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On the Road with Hermana Carmen


Editor’s note: Missioner Anna Klonowski recounts her first meeting with a ministry site supervisor and what she learned from Hermana Carmen about living the Franciscan charism.

During my search for ministry opportunities, I heard about a place called Hogar San José, a nursing home only a 15-minute walk from my house in Cochabamba. The first time I walked up to the door of the San Jose nursing home, the door burst open to reveal a nun in full habit who was, very apparently, on a mission. It turned out that this bustling sister was the director at the nursing home, Hermana Carmen.

In a matter of seconds, I found myself sitting down with her to talk about opportunities to volunteer at the Hogar—only, we weren’t sitting in her office, but in the backseat of a car as we rode around the city of Cochabamba.

It turned out that Hermana Carmen had several time-sensitive errands to run, like picking up donated furniture from owners who were moving out of the country the next day. As we stood on the sidewalk outside the nursing home, she warmly invited me to either go with her on the errands or to come back in a few days to sit down with her when she had more time. Since I wanted to start serving as soon as I could, I decided to accompany her on her errands.

Though furniture retrieval might sound like a strange way to get to know someone, it was a wonderful experience. During our ride, Hermana Carmen was so open to me coming in to visit with residents and assist around the home. When we arrived at our destination—an apartment about 20 minutes from the Hogar—she invited me in to meet the women who were donating the furniture and proudly introduced me as the new volunteer.

Within 30 minutes of meeting her, I felt like we were old friends. Hermana Carmen leads a busy life, as evidenced by our impromptu meeting. But despite her many duties, she is warm and welcoming towards all. She might be rushing from one activity to the next, but she doesn’t rush spending time with each person she encounters. On mission and in life, this is a lesson worth learning—how to practice the Franciscan ministry of presence amid the busyness of life.

Reflection questions: How can I make the people in my life feel valued and supported, even during a hectic moment in my day? Do I value my schedule more than I value my relationships? Who are the people in my life who make me feel valued, and how can I return the favor?

Long-term overseas mission is a natural extension of the ideals and interests that direct Anna’s life. At the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, she connected her deep faith with her enthusiasm for social justice and women’s leadership while studying theology, Hispanic studies, and global business leadership. Anna fell even more in love with the Spanish language and Latin American culture during a semester in Xela, Guatemala. Her call to care for creation revolves around a desire to preserve the world for those who are marginalized, as well as for future generations.