I started the Lenten season beginning a new volunteer ministry at Casa Marianella. It is a place that provides shelter, food and support services to recently arrived immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world. Many arrive directly released from detention centers. It is a hodge podge of beautiful different cultural people. I have met people from around the world like Eritrea, Honduras, Nepal, and Iraq to name a few. It is a daily norm to hear many different languages spoken in common areas. I am always in awe of how so many different people feel at home.
I have to say I experienced Lent differently this year because of Casa Marianella. It is not coincidence that this is the year of Mercy. I have experienced mercy up close and personal. Staff and residents have shared many stories that have made me reflect on what it means to show mercy to others and how it can be expressed in so many ways.
One afternoon a resident shared his personal story of how God has been so merciful with him despite his failings. In his youth, he lost sight in one eye and was filled with anger toward God and from that point on he would live a dark path, loss of family, alcoholism, and finally health issues. He now calls Casa Marianella home and is accepting his past and is a recovering alcoholic. He is receiving help for health issues and asks God daily for forgiveness. Another afternoon while assisting in legal services I asked a new resident from Somalia how he was adjusting. He had been released a week before from a detention center. With limited English and a smile, he said “’All is God.”
This Lent people’s situations and stories have impacted my prayer. Praying the office and reading daily Scriptures have come alive in a new way. Scripture verses of violence, war, and greed reflect the cities and countries where many residents come from around the world. The lamenting and praising in the Psalms and the words of the Prophets of faith and trust in God in the midst of tribulation resonate up close and personal as resident faces come to mind.
Scripture is revealing situations of today in our global world and the people are today’s immigrants and refugees. They are my sisters and brothers right here at Casa Marianella.
I realized these residents have been living out the Paschal mystery. The staff, volunteers and residents are all beacons of light for each other. They are the light at the Easter Vigil, bringing forth hope of God’s love, mercy, and peace. It is a Sacred haven of Mercy for people.
As Lent ends and the Easter season begins, I am left with these questions: to whom, where or in what NEW ways is God calling me to show mercy?
As a young woman religious and especially a member of Giving Voice I am filled with hope and energy to address these questions because I know these questions are not my own but ours as a whole. As women religious, we share God’s mission together.
I recall the words of Pope Francis for those in consecrated life “ Wake up the world! Be a witness of a different way of doing things, acting and living!”