I was blessed to spend two weeks with the Heart’s Home community in Brooklyn for my orientation to the life of a Heart’s Home missionary. I was warmly welcomed into the life of the community, and their hospitality was wonderful. While the slight terror of moving to Thailand for almost two years is still somewhere in me, mostly what I am feeling is a clarity that God has called me to do this, and that He is most certainly equipping me. I have a few more details about Thailand, which make some of the unknowns a little less unknown, but I also know that there is nothing anyone can say that will prepare me fully for my mission. Since God has brought me to it, God will bring me through it!
Every day, we went to our ’apostolates’ (one of those very Catholic words I’m getting used to now). In a neighborhood with highrise housing projects next to highrise condos, there are many lonely people. We spent time just visiting with people, and I was humbled at how much it meant to so many people that we simply showed up. Whether we visited a nursing home or spent time with a youth group or visited someone in their home, we were warmly welcomed and the visit was never long enough. But bringing a smile and some friendly conversation or communion to those who can’t get to church means the world to our friends. Because we are friends, and that’s what friends do.
One lovely woman that I met, whose given name is the same as mine, Catherine, left me amazed. In a nursing home where many people face severe medical problems and at best average care, she is alert and has all of her wits about her. Well dressed in bright colors, at 89 she is optimistic and talkative and plays a wicked game of checkers. But it is her eyes that I will remember the most. They are so alive, so present and yet... so full of longing and loneliness. She asked when I was coming back to see her and it was so hard to tell her that I won’t be able to come back anytime soon. I spent all of maybe 45 minutes with this woman, once last week and once this week, and still she wants to pray for me during my mission in Thailand.
I think when I started this orientation time I thought that the way Heart’s Home missionaries used the word ’friend’ it was really in the sense that I often use it when talking about my friends from SPRED (Special Religious Education for People with Disabilities). Mainly out of respect for our disabled friends and to differentiate from the catechists. But I’ve been discovering that even if these friendships with Heart’s Home missionaries seem often to be friendships that are onesided, they are not. I’m having to learn all over again how to make friends and keep them and love them. It’s a challenge! Because I’m pretty sure that Catherine and I are now friends. She’ll pray for me and I’ll pray for her, even if we don’t see each other until heaven. Because that’s what friends do.