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The Power of One

Maeve, a friend, and a host family member

Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” New missioner Maeve talks about an experience that lead her to Franciscan Mission Service and her mission call. 

On the surface, Wendy and I don’t appear to have much in common.  When we met she was fourteen and I was nineteen.  She liked Justin Bieber and I was listening to indie rock bands.  Her native language is Spanish, while I can barely fumble my way through a simple phrase in español.

I traveled to Honduras my freshman year of college for a ten-day mission and immersion trip.  I knew next to nothing about the country’s culture and people, but something was telling me that this was a trip I should take.

Our small group of travelers was accompanied by a young priest from the Community of St. John in Illinois.  Fr. Jean-Luc had a sense of total peace and contentment that followed him everywhere.  I wanted that peace, badly, but the more I realized how poorly equipped I was to work in Honduras, the more distressed I became.  We would be working in small, rural, mountain villages.  What comfort could I bring people who had experienced a kind of hardship that I could never fully understand?

Maeve and Fr. Jean-Luc

Maeve and Fr. Jean-Luc

I confessed these fears to Fr. Jean-Luc the night before I left for my village.  What was this English speaking white girl doing here?  The words he spoke were deeply comforting.  He explained that these were valid fears to have, but that I was brought to Honduras for a reason, and that reason may only be clear to our Father at the time.  He assured me that although the language difference appeared to be an insurmountable barrier now, God would provide me with a way to communicate.

I met Wendy on my first day in the town.  I was struck by her friendliness and how she did everything with a sense of absolute joy.  She led me around the main parts of the village, including her school and the parish where she was an altar server.  I clutched my English/Spanish dictionary and often pointed out the words I wanted to say.

The next day Wendy introduced me to all her friends.  They spoke in rapid Spanish, giggling amongst themselves while showing me their Miley Cyrus-themed school notebooks.  I knew these girls; they acted just like my little sister and her friends.  We fell into conversation that occasionally faltered, but flowed surprisingly easily.  It was here, with Wendy and her friends, where I learned the power of the ministry of presence and love.

It didn’t matter that Wendy and I didn’t speak the same language or came from different backgrounds.  When we spent time together each of us saw Christ in the other.

The night I left we cried as we hugged goodbye and she handed me a letter written on pink stationary.  We knew we would never see each other again, but I pray for my beautiful, bubbly friend Wendy every day knowing that she does the same for me.


Maeve and Wendy

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Maeve Gilheney-Gallagher is a returned lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service who served for two years at Valley of the Angels orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She currently serves on the FMS Board and works as the Global Solidarity Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Mission. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Dan, and three-legged dog, Lola.