Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And the greatest of these is Love...

It seems so simple. 

Christ was born in a humble stable to show us what kind of love we are called to share
We are not invited to only love those close to us or only the loveable. This is not Love that requires reciprocity, or a gift that is given with obligation. 

This is the Love that calls some people to leave their homes – their extended families – the financial security of a medical practice in the US, to provide care for people who can never give back to them in equal measure.  

This is the Love that makes sacrifice, takes risks, reaches out, and can see Christ in others.
Pope Francis has said “This Christmas may we be consistent in living the Gospel, welcoming Jesus into the centre of our lives.”

For me it can be challenging among the work, the baking, and even the modest shopping, to remember that welcoming Jesus, inviting the Love, just as Mary and Joseph did, is what I am called to do at Christmas and every day.  

Perhaps it is really that simple after all.  Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas, and opportunities to welcome this Love in the center of our lives.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We wait in joyful hope…

As Catholics in the US it can be quite a contrast between being in Church on Sundays and the rest of our lives at this time of year.

In Mass we are making our way to Christmas - through the path of Advent - Sunday being reminded that we must repent of our sin - not a popular topic at any time of year.

Yet everywhere else, everyone is playing Christmas music; the decorations went up right after Thanksgiving; the focus is quite commercialized; buy, buy, buy.

One great advantage to being in the missions is the complete lack of this phenomenon.  Advent is  Advent / Christmas is Christmas.   I am grateful for the three Advents and Christmas we enjoyed in Udon Thani, Thailand.   We missed our family at this time of year more deeply, yet this experience now over 30 years ago, remains with me and calls me to celebrate both Advent and Christmas for their unique roll in our lives.

When we are preparing missionaries to serve long-term I find myself feeling like those on the hill in Thornton Wilder's play Our Town.   If they are able to make a trip home during their three years, I always recommend doing it at some regular time of year, not at a holiday - just a regular day.    Grover’s Corners, or any home town, our families and friends, can be appreciated anew when we have been away - yet coming home during a holiday may be overwhelming for some.  Please keep all our Mission Doctors in your prayers as they miss their families – and remember also the families here, missing them.

Matthew’s Gospel (4: 16) that  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

As each candle is lit- they  draw us closer to the celebration of the humble Incarnation of our God, - may we pause, and wait in joyful hope!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being thankful is being joyful

I continue to believe that gratitude is at the heart of everything that moves us to good.

When I am grateful I value what I have.
When I am grateful I recognize that others are less fortunate.
When I am grateful I feel compelled to share what I have.

I believe that when I am grateful I am also filled with joy.
Joy and gratitude seem to be in an unending Mobius loop - if I am grateful I am joyful / if I am joyful I am grateful - And this is because joy is, to me, greater than being happy or content.  Joy is when - at my core - I experience true gratitude.  That feeling that wells up from my center, viewing my life in its entirety the good and the challenges with real gratitude.  Grateful for my very life.  It is conversely true for me that if I obsess on what might be missing or is difficult - I lose sight of gratitude and joy can seep away.  

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. One day to gather and be Thankful.

I am thankful for so many things - my wonderful family, the unique opportunity I have to be involved in the mission ad gentes of our Faith with both Mission Doctors and Lay Mission-Helpers, my health, living free to practice my faith and so much more.

For a Thanksgiving holiday I remember the three we celebrated in Thailand -  I think of all the missionaries who, this year, will be finding ways to bring and celebrate this tradition around the world.  There may not be all the traditional food, and they will be missing family and friends, as their family will be missing them - but they will gather - celebrate and be thankful.

Pope Francis has shared something special - the Joy of the Gospel - challenging all of us to let the joyful message of the Gospel move us - so this Thanksgiving I am very thankful also for Pope Francis - I am grateful for our Holy Father and his call for all of us to live joyful lives that move us to act... moves us to share the joy of the Gospel.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon Hayian

The devastation, the catastrophic loss of life and the suffering are impossible for us to imagine, even in our world with such extensive and immediate media coverage. The people of the Philippines need our prayers and our support now.

When disasters like this strike, our office often receives calls and emails from generous people around the country wanting to know how they can help.

Our goal at Mission Doctors is to build sustainable healthcare in rural communities around the world, so in emergency situations like this we encourage people to support the work of CRS, Catholic Relief Services.

Personally, I have seen their amazing work first handed when I served in Thailand with my husband and children.  They were the first to respond during an emergency and stayed until their services were no longer needed – and they always served with loved. My husband and I are supporting  Catholic Relief Services' work and encourage everyone to join us - visiting their website

Sadly as the death toll climbs every hour, please join us also in praying for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, for those who have lost their lives, for their loved ones, for communities.  May their faith give them strength, may they, through us, know how much our heavenly Father loves them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mother Antonia

I have known a remarkable woman.
A saint.

I don’t use this term lightly or with an exaggerated sense of who she was or what she did in her life.  

Mother Antonia Brenner lived in a prison in Tijuana for years caring for 'her' boys. She offered unconditional love for all including the men in the prison, their families, and the guards, the guards’ families the fortunate women who joined her as Sisters of the Eleventh Hour of St. John Edues

This is what she was known for – The Prison Angel - her work in the notorious La Mesa Prison in Tijuana led to a book and a movie and has inspired millions.

However my connection to this saint is our founder, Msgr. Anthony Brouwers – for whom she took the name Antonia.  Msgr. Brouwers was Mary Brenner’s spiritual advisor and his invitation to love and care for those most in need led her to La Mesa – and left her one of Lay Mission-Helpers and Mission Doctors greatest advocates.

Most recently she helped Mission Doctors fundraise to build a Special Care unite for patients with TB or other illnesses requiring isolation for the initial period of treatment at St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Njinikom Hospital – this Special Care unit is named for Msgr. Brouwers and Dr. James Carey – one of our early Mission Doctors. 

During the summer I had the opportunity to bring Dr. Jim and Mrs. Terry Hake to visit Mother in San Diego where we stopped at a Chinese restaurant for lunch.   Jim and Terry had just completed three years in Njinikom and wanted to bring photos of the hospital, and tell Mother just what a difference this facility is making.

I asked her if she had a message for people who may be considering following in Jim and Terry’s footsteps – and I pulled out my camera and she recorded this invitation. 

Just two weeks ago, the Franciscan sisters from Cameroon, Sr. Xaveria and Sr. Raphine were in Los Angeles and I took them to visit her – they were so excited to meet her, Sr. Xaveria couldn’t stop dancing!  Mother was thrilled to meet the missionaries she has prayed for and worked with half a world away.

Listening to everyone yesterday at the memorial service at St. James in Solano Beach, how she was able to ‘invite’ everyone to do more – after telling them how much she loved them – I understood – one could never say ‘no’ to Mother Antonia. 

I will miss picking up the phone and hearing her sweet and cheery voice – usually that meant I had just added a bit more work to my desk – but who could mind when each phone call would end with ‘I love you darling, I love all of you so much’ – all that could be said is ‘I love you too mother.’ 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Big Day Maria and our invitation to say ‘Yes to God!’

The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated in Cameroon in a way that most of us can only imagine.

Entire communities create clothes made out of matching fabric for the Mass that will last more or less 4 hours.  Marching to the Church together Women’s groups, student’s, and families set this time as an important opportunity to celebrate the gift and the example of the Blessed Mother. This celebration of the Mary’s ultimate ‘YES’ is our invitation to follow her and say yes to God.  Yes to finding His will in our lives.  Yes to following the call we receive. Yes to recognizing just how connected we all are with our sisters and brothers around the world.

Today I ask myself;  How can I say YES to God, as Mary did? What changes do I need to make in my life to continue to put Christ first, ahead of my own time, my own reputation, my own needs?  As Mission Doctors and their families follow the call to serve, they do so, saying YES to God.   On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate Mary’s yes, and the ‘yes’ of all our Mission Doctors and their families who have made sacrifices over the years to care for patients around the world.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Where does the time go?

Sometimes when our long-term mission doctors are preparing to return home, I have to ask myself, “Is that really three years?” 

I know for them, the three years of sacrifice, hard work and greater than these, missing family and friends has at times seemed to last forever.  Yet as they prepare to return home too, they are often struck with how quickly the time seems to have gone.

My husband and I in Thailand
I remember getting off the plane in Los Angeles in 1981 after our three years with Tom and our three children and looking around to see the faces of my sister and her family, I was so excited!  I would meet my niece Shannon for the first time, and my sister would get to meet a nephew and niece born in Thailand, and see just how much our oldest had grown in three years.  She met me with a box of Cheerios in hand - I told her it was the food I had missed the most!  For my husband, there couldn’t be enough chocolate to compensate for three years without it - I think he is still making up for it today!

Hakes on their first day in Cameroon in 2010
This summer we see one couple, the Hakes, return home from Cameroon and a family, the Burket-Thoene complete three years in Guatemala and take their place in Cameroon.  Tim Cavanagh is ‘spanning the gap’ having served there twice before.

Someone once said the days can be long but the years go quickly - this seems very true about mission work, perhaps about everything.  There can be days that the amount of work that needs to be accomplished can seem like an insurmountable hill - yet, as we look back - “has it really been a year, two years, ten….”  Let us strive to use what little time we have in service to others, always grateful for the gifts we have ever mindful that our lives are a gift and we can share this gift with others!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

Being a mom of four and now a ‘nene’ to a beautiful granddaughter – the role of a mother is something I certainly understand.

Seeing the moms in the places where our doctors work, the tender care they give their children, as we do ours, is just one more bridge to the reality that we are one family.

Today there are women, who have received care during a difficult delivery, who are able to bring a well child home in Africa and Latin America because of Mission Doctors.

Today there are children who haven’t joined the ranks of the HIV orphans because Mission Doctors are serving.

And…Today there are Mission Doctors and their families making sacrifices to make all this possible.

When I visit the hospitals where our doctors and their families are serving this connection – mom to
mom – is always so easy to make.  As a newborn is held up for an admiring visitor, or a story is shared of how they have come to be here, making a long and arduous journey  – they tell me how much they appreciate the care their children have received.. and I see the gratitude in their eyes, and as a mother, I understand, we are one family.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Opportunities for gratitude - Looking Up

I generally forget about this moment in Lent - when we stop reading about the movement towards a covenant sealed in sacrifice.  Standing with the apostles bathed in the glory of God in a transfigured Christ, I have to look up. 

I can pause, and remember the joy that the transfiguration foretells of the glory of Easter.

I have often said that when I am old, or sooner if possible,  I want to have the same expression that I have witnessed on the faces of old religious sisters that I have met here in the US and around the world.  There is often a serene smile from a life well lived, but there is something more, and I have always believed it is true joy.  Most missionaries I have known have had moments that they retell where they have felt richer than any king.  They tell of a child, or a family, or a kindness, or an occasion when they truly felt the presence of this transfigured Christ, the beloved Son.

This weekend we had the tremendous blessing of being at the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles where there is truly an abundance of faith and joy. For this opportunity to be here with more than 40,000 Catholics and for the opportunity to reflect on these moments of joy on the journey, I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our journey begins again

To change and to change for the better are two different things.
          - German proverb.

As Ash Wednesday is upon us I think this is true - and I can look at it and consider just how different sacrificing is from sacrificing for the better.

The readings reminded me that I need to consider my motivation - ensure that what I do is also going to change me for the better.

Fr. Dan, at Mass, reminded us all this morning, that the reason we sacrifice is also to develop the discipline necessary to look beyond our own needs, to feel hungry and not satiate the hunger, to desire something and not give into that desire. Today, we fast and abstain and I am trying to feel grateful for hunger that helps me remember that I can change, and change for the better.

We make this journey together!

Monday, February 4, 2013

How did it get to be February?

I find myself saying these kind of things more and more – but then I hear that from everyone else too!

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? 
Henry David Thoreau

January was a particularly busy month for us!   Doctors headed to Cameroon, Uganda and Tanzania.  Our new class begins today with the arrival of Dr. Antoinette Lullo and Dr. Brian Medernach who drove in from Chicago on Friday.  They will be here in Los Angeles for four months for the formation program, will be commissioned in May, and will then begin a three year assignment to Peru.

We are also preparing for the Religious Education Congress, our Annual Retreat / Seminar, the Appreciation Brunch, working with the Auxiliary for the Annual Benefit, well the list goes on and on… but, I think we can answer the question of: What are we busy about?

We are busy with the Mission of Mission Doctors – A Mission of Healing – A Partnership of Hope! 

Thanks to all who help us make the work possible!

Lent is just around the corner….