By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SCC, First Professed
In December 2018, I relocated to join our local community in Anthony, NM. My primary new ministry is helping to develop the educational programming for the Proyecto Santo Niño Clinic in Anapra, Mexico, established by three of my Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 2006. This puts me in direct contact with the children with special needs, their siblings and mothers who come to the center, and is one significant way my call to direct service is being fulfilled.
Prior to this ministry, I ministered as a program manager at the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio where the majority of my work involved indirect service as we addressed systemic injustices. While I wholeheartedly believe in the value and the necessity of challenging our institutionalized systems (IJPC motto: Challenge, Advocate, Transform!) I came to the realization that I also need personal interaction with those suffering the mariginalization and injustice that we challenge. Direct service grounds me and reminds me that there is to be no “us and them;” that we are all God’s children and form one family. It’s very easy to become detached from the people suffering the very injustices being challenged even when advocating for them, but I believe God calls us to keep it personal, to not only to stand up for people but with people. The commandment to love our neighbor calls us to relationship, and I think God expects us to be able to name names when we’re asked if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned.
Direct service fulfills an essential Christian duty, but the grace of it is that in doing so God provides for us a constant source of spiritual growth and a deepening awareness of right relationship. Here is an example of a recent insight I had and the teacher who brought it to me.
|Mirka and her mother at Proyecto Santo Niño|
One recent Tuesday morning, I was greeted by Mirka as I arrived at Santo Niño. She is a ten-year-old bundle of enthusiasm and joy despite the fact that she has spina bifida and must rely on her wheelchair to get around. She loves to practice the English she has learned and shouted out, “Andrea! Hello! How are you?” as she rolled up to me with the infectious grin that so often lights up her face. I greeted her back, but didn’t say my usual, “Estoy feliz te veo,” which is part of my limited (but growing) Spanish repertoire. Instead, I asked her how her weekend was. “Great!” she responded. “My neice (who is six) and I discovered that we have super powers!” I said, “Really? You do? What’s yours?” She responded, “I can read minds!” “Wow! Then tell me what I am thinking,” I said. At this, Myrka cocked her head and gave me a long intense look before exclaiming, “You are thinking that you are very happy to see me!” After an eruption of giggles from both of us, I said, “You are so right, Mirka, that is exactly what I was thinking! You are amazing!”
This simple but joyful exchange stayed with me and lifted my spirit for days. Though I’m not so sure about her ability to mind read, I am absolutely sure that she and the other members of the Santo Niño community do have super powers, in fact, we all do. Better known as gifts or Fruits of the Holy Spirit, they are the observable result of being open to God’s redeeming and transforming love. There are others, but the twelve traditional “fruits” are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. As are all gifts, these are meant to be shared. They are what allow us to embody and spread God’s love as we encounter one another. Mirka does an excellent job at this!
I further reflected on how monumentally impactful it can be when one does fully actualize their gifts - when they put their super powers to work for the good of another. As all in the Sisters of Charity Federation and many more beyond are aware, we recently lost Sr. Janet Gildea after a miraculously long survival streak with ovarian cancer. If you aren’t familiar with her and would like an exemplary model of a fruitful spirit, I invite you to read Sr. Tracy’s last blog or this tribute to her published in the Global Sisters Report. Janet’s ability to see God at work in me and to bring my attention to it changed my life and how I want to spend it. She helped me recognize how precious and beloved we each are and rather than being discouraged and dejected about weaknesses and growing edges, to see them as paths to personal transformation and conversion. As annoying and challenging as they can be, these crosses we carry are often the blessings in disguise that keep us turning to God for help.
I invite you to consider how the Spirit is made most evident in you, and perhaps what other fruits you may want to cultivate. Here is a prayer that you may find helpful.
|Sr. Janet at the SOA Encuentro at the Border|
Prayer for Transformation
Here I am.
I trust that you have an incredible plan for me.
Transform me. Transform my life.
Everything is on the table.
Take what you want and give what you want to give.
I make myself 100 percent available to you today.
Transform me into the person you created me to be,
So I can live the life you envisioned for me at the beginning of time.
I hold nothing back.
I am 100 percent available.
Lead me, challenge me, encourage me, and open my eyes to all your possibilities.
Show me what you want me to do, and I will do it.