Fr. Cyrus Gallagher is a Capuchin living in Colorado Springs. Fr. Cyrus is participating on the Global Fellows immersion trip to Ethiopia.
The sign over the brown-painted metal gate reads: “Missionaries of Charity. Home for the Destitute and Dying.” Our driver sounds the horn and the gate squeaks open.
We are 13 visitors from the Catholic Relief Services Global Fellows program. Ten of us are Global Fellows along with three CRS staff members. CRS partners with the Missionaries of Charity in their work of caring for those rejected by society: disabled people who have no family or friends to care about them; newborns left at the gate during the night by desperate moms who have heard by widespread word-of-mouth that the Sisters would take care of the baby; by new moms who wait for sunrise at the gate with the baby in their arms, knowing that they will not only be not rejected and turned away, but rather welcomed with love and continuing care; special-needs kids and adults who have lived on the streets of Addis Ababa, starving, covered with lice, waiting for help.
We were welcomed by the local CRS program director and ushered into a detailed experience of just what the Sisters and their co-workers do every day. In the first ward we enter a small group surrounds a bed where a Sister is reciting the litany of the dying. A young man is dying there with his last view the faces of Sisters praying for him, with his last sounds the prayers of the Church. One of the Sisters turned to me after the death and said: In Ethiopia Heaven is close to Earth.
Ward afterward we witness the well-structured and professional manner in which our destitute brothers and sisters are cared for. There are wards for patients with pneumonia, tuberculosis and the mentally ill. There were 100 beds all immaculately made up with colorful sheets and pillows. These Wards are where the love of God reaches to earth.
Among many, many memorable moments in my experience of grace was in the children’s ward; hundreds of kids all as lively and innocent as any kid in any loving family. None of them knows the reason why he is there. All of them receive loving care and they smile and play like good kids always do. None of them yet knows that a future of desolation and desperation has been removed from them. Each of them receives love, care, affection, companionship, hugs, good food, and schooling. Each of them has hope for a future of possibilities and dreams. This reality will come clear to them as they grow and prosper in the love which envelopes them now and will continue to lead them toward success.
The Missionaries of Charity with assistance from CRS provide love and hope to these kids and all the residents by their living out the Prayer of St Francis, prayed every day after Mass. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is despair, let me sow hope. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
It was truly a grace and an inspiration to spend even a short time in this place in Ethiopia where Heaven is close to Earth.
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