Sister Carlette Gentle, SCN, wrote the following for the Future of Charity blog. The group consists of newer vowed members or women in formation with religious congregations from the Sisters of Charity Federation, comprised of 12 unique congregations who recognize their particular character and spirit in the charism of the tradition of charity founded by St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Ministry Teaches Us
Are you crazy? That is what a couple of my friends asked me when I told them I wanted to become a sister. Are you crazy? Well, I’m here to say I am not! Actually I am enjoying my life as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. I started my journey thirteen years ago as a pre-candidate with my community and I still continue to grow in appreciation for our Sisters and mission.
But what keeps me going? In a world torn apart by war, by gangs … a world where families starve when others have too much … a world where human beings are sold as if a price could be placed on someone’s life … a world where children are their own guardians … where teenagers feel like there is no where to turn … a world where elderly people get no respect because they are seen as outcasts. This list can go on and on. But what keeps me going? What continues to give me life? What keeps a smile on my face and joy in my heart? It’s not something that can be bought or something I can keep to myself. It’s not something you can physically touch or see. This thing that keeps me alive has to be felt. So, what keeps me going on a day to day basis in religious life? The simple truth is: the way God works through my community and ministry.
At present I work with the elderly poor in south side Belize City that is plagued with gun violence, gangs and poverty. You might be asking yourself, “What gives you hope in that?” The hope comes from the people I work with. Let me share a short story with you. I went out one day to visit one of the elderly women who is a part of my program. In this story I will call her Rose. So I got to Rose’s house a little before lunch time just to visit and check in on her. “How are you doing, Rose?” I asked. Her reply,” Wonderful, just wonderful! God has gifted me with another beautiful day! Thank God I woke up this morning!” What a reply. I said,”Oh that is great! It is a beautiful day.” We sat and talked about her health and her daily ministry of visits to the hospital. She walks about 3 miles to read the bible, to pray and to sing with some of the patients. After talking, I told her I had a bag of groceries in the car that was given to me by a friend, I asked her if she would like it. Her response was, “Yes, I will be grateful to have it. God always provides.” She then explained to me that she and her husband have not eaten anything from the night before as they had nothing in the house to eat. I was taken aback so I said, “Why didn’t you say something?” Her reply was, “God always takes care of us. We have nothing to eat, now God has gifted us with your visit and now even groceries. God takes care of us.” I gave her a hug and told her I loved her deep faith and then I left.
I visited my other elders but I could not stop thinking about Rose. I went home that night and she was my prayer. I thought to myself, I have everything I need: a shelter over my head, a warm bed, and food in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I have running water, electricity, and a sense of security that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from, or if the landlord will put me out for not having money to pay the rent. I sat and thought what deep faith this woman has. I have had studies and workshops and lectures and this simple, wise woman is teaching me how to pray. Rose has no food, her house needs repair, and her stove doesn’t work so she cooks on a fire outside, her children don’t come around and still she thanks God for waking her up to another beautiful day. With her stomach growling she never complains, with no money for the bus she never complains. She thanks God that she can walk to the hospital to visit the patients. So now, taking her example of how to pray, I try not to complain and focus on the good. When it is hard for me to find thirty minutes to pray, I think of Rose who has devoted every second of every day to thanking her God and I strive to do the same. She has taught me how important it is to focus on the blessings all around me and thank God for them. So, it is experiences like these that give me life.
I go home and share these stories with my community and they in turn share their ministry stories with me. The people we minister with teach us and it is up to us to be open to learning. My community life is nurtured by the people I live with, the support and care they give, the stories they share to keep us all grounded in the awareness of the realities of life.
Why am I not crazy for joining religious life and what keeps me going? Well, it is because I am grounded by the wonderful power of God who works through my community and my ministry with the poor.