While I typically don’t enjoy celebrating Mother’s Day, this year was quite the exception – a welcome change from my usual last minute scramble to book a restaurant big enough to hold my own family, as well as all my in-laws. After spending a quiet morning with my husband and two sons, my sister Cathy and I attended a special Mother’s Day Tea at Rosary Hill Home, a hospice run by the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne for those who have incurable cancer (my mom was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in October 2017).
The Sisters pulled out all the stops – there were a large variety of teas, coffee and an overabundance of desserts. Best of all, the Sisters came to the event wearing custom-made hats, each reflecting that Sister's unique personality. My mom’s primary caregiver, Sister Diana Marie, wore a lovely straw hat adorned with tulle and flowers that she later shared with my mom.
Throughout the day, I couldn't help but think of the Sisters in the Pope's missions who, just like Sister Diana Marie, spend every day caring for others, reflecting a loving heart, a listening ear – and who knows, maybe even offering someone tea and dessert, if not an unusual hat. I'm fortunate to have regular email conversations with one of these Sisters, Sister Margaret Mweshi, who is raising funds on MISSIO for the Saint John Paul II Orthopedic Mission Hospital in her native Zambia in Africa, where she's worked for the past seven years.
In my emails with her, I started at the start, asking how she became a Sister – and one that offered medical care. She traced the path for me, all the way back to high school. Back then, she made a visit to a school for children with disabilities. She had wanted to see the school because she'd heard of the "miracles" that took place there, thanks to the efforts of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi. She not only met those "miracle-workers" but also decided to join their Religious Community.
Also inspiring to the young Margaret were the children themselves: their perseverance, their joy. She shared in their joy, with a heart grateful for the opportunity. That experience fueled her commitment to continue working with young people challenged by illness and disability as a Religious Sister – and she's done just that.
These days, MISSIO allows her to share the joy of her work with others – and have them join her and others at the hospital in a spirit of shared problem solving. Those solutions involve finding ways to fund orthopedic surgeries for young people in her native Zambia, as well as keeping the hospital safe, clean and ready always to provide the best care, with minimal risks for patients. Her time is spent as well educating members of the community about good nutrition, sanitation and hygiene to help reduce the risk of disease. She also teaches medical students. With a PhD in physiotherapy, this local Zambian nun is well-equipped to do all that. And in her down time, while she may not make hats, she does enjoy gardening.
What has Sister Margaret learned from her work all these years. For one thing, she said she's come to know: "the little I can do to help the 'helpless' makes me part of the mission Christ started while on earth." But more importantly, she added, "I've realized that in my work I had to do more than provide medical help for these children. I had to be a mother to them too."
Yeah, a pretty good Mother's Day for me at home – and, I feel certain, for children in need half a world away.
Sister Margaret with one of her patients.
Mom and Sister Diana Marie
Hi there! I'm Patty from Team MISSIO! I left my life in the for-profit sector some 15 years ago to join the Pope's missions and haven't looked back since. My love of the Mission Church was inspired by my grandfather, an avid reader of both National Geographic and MISSION Magazine. I draw inspiration each and every day from the missionaries I meet who live their lives in service of the Gospel. Sign up for "Patty's Picks" - and I'll see you to share more soon!