Friday, December 19, 2008

A GIFT FOR “THE GIFT OF WATER”

I’ve wanted to write a Christmas message for several weeks, and in all the hecktivity preceding the season, I couldn’t seem to find the time to do so…until this morning, that is. This morning, I received a note from my Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Bruce MacPherson, telling me that the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana was forwarding, through me, a check for over $5,000 to the Sisters of St. Mary, Sewanee, TN to use for their mission work in Haiti. He added, in characteristic wryness, “Who said these beads don’t work?” (Alluding to the Anglican rosary made by Sister Miriam at St. Mary’s Convent which I sent to him earlier this year).

The Haiti project has actually been in motion for eight years, as two of the Sisters of St. Mary have made annual missions to Haiti to provide medical assistance at an orphanage there. When Sr. Miriam and Sr. Julian, formerly of the Order of Sisters of Charity, joined the Community of St. Mary at the Convent in Sewanee, they brought the Haiti project with them. This year, the Sisters initiated a water purification project to aid sick and dying children at the orphanage in Haiti. This amazing system filters protozoa, helminthes, etc. from water by using sand filters to remove the parasites, then a chlorination system to eliminate bacterial and viral contaminants. A by-product of the purification process is sodium hydroxide, better known as lye, which can be used to make soap in a cottage industry or to sterilize sewage.

This year, Associates of St. Mary and many Louisiana friends, including Bishop MacPherson, donated money for the water purification system and to finance the flight and lodging of a technician to install this system in the Port au Prince orphanage. The two medical missioners and technician were joined by Sister Elizabeth of the St. Mary community and representatives of other denominations who were interested in this missionary work. I wrote about the success of this mission in a recent blog and referred Bishop MacPherson to the site so that he would have a full report about the Fall mission. This morning, Bishop MacPherson sent a note informing me that the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana was sending the aforementioned generous check to help provide clean water for children in Haiti. When I read that note, I felt like the adage: “There are times when whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

When I pledged the first $500 toward the water purification system, and Vickie Sullivan directed the Sisters to a demonstration of the system at a Methodist Church in Monteagle, TN, we felt confident that this project was, as Evelyn Underhill once wrote, “a manifestation of the Will of God.” I’m certain that the good Sisters, through their lives of constant prayer , and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, often bring about miracles for the needy and disenfranchised in the world. When they constantly hold themselves in God’s presence in solitude and silence, they teach all of us how to return to the heart.

Christmas is upon us, and I’m grateful for many personal blessings, but this year, I’m particularly grateful for the hands extended from the Diocese of Western Louisiana to the Sisters at St. Mary…for the hands extended from the Sisters of St. Mary to the sick and dying children in Haiti…and for the link of spiritual community to spiritual community in the unifying action of Divine charity. God bless us one and all!
And Merry Christmas!
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