|(L to R) Nicole Buchholtz, Cecile Martin-Houlgatte, Hombeline Baugier and Sister Mary Jo Sobieck.|
The following is a testimony from Hombeline Baugier who served
as a missionary in Haiti in June 2013.
My whole group is
gone for a couple minutes now and I find myself
alone waiting for my plane. I reflect on the past
week with much emotion. I discover something in myself that
I’ve never known before—the joy of having served others –
strangers -- who I will probably never see again.
have discovered a joy more “disinterested” than in the past,
and I thank Jesus for this grace. As a mother,
I know how to serve my family, my friends, my
chosen causes, but never strangers. I now know the joy
I’ve always had inside me is not only reserved for
loved ones. I realize I do not only enjoy making
them laugh, with expectations of being loved in return. No,
I have discovered a deep appreciation for bringing laughter to
men and women on their death beds, expecting nothing in
return aside from the blessing of an unconditional smile.
Mystical Body of the Church
Everyday there was a deeper discovery
of myself, an appreciation for the service of others, and
the forgetting of “self.”
One of the more powerful moments
of this week took place Tuesday morning, when a dying
18-month old little girl named Mackenzia was baptized. I now
find myself the Godmother of this little girl from Haiti,
of whom I know nothing. Therefore, I ask the grace
of the Holy Spirit to bestow upon me the proper
memories necessary to inspire my prayers for her.
Lord has a wonderful sense of humor, and I remember
laughing with my own kids before my departure, saying I
was going to come home with a little Haitian baby
because they are so cute. Well, here I am with
a little one in my heart. Maybe she will protect
me more than I her--a mystery to resolve itself one
day in Heaven.
|Food for the journey...|
When we arrived at the Missionaries of
Charity, amidst an interminable pace and intense humidity, I’m filled
I still don’t know how to handle the collective
suffering surrounding me. It’s my first encounter with sick babies.
I choose to be blissfully ignorant of their physical ailments
as these poor children are dirty and some are unsightly
with unfamiliar odors. But I need to keep telling myself,
“This is not about me.”
My heart literally melts at the
first child I hold in my arms. These children are
so beautiful!! I freefall into memories of having my own
babies with me. I am holding this little body who
falls asleep in a perfect stranger´s arms. Pure bliss!
Cecile encourages me to do everything this week, and
I let go and follow because I feel she knows
better. We are going to the Home of the Dying--a
spectacular turquoise house recently inaugurated by the bishop of Port-Au-Prince.
I’m apprehensive. I’m scared. I don’t know what to say,
and I don’t know what to do, so I follow
Cecile. Once again, this kind of suffering is foreign, and
I don’t know how to act towards people who are
about to die. I’m discovering that I just have to
be myself, with my joy and humor, making them laugh,
singing, and saying nonsense seems perfect. It’s so simple, so
beautiful to use the gifts God gave me to make
these beautiful women smile.
Thank you Lord! The place is
clean, roomy and very simple, with many religious depictions on
the walls. It is so reassuring to see almost omnipresent
depictions of Virgin Mary, a Sacred Heart, or even the
soothing smile of “little Theresa” who definitely confirms the purpose
of my presence here. We all sing Amazing Grace (Dieu
Tout Puissant in French) and my heart vibrates.
am always stunned by the delicate intentions of the Good
Lord. Back at home, my sister Guitou celebrates a birthday,
and my family buries my Aunt Madeleine.
In Haiti, I
am back at the hospital with the babies, and I
start speaking with a French woman. She tells me she
is a Sister of Jesus. I don’t know the order,
but she says she’s been in Port-Au-Prince for 20 years!
|Fr. Michael Moriarty LC and friends|
I ask her name and she says, “Sister Madeleine.” (Of
course!) She describes her order and explains she’s celebrating the
44th anniversary of her vows today.
At home my sister
manages to bring Jesus in the Eucharist to our aunt
Madeleine, who receives the Anointing of the Sick. And I
am on the other side of the world, meeting this
little sister Madeleine celebrating her anniversary--these “little winks” are pieces
of a bigger picture set forth by the Good Lord.
We’ve been here for three days. Collectively speaking, we aren’t
too tired even with the interminable heat--escaping it is a
long abandoned idea. The mood among our young missionaries is
light and peppy, even joyous! I meet a young French
volunteer named Ines who is spending three months with the
Missionaries... Really! She must be in her early twenties and
she is spending three months doing what I came to
do for less than a week--what a beautiful gift of
self for the greater good.
And the little sisters... I
think about the amazing mystery of their vocation. They are
so beautiful in their white saris bordered with blue, with
their dedication, their complete gift of themselves to serve Jesus
through the poorest of the poor. They are true witnesses
of the Love which feeds them day after day through
prayer and the Eucharist. It’s just magnificent.
A Small Crisis
of Faith and Healing
Thursday we are back at the Home
of the Dying. On the way, I am in utter
disbelief of the poverty, the dirtiness, and the absence of
perceived human dignity in these villages. I start crying. I
am terrified of this misery. Revolted and powerless, I think
of the sadness God feels when he sees his children
suffering like this. I can’t help but think wild animals
in Africa live better than the inhabitants of these shanty
towns with their garbage overflowing from the streets into their
homes. Although Father Michael attempts to reassure me that God
can find something positive in any situation, I temporarily resist
and doubt him. But I listen and, finally, accept. Nonetheless
I cry throughout the whole Mass.
Later in the morning,
healing comes as Father blesses the dying with the Anointing
of the Sick. I translate for him as much as
possible. I see the same women from a couple days
earlier, and I cannot believe the joy I feel! I’m
completely ignorant of their names, but their smiles illuminate me,
and I laugh with them. We sing, hold hands and
touch each other spirits.
Our group of missionaries put on
a show for the sick. Father Michael performs miracles with
his guitar and drum. Music is our universal language. It’s
our mutual language of joy. We again sing Amazing Grace,
and the women scream with the loudest voices possible “Dieu
Tout Puissan!” It’s moving. It’s magnificent. Nothing is done tepidly
in this country – always there are extremes.
the same songs for the men (they’re separated by floors)
and here they are dancing with our young ladies, very
touching. Impossible not to feel the island’s rhythm in your
Later in the day, the sick and the rest
of the community fill the chapel to the brink for
Eucharistic Adoration. Magnificent Holy Hour, there’s no time for idleness,
no time to think, everything is novel. The rosary and
songs are in Creole. Each are practically screamed, as if
the highest pitch would win God’s attention, or the elevated
volume carried their prayers more promptly to God.
listen to their pain, listen to their prayers.
the road home, and stunningly, the misery, dirtiness does not
hurt me like it did before. I’m not looking at
it from the same perspective, but I am not habituated
to the scene. I just feel different.
Healing Body and
Since the start of the week, I hear people talking
about the dispensary of the Missionaries, the Wound Clinic. The
young volunteer, Ines, explains that she regularly goes to clean
bandages and disinfect the wounds of the afflicted. Cecile alludes
I should go with her in a subtle way, and
the idea is simply horrifying. To do what Ines just
described, to see living wounds and minister to them, seems
like asking me to perform a heart transplant. At the
same time, I do not want to limit myself because
I feel the reason for my presence here is bigger
than me, the transcendence of the self, is possible. But
I am so scared because this will be something very
real. Then Cecile says, “Just think of them as the
wounds of Jesus or your husband.” This makes me want
to go even less. In prayer I ask Jesus to
give me the strength and grace to make the leap
if he wants me to go, because I am incapable
of garnering the strength necessary myself.
We arrive Saturday morning
at the convent. We are in the chapel for morning
prayer, when Cecile calls me over to say, “Come on,
let’s go.” “Ok” I think, “let’s get on with it.”
thing the Sisters are reciting rosaries in the minibus on
the way there. It takes my mind off the looming
experience. At our arrival, there are maybe 300 people, men,
women, and children, waiting... and we’re only to be there
for 3 or 4 hours. There’s a good dozen of
us including other volunteers, nuns, nurses, and doctors, but I
really don’t understand how they are going to be able
to take care of this many people in so little
time. In the US, this would require months of appointments
and a lot of money. The sisters begin the morning
by leading the people in an Our Father and Hail
Mary in Creole.
The first patient is a little girl
around the age of five, and she has her mom
by her side. Her legs are burnt and she is
crying a lot. Mary, a nurse volunteer, tends her wounds,
but the pain in her screams makes listening almost unbearable.
I remember I am there to fix bandages. Another volunteer
named Tania takes me under her wing and shows me
how to do it. I follow her directions, and we
do it together. The first patient is not easy. The
reality of the situation hits me like a cinderblock and
the blow is precisely sobering.
Dearest Mother, please help me
here as the situation is dire. I recite a couple
of Hail Mary’s and follow Tania’s directives. My strength starts
to gain momentum. Who can doubt the power of prayer?
It’s physical and tangible. The only thing I see following
this realization is joy, reigning over sadness in the clinic.
The cooperation of the sick, who help us to bandage
them in an effort to give the next person an
opportunity for help is amazing. Father Michael is here as
well, helping the same way as everybody else.
non-stop for two or three hours. I can’t believe the
stoicism of the men facing their wounds. They barely acknowledge
them. We always find pleasantries to exchange and in return
we are allowed a beautiful, toothy smile... just amazing. I
am stunned to find myself able to tend their wounds
with my hands, without being “grossed out,” and I can’t
believe the joy it brings me. I’m proud of being
capable to learn.
We are going back to the hospital of
the Sisters for a lunch and a much-needed nap. Following
our moment of rest, we have Mass – which was
the most needed.
Then I find out we now go
back to see the babies. Really? I thought I gave
everything I have this morning, but not quite. We continue
and we continue smiling. Little Mackenzia is doing much better
since she was baptized. I don’t know her exact prognosis,
but her eyes are wide open and she is beginning
to make some noises. By the Grace of God!
night, we find ourselves on the flat rooftop, talking about
the day’s experiences. It seems a little silly how hard
it is to express my emotions from the day. My
thoughts evaporate (poof!) into the hot, dark night when I’m
asked to speak. It’s ludicrous. Nonetheless, our young missionaries are
very inspiring in their maturity and engagement. They are so
young, yet God solves all the riddles in their hearts.
Sunday, the last day of the mission, we go to
the children’s Mass at the convent. The service is in
Creole, and the children scream with joy and faith. It
is, once again, beautiful. It’s also lovely to see these
people who essentially have no material possessions somehow conjure up
tidy, pressed outfits for church. The men’s shoes are shined,
the women wear dresses, and they are clean, even with
the omnipresent red dust whirlwinds looming outside. Ironically, we’re the
one’s wearing dirty Mission Youth tee-shirts with jeans that have
been sweat-soaked multiple times.
A Face Amidst the Chaos
back to the “hotel” for lunch and then leave for
the tent city. (I can make fun of Cecile’s French
accent because I have the exact same one!! Each time
she says “tent city” we hear “intensity!”) And yes it
will be very “intense!”
The tent city is a collection of
shelters constructed after the earthquake. They are built out of
any material imaginable--brick, dirt, sheets, plastic, hay -- really anything
that one can put over their heads. What was supposed
to be temporary progressively morphed into permanence in accordance with
the means of each family.
We arrive at the local
school with arts and crafts. Within minutes we find ourselves
with fifty children, blissfully painting and singing, although it is
in excess of 110 degrees in the school.
bags full of dresses for young girls, and all the
food we have left. Very quickly we are circled by
a mob of children clamoring for more, on the cusp
of violence. At this point, before finding out the extent
of the people’s desperation, we follow our guides into the
maze of the tent city. I almost lose Father Michael!
I trace my footsteps back and luckily find him, but
he was clearly scared at the idea of losing me
He apologized. “Sorry, everything was happening so quickly!”
We have more candy to distribute. We go back to
school in hopes things have smoothed out. Here too we
are mobbed by women and children, but we manage to
give to the maximum amount of people.
Amidst the commotion,
I look over and notice a little girl in a
tee-shirt riddled with holes...She looks at me and doesn’t say
anything, doesn’t ask for anything. Her calmness is an anomaly.
She’s 13 years old and with Cecile’s help, I grab
a little dress for her, and she looks at me
and says “Merci.” She was the only one to say
thank you, while looking at me with those eyes. I
will never forget her face.
Because of this little girl,
I will return.