Weeping With Those Who Weep by Sister Janice McLaughlin, M.M.
Baby Kathryn was named after one of our sisters with whom I had lived in an African township on the outskirts of Harare. The baby developed a bad cough when she was a few months old. Her parents took her to the large government hospital in town but the nurses and doctors had gone on strike and refused to treat this suffering child. A drip that would have brought nourishing fluid to her emaciated body sat useless beside the bed and the oxygen that would enable her to breath had been turned off.
The nurses ignored our pleas for help. Baby Kathryn looked up at us with pleading eyes, took a few last feeble breaths and died while her parents and I stood helplessly by her bedside praying the rosary. We held one another and wept. We sobbed and sobbed for the needless suffering and the death of this beautiful, innocent child. We wept for the nurses and doctors, who in their desire for higher salaries and better working conditions ignored the needs of the patients. We wept for all the children of Zimbabwe who suffer from lack of food, clean water, and healthcare and we wept for the poverty that dis-empowers millions of parents around the world where the gap between rich and poor keeps growing.
Sometimes, weeping is all that we can do. And that is enough.
Yes, we work for justice. We work for peace. We work to create a world where babies like little Kathryn won’t die. But even in our actions for justice and peace, we can’t forget to weep.
Tears unite us with those who suffer. Tears make the issues real and soften our hearts. Tears make us one with Jesus who wept for those he loved.
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) These two words, so simple and powerful, give me permission to stop sometimes in my efforts to solve the world’s many problems; to just sit and weep, and know that it’s OK.
These simple lessons of a lifetime give me hope even in the midst of so much cruelty, destruction, and violence in the world. The small steps of everyday life have enabled me to say “Yes” to the big demands and the bigger heartaches. Giving and receiving acts of kindness, even if it’s only a smile, gives me strength to keep going, even when the path is dark. My failures and my tears have taught me the power of tenderness – the most important lesson of all.
Sister Janice was president of the Maryknoll Sisters from 2009-2015 and now works with the African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching to combat human trafficking in Zimbabwe and throughout Southern Africa.
- 1 cup mashed avocado
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbs. lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped stuffed olives
- 1 tbs. grated onion
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 4 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled
Mix avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, olives, onion and seasoning and chill. Just before serving, stir in bacon and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.
Here is an update from Sister Jane on Guadalupe:
“I am happy to report to you Guadalupe has indeed graduated with honors and is working in a government health clinic as the nurse in charge. This remarkable story is unheard of in this area of Guatemala. This is all thanks to our friends and partner in missions. In Guatemala, the extreme poverty prevents children from going to school as many drop out to work and help their families. This is another step towards breaking the cycle of poverty and more importantly you have provided hope to other children in this area who may otherwise feel hopeless.”
Sister Jane has served in Guatemala as a Doctor for over fifty years, she ministers to the sick in a remote coastal region of Guatemala.
Words of Wisdom
“Be big and generous. Get away from small things. Open your hearts and then God will fill them to overflowing with everything that we need for His service ”
-Our Foundress, Mother Mary Joseph, “Morning Talks for the Benjamins of the Flock,” 11/18/1925, Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 690