“Will it really make me a saint?”
These are the words that echo through my mind as I reflect upon my week with the Missionaries of Charity. At the beginning of July, I travelled with twelve of my students to spend a week helping the sisters put on a day camp for neighborhood kids. The camp was an afternoon event every weekday, consisting of food, catechesis, play time and more food. My students are mostly from affluent families, and have not had much of an opportunity to serve the poor. Nor have they had an opportunity to spend quality time with religious sisters or brothers of any order. They know ahead of time that it will be a lot of work and a lot of fun, that we will sleep on floors and simply do what we are told when we are told to do it. For a week we are able to enter into the life of the Missionaries of Charity, albeit in a small way. On the way up, I heard a lot of “I’m not sweeping floors this year…” or “Do we have to clean? Can’t we just play with the kids?” Everyone is sure that what they really want is to play. By the end of the week, however, a transformation has occurred. This daily regiment had an intense effect on each of our souls. I watched girls normally disgusted and exhausted by daily cleaning and organizing activities do incredible feats of love. On our first day, just as we arrived, the tragic discovery of overflowing trash cans was being made. The sisters were hesitant to ask us to help, due to the sheer grossness of the task, but sure enough two of the girls volunteered to load the bins into a truck and then lifting them over their heads, dripping and slimy, dump them into big dumpsters at a school down the road. As we joyfully scrubbed our hands back at the house, we watched the trash truck pull up to get any last debris. Instead of being annoyed, they took it as the first way that they could serve those who serve God with their lives.
The real light for me came when, after working and praying with the sisters for a couple of days, one of the girls was sweeping the parking lot and the wind kept blowing debris back into the lot. Sister would come and smilingly say “We have to make it clean for the kids for tomorrow!” As she kept sweeping she turned and said: “The wind KEEPS BLOWING! Why do I have to keep sweeping! It’s barely doing anything!” I responded, “Because it will make you a saint!” It seemed like something Mother Teresa would say, so I gave it a try. She turned and said “Well if it will make me a saint then, I guess… well… can I do it again tomorrow?”
Rachel Willoughby resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is currently teaching high school Math and Latin. Rachel graduated from Ave Maria University with a BA in Math and from the International Theological Institute with a Masters in Sacred Theology and a License in Sacred Theology.