This is part of a three part series by Lorraine Kelley: “Mission and Reconciliation”

Continuing our series Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, returned missioner Lorraine Kelley (Bolivia, 1994-2002) writes about her faith’s relationship to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experiences on mission. 

My work as a Franciscan missioner brought me to walk alongside people and families who were marginalized from society mostly because of race, physical disability, and economic status. For the most part, I worked with children – teaching catechism of the Church – starting a program for malnourished children that ended up being a school and training program for children with disabilities as well. Many of these children were left alone to fend for themselves.

No schools would take them due to their disabilities. The malnourished children often came from families with few financial resources and were weak from malnutrition. Both needed something to happen to even the playing field to give them the same opportunities that normally developed children and children from families with resources were able to receive.

 Creating the school helped to do that for them by feeding them nutritious meals, giving them good medical attention and educating them so they could catch up on their studies.

Children of the Centro

Thus began the response to the social injustice that these children and families suffered. The change in the children and their families, due to the community’s action of acceptance and caring, was evident in their growing self-esteem and visible strides in learning. This joy and peace spread to the whole community of those who were helping to change their lives.

When one feels discriminated against for any reason, they are angry or depressed and are not at peace. This inhibits his or her growth as a son or daughter of God. The entities that discriminate are also not at peace because they build their lives on lies (to themselves and others). Their goals are self-serving and though this may bring immediate gratification, it leaves an emptiness that is unable to be filled and cannot create lasting peace.

This can only occur when everyone can come together for the common good- which actually happened with our school. Children, parents, educators, physical and occupational therapists, doctors and other medical professions, clergy and town officials all came together to make the school a success and give the children and their families dignity by caring for them and giving them the opportunity to reach their God-given potential.

Through this, all were reconciled to God and true peace flowed into the hearts of the children and families as well as those who came to their aid.

Continued in Part II!

Lorraine Kelley was on mission with Franciscan Mission Service from 1994-2002 serving in the Department of Cochabamba, Bolivia in a barrio of ex-miners called Villa Busch, a mountain community named Khuluyu and ultimately in the pueblo of Sacaba, where we started the nutrition and learning center. 

 She presently resides in a quaint, New England town in Connecticut with her husband Diego and daughter Annamaria, 14, where she serves the elderly population as their Municipal Agent and Senior Services Counselor.