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 writes about her faith’s relationship to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experiences on mission. Read Part I.

Examining my own conscience was probably the most difficult, but also most worthy aspect of my mission experience. Although I decided to go into mission to be with people I thought needed me to help them, I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed mission to realize my own mistakes and sin, and how much I needed them to help me.

Through living in another culture, I was forced to figure out who I really was with all the familiar things not there to comfort me or appease me when things were not going well. 

Stripped bare of these familiarities, many times I wanted to give up and just run back to what I knew, but after a while, I began to just be and let God allow me to see my frailties and faults and then allow God, through the love of my new brothers and sisters in Bolivia, help me change what needed to be changed or corrected.

Providing nutritious breakfasts

Returning to the U.S., I try to be careful not to revert to old habits or ways of thinking that separate me from God and my brothers and sisters. I try to examine my conscience to make sure that I am being truthful to myself and others.

One thing that I have noticed is that although I have always been a social worker and do genuinely care for those I serve, I no longer look at my work as a “job” but as a “mission” to help my elderly clients that need my assistance to bring justice and peace into their lives, whether it be through getting assistance to heat their homes, buy food, pay bills or get home care.

They need this help to survive and to have dignity, and peace comes to me in helping them survive and live with dignity. This carries into every aspect of life such as the way I examine institutional prejudices, etc. I am careful to not believe everything that is said, but to search deeper for the real truths. I do believe that there is no peace if even just one person is suffering from an injustice.

Conclusion: Part III!

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.