Loreto Sisters Spreading God’s Love
Father Tom Brophy from the Ballarat Diocese has recently returned from the Loreto Mission in Timor-Leste. He felt compelled to write about his experience as “the Loreto community there, like here at home, are real prophetesses as they spread love of God in word and action. This experience was just one of many. They really inspire me. God bless them”.
“If you want to, you can cure me,” said the leper to Jesus as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.
I was fortunate to have had a similar experience whilst I was with the Loreto Sisters on their mission in Gari-uai, Timor-Leste late last year. Accompanying Sr Margie Bourke ibvm on her weekly pastoral visitation of the sick, elderly and lonely, I felt like Christ as he reached out to the God’s little people (‘the Anawim’). These people had very little in their bamboo huts – no electricity, earthen floors and no running water. As they rarely see a priest, Margie asked me to anoint the people and give them Communion whilst she gave them a simple instruction on the two sacraments.
To my surprise, Sr Margie said the next person you will anoint is a leper. Never having encountered a leper in my priestly life I was quite aware it would be a special experience for the leper as well as for myself.
Sr Margie has a great way with people and put them, and yours truly, at ease as she spoke their language and knew them. I anointed them on the head and their hands as is the custom. However, the man with leprosy reached out to my hand which held the holy oil and indicated he wanted the oil, and then I realised he wanted me to anoint his leprosy-affected foot and diminished toes. He has lost the capacity to feel as he walks, so falls and is unsteady on his feet. No wonder he reached out to me to anoint him further. No wonder too did I unhesitatingly reach out and touch his body. At that moment I felt I truly was God’s instrument, unworthy though I be. It reminded me of Pope Francis reaching out to the marginalised on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of the poor and disadvantaged. The joy on the face of the man’s wife was something I shall never forget. I was blessed. In fact we all were.
That experience brought home to me how important it is to reflect on all our encounters with people and how God uses us to bring his love and care to those in need. Every relationship is important and we need to respond to the presence of God in the other and let them respond to God’s presence in us.
The Loreto Sisters have a vital role to play in Timor-Leste. Not only are they a symbol of hope but they provide unconditional support to individuals, families and the community at large who otherwise would go without. Margie Bourke ibvm is one of five Loreto Sisters living in the remote village of Gari-uai. To find out more about Loreto’s work in Timor-Leste please click here.