for all that I need. And that God is in control - if I am willing to give Him control.

The mission continues here in Saskatoon: small things with great love. As a nurse, I have SO many opportunities to grow in patience, compassion, and generosity. I believe that during my days here, the Holy Spirit reminds me of my time in Kolkatta, and of the love lived through action experienced there. My challenge has been to keep my heart focused and open to God in the midst of the moments that make my life here. The weekly adoration at St. Philip Neri has been an amazing gift to myself - a chance to move away from my week and into the refuge of peace that comes from sitting with Jesus.

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Pat Clarke April 06, 2011

    Glad to have you as our first "Guest Blogger" Catherine! What a wonderful testimony you've shared with us. You and the work you've done overseas make us very proud as a parish community! Thanks for sharing! Pat

  • Guest
    Cary Molyneux April 06, 2011

    'small things with great love' - It would be easy to get lost in the bustle of the health care system. I can appreciate the challenge that it must be to not get caught up into the race. Great post, it is fantastic to see your enthusiasm for you faith, and really putting into everyday practise.

  • Guest
    alessandra May 24, 2012

    hi, have you others Naina pictures? i known Naina in the january 2012, and i find photos.
    every day she stay in my mind.
    i send you my adress thank you

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