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Blessed are the Poor

August 10, 2011

By Sister Carolyn Mary

A friend of mine asked me what the highlight of my summer vacation was. After thinking about it for a while, I said it was my trip to Jamaica. When I would tell people I was going to Jamaica they would be excited for me until I said Kingston. The immediate assumption was that I was going to do mission work.

Actually, I was going to visit a friend doing missionary work outside Kingston in St. Catherine, Edgewater. My friend Gail is a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity and had been in Jamaica for over five years. Also, my sisters, the Sisters of Mercy, live in Kingston and I planned to visit them before returning home.

While I had heard stories about Jamaica I don’t think I was prepared for what I saw and what I heard. In Kingston, where my sisters were, the poverty was dramatic and the pain was enormous. My friend worked in two parishes where the poverty was no less real or the pain lessened. While looks can sometimes be deceiving, the reality was always in front of me: poverty was everywhere. The streets, the tin huts, and the children trying to wash your windshields when you stopped at a light for whatever you would pay them. Yet in the middle of all this, there was a place of hope.

Where my sisters were it was like a small island of goodness in the middle of the abyss. More importantly, there was love and hope for all of those who came to the Sisters of Mercy’s campus each day; whether in our boys’ home, our girls’ high school, the primary school or cooking a meal each day for the hungry, it was all done with joy. Even our senior sisters with whom I had lunch were women of great joy. The years of hard work and the suffering of many had not shaken their faith and love of Mercy. I also found the same to be true of Gail in her work with the parishes.

It is a hard life in some ways because there is only so much any one of them can do. There is no government support, no Medicaid, no Medicare or social security, no educational assistance, nor any WIC program for mothers with babies. There is no infrastructure in place like we have in the United States.

I shared my experience in Jamaica with the women I work with at Catherine’s House for Homeless Women and Women with Children. I told them that as bad as it may seem, there are those less fortunate, so let us not forget to say a prayer of gratitude for what we do have. My prayer is one of gratitude; for the call and the invitation to follow in the footsteps of those before, the courage of our foundress Catherine McAuley, and her great love of the poor.

God knows I would rather be cold and hungry than that His poor should suffer want.
-Venerable Catherine McAuley (1778-1841)

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