We’ve made it. We’ve reached the end of peace prayer petitions and the end of the Lenten season. But while Lent may be over, our work for peace is not.
For our missioners, the end of their time abroad does not end their time of service. Like all of us, they are called to lifelong mission and live out that call by sharing their experiences with North America. They carry with them always the stories, prayers, understanding and relationships they gained on mission.
In our final Lenten Mission Story, Claire Dingen McGarry talks about preparing to leave Guatemala in 1994 after three years in mission. Like Claire, what will you take with you as you transition from one season of your life to the next? How can you carry with you and share the lessons and experiences of Lent?
“I went down to the Nutrition Center on Friday, where the mothers of the 200 sponsored children were gathering for the project’s monthly meeting. This was to be my last, as my year in Patzun was coming to a close.
|Claire Dingen McGarry while on mission to Guatemala, 1991-1994|
As always, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy seeing row upon row of these deep red shirts embroidered with flowers and bursting around the collar. But seeing the smiling faces above the collars and the decorations on the wall, I felt my heart begin to break. ‘Hasta pronto Clarita.’ ‘Muchas gracias por todo.’ ‘Te queremos mucho.’ (Until soon Clarita. Thank you for everything. We love you very much.)
It just called to mind words that I had cried over all week: I may never see these beautiful faces ever again. How will my life ever be complete without their simple joys and love?
My co-worker Lolita, with a look of excitement on her face, asked if I had seen the dormitory yet. She gently pushed me across the playground to the other side. As I opened the door, I peered around for more decorations, more words of goodbye.
There was nothing on the walls. In fact, the curtains were drawn shut, leaving the room gloomy and sad. In my confusion, I wandered around looking for what I supposed was one more sign of goodbye.
I found it there on the bed. The small bundle wrapped in blankets was a little girl brought in just a few days ago. At age one and a half, she looked just two months old. She weighed only seven pounds and would only drink a few drops of milk a day-through an eye dropper. The priest had just finished the final blessing and had placed rosary beads across her now still and peaceful body.
I could not take it all in at the time. There was too much to be done between purchasing the small wooden casket, and running the mothers’ meeting.
It isn’t until now, sitting with my morning coffee, a day later, that the tears come for that little girl. We shared about the same amount of time here in this beautiful village, and we are taking our leave of it at the same time too.
But, unlike her, I have things to pack. Physically, I place in my bags the small objects the people have given me. Emotionally, I place in my heart the joy, laughter and love the people have shared with me.
I realize that in her short life, she may never have experienced any of this. This is where I feel quite selfish. Although I know we should never cling to ‘things’ I am grateful to walk away with my arms and heart full. For I am going to Massachusetts where I will need these ‘things’ to ease the pain of leaving Guatemala whereas she is going somewhere where she will need for nothing, and the peace there will end her pain forever.
As we both journey home, I pray that we both arrive safely.”