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Soul Sisters: A Story of Joy and Sorrow View Comments
By Colleen Connell Mitchell

AS A YOUNG Catholic wife, when I opened my heart to the Lord’s plan for our family life and the children God had in store for us, I immediately began to imagine the life that lay ahead. I imagined the announcements of pregnancies and the reactions of others.

I imagined my belly swollen with life as I grabbed the hands of active toddlers in parks and playgrounds. I imagined a table full of little ones, heads bowed as we prayed grace before meals.

I thought about all those little bodies bathed and dressed in printed pajamas, snuggled peacefully in bed for the night. I practiced responses to the shocked faces in the grocery store, and I prepared for the challenges those grocery trips would present.

As the Lord began to reveal his plan for our family, I prayed through each pregnancy, grateful for the opportunity to bear another little soul for God’s glory. I offered myself and this growing little one to him without reserve. Never once did I regret my decision to leave the plan for our family in the Lord’s hands through the wisdom of the Catholic Church.

As I became the mother to five little boys in 10 years, that plan played itself out pretty much the way I had imagined. My journey as the mother of a growing Catholic family had brought with it all the joys and challenges I had imagined, as well as many, many others. I grew in my faith more than I would have ever guessed. My marriage had been blessed, and my heart was overwhelmed at God’s generosity over and over again.

When my husband, sons and I found ourselves expecting our sixth son 12 years into our marriage, I was full of joy. I was overwhelmed at God’s surprising and sweet plan for our family. He had written the script for this life I got to live every day, and it was a life that I loved.

In my dreams of our family life, the one thing I had never expected was sorrow. In all my prayers to offer little souls to God, one thing I had never considered was that God might ask me to give one back before I was ready.

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Colleen Connell Mitchell is a freelance writer and the homeschooling mom of five sons. She lives and writes from southern Louisiana where she and her family minister in their local parish. It is her hope that, in sharing her story of loss and her faith journey through it, other Catholic mothers will be encouraged to trust in God’s loving plan for their family even in the most difficult of circumstances.

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Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta): Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the tiny woman recognized throughout the world for her work among the poorest of the poor, was beatified October 19, 2003. Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1950 as a diocesan religious community. Today the congregation also includes contemplative sisters and brothers and an order of priests. 
<p>Born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje, Macedonia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was the youngest of the three children who survived. For a time, the family lived comfortably, and her father's construction business thrived. But life changed overnight following his unexpected death. </p><p>During her years in public school Agnes participated in a Catholic sodality and showed a strong interest in the foreign missions. At age 18 she entered the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. It was 1928 when she said goodbye to her mother for the final time and made her way to a new land and a new life. The following year she was sent to the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, India. There she chose the name Teresa and prepared for a life of service. She was assigned to a high school for girls in Kolkata, where she taught history and geography to the daughters of the wealthy. But she could not escape the realities around her—the poverty, the suffering, the overwhelming numbers of destitute people. </p><p>In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as “a call within a call. The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.” She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to “follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.” </p><p>After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months. She returned to Kolkata, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children. Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighbors—especially the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs through visits. </p><p>The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long. Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity. Others helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings. In 1952 the city of Kolkata gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute. As the order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging, and street people. </p><p>For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her love knew no bounds. Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.</p> American Catholic Blog A healthy marriage is that it is a witness of Jesus’s love for the 
Church. We are the bride of Christ, and the greatest declaration of the groom’s love is found at the cross. The complete gift of self by Jesus at Calvary is so entire that it is life-giving.

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