This week’s edition of The Record focuses heavily on the service of women religious — that of the celebrated soon-to-be-saint Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and two relatively unknown sisters serving in Mississippi.
Sister Paula Merrill, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and Sister Margaret Held, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis based in Milwaukee, became known across the United States and internationally last week after they were found murdered in the home they shared.
Despite the distance of time and space, they were sisters in service with Mother Teresa. All three served quietly but powerfully, tending to the desperate needs of people on the farthest reaches of the margins.
They were coworkers in the “field hospital” that Pope Francis describes as today’s church.
They were shepherds who, as Pope Francis urges, are so dedicated and in solidarity with those they serve that they “smell like the sheep.”
When news of the sisters’ deaths broke last week, photos of the women religious began showing up on global news reports. Bespectacled and smiling, dressed simply, their candid, care-worn visages looked familiar to those who have known other women religious.
They could be any one of the many women religious who staff our parishes, serve as social workers and care for people who are poor and vulnerable all over this earth. They give their lives in service to God’s people. Sisters Merrill and Held made that sacrifice totally and completely.
We can honor the memory of these holy women, Sisters Merrill and Held and Blessed Teresa, by trying to live the way they did — offering up our lives to care for other people.
How does one begin?
Blessed Teresa, who is so often quoted and misquoted, gave a production crew from Louisville in 1981, some instructions. Her words were recorded in the book “Words to Love By … Mother Teresa.” It says: “ ‘Just begin, one, one, one,’ she urges. ‘Begin at home by saying something good to your child, to your husband or to your wife. Begin by helping someone in need in your community, at work, or at school. Begin by making whatever you do something beautiful for God.’ ”
After we begin, let’s try to keep going. When our horror over the violent act of killing in Mississippi begins to fade from memory, let’s try to continue honoring the sacrifices of these selfless women. When Blessed Teresa’s canonization is over and we become accustomed to saying St. Teresa of Kolkata, let’s continue to follow her path.
And when we feel that spirit lagging, let’s turn to these women, members of the Communion of Saints, for their intercession. Let’s allow ourselves to be changed by the witness of these women.
Eternal rest grant unto them,
And let perpetual light
shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through
the mercy of God, rest in peace.