Home / Stories / Look For Her Eyes

Look For Her Eyes

Celebrating my birthday with my host mother, Anita

Editor’s Note: Missioner Catherine Sullivan in Bolivia shares how she stays hopeful during her daily practice of reading the news.

One of my favorite pastimes is scrolling through different news sources and articles, comparing stories and trying my best to keep up with the goings-on of the world. It is often how I start and end my day, and it is often accompanied by a series of prayers, the most important prayer being the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Every day, terrible news stories emerge from every corner of the globe.

In my own city of Cochabamba in June, a 21-year-old girl, driving drunk at night, ran over a group of wheelchair-bound protesters who were setting up a blockade to fight for the rights of those with disabilities. She killed two and wounded many more that night

In Bolivia as a country, according to data from CIDEM (El Centro de Información y Desarrollo de la Mujer), one woman dies every three days as a victim of violent crime. 37.21% of victims are  under 20 years of age.

In the United States, the last place I called home, there have been more mass shootings this year than there have been days so far.

In the same week in June, all of these tragedies occurred:

  • In Great Britain, Jo Cox, a female Member of Parliament, was shot and stabbed to death.
  • In Nigeria, 18 women were killed by Boko Haram fighters while mourning at a funeral.
  • In Syria, the horror continued with 224 civilians killed in the first week of Ramadan.
  • In India, 346 Hindu families fled the town of Kairana after facing threats from violent criminal gangs.
  • In South Korea, hundreds of local fishermen on the small island of Yeonpyeong are being put out of business by illegal Chinese fishing vessels, their families starving.

How do we go on living our daily lives with these atrocities haunting our every step?

I remind myself to look at the person standing right in front of me.

I remind myself to look into her eyes and I realize that I am playing a role in the story of her life, and I take that very seriously.

Blessed Mother Teresa tells us to “help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

So I start with a big hug for Luz, the young woman I am getting to know in the prison I visit, and I ask her about what songs she has been singing recently.

I start by asking Yrene, the woman who is teaching me Bolivian cooking, about her search for a new puppy to surprise her kids after the death of their dog.

Cooking with Yrene at Manos con Libertad

Cooking with Yrene at Manos con Libertad

I start by sitting with Wilson, the young boy who came to the Franciscan Center soup kitchen one Saturday for lunch, and enjoying a math game with him.

Teaching Wilson math at the Franciscan Social Center

Teaching Wilson math at the Franciscan Social Center

I start by visiting Anita, the mother who hosted me in her home during my first six weeks in Bolivia, each week with stories to make her laugh and with genuine curiosity ask about her work and her daughters.

Saint Francis tells us to “start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

These saints, and Christ’s own example, ground us – root us to our homes, to our communities, to our families.

And when the stories of a struggling world threaten to overwhelm me, I hear their voices in my head and I look for the eyes of the woman directly in front of me.

Reflection Questions: What keeps you going when you’re overwhelmed by the events of the world? What keeps you centered?

Catherine Hope Sullivan is the youngest of five children raised by a sassy Italian and a historian of world religions. Thanks to them, her younger years were filled with new and interesting people from every walk of life. Forever a Belle, Catherine graduated from the all-women’s Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN, with degrees in English writing and Italian (and an unofficial degree in female empowerment). Catherine has a serious passion for world travel because of the amazing people and traditions one encounters in every part of the world. She chose overseas mission to serve and learn from every person she meets. She has been in Cochabamba, Bolivia, since January 2016.