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An Encounter With Jesus in Jamaica View Comments
By Suzanne Rose

THE BISHOP’S VAN let our Pilgrims of Hope group of 11 women and men off at the end of the dusty drive in front of a long, concrete building. With a bit of paint and polish, the Missionaries of Charity had transformed this former warehouse into a nursing home for the elderly, those abandoned in the streets and on the hillsides of Jamaica. Many of these seniors were left behind by adult children, who sought better lives in more prosperous countries.

In a country with a crushing unemployment rate, the desire for better living conditions has left many elderly Jamaicans impoverished, without family to care for them. The sisters of this congregation, founded by Blessed Mother Teresa, minister to the destitute, or “the poorest of the poor.” The Missionaries of Charity do not lack work in this Third World country.

Mary Help of Christians is lettered over the doorway in blue; the entire building in Balaclaza, Jamaica, is painted the blue and white of Our Lady’s colors. The wish for Peace to All Who Enter Here greets visitors and residents who enter through the building’s oversized doors.

A young woman, dressed in the white and blue sari worn by members of this community, welcomes us. Two large German shepherds follow her as she begins a tour of the facility.

Men occupy the first floor of the building. The dogs pad quietly through the corridors, accompanying us into the women’s quarters on the second floor, where we will work alongside the sisters during the day.

Sister reviews the medical stock in the storeroom to evaluate what may be useful to us as we minister to the residents. The few supplies on the shelf take only a moment to count. Rubbing alcohol seems to be the common treatment for ailments.

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Suzanne Rose is the volunteer coordinator with a refugee resettlement agency and also the founder of Pilgrims of Hope. Her article “St. Monica and Me” (August 2010) described how the survival of her son, Jeremiah, now 32, who worked near the World Trade Center, brought her into the Catholic Church in 2003. She and her husband, Tom, have two other children, Bethany, 30, and Emily, 16, and live in Owensboro, Kentucky.

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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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