The Things We Do for Love

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH


Long ago, in Brockway, Pennsylvania, a substitute teacher was about to begin a day of teaching second grade in public school.  The children had free time before school started.  Tow-headed Michael had gathered most of the class into a huddle.  The substitute drifted over to see whether trouble was brewing.  Michael was saying, “Alright you guys.  We are in Lent.  Jesus died on the cross for you.  What are you going to do for him?”

We do things for people we love.  Every winter morning, Pat would scrape ice off her husband’s car and warm it up.  Joe is long dead.  Without a doubt, Pat still loves him and misses him.  I miss him, too.  He prayed the Rosary every day and had an intention for every bead.  He prayed the third Hail Mary for me.

There was a day of Lenten Retreat at Church of the Holy Spirit in Joppa.  We had Mass and prayed the Rosary, but the retreat director still hadn’t come.  I asked the pastor if I could say a few words about the Rosary.  I told the almost full church about driving Sister Annette to see her family in St. Mary’s County when I was a young Sister.  Sister Annette said, “Would you like to pray a rosary?”  I did not particularly want to pray a rosary, but I did not have the courage to admit that.  We began.  Sister announced, “The First Joyful Mystery, for whom shall we pray?”  My sister-in-law Barb was pregnant.  We would pray for her.  Sister Annette added all women with difficult pregnancies who were considering abortion.  We named our intentions for each mystery.  It was a powerful and positive experience.  I told the retreatants about Sister Annette and intentions for each mystery and about Joe and his many intentions.  That evening, an army wife who made the day with her husband wrote that he was jotting down the intentions for each Hail Mary on his rosary.

On Sunday, St. Paul will affirm, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  God is definitely for us and Jesus will take every loving thing we do for each person in our lives as if we did it for him.

Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

–At the Mission Helpers’ Mission in Manzanita, Venezuela

Maria del CarmelThe annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16, is a major feast day in Venezuela, and especially in the 16 villages of the Buria District and its capital, the village of Manzanita, which is home to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the area’s patroness saint and the name of an 18th century church founded by the Franciscan Capuchin missionaries. That church was long gone when the Mission Helpers came to this undeveloped and impoverished region in 1990. There had been no church and no church presence in the district for many decades; the nearest priest was many miles away.

The first Sisters began their ministry by setting up a tiny worship space that has since blossomed into Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish. The church also serves as a community and outreach center for the villagers. It is the center of social and spiritual life in the region.

For the people of the Manzanita region, the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a weeklong event. Here is a recap of last year’s festivities:

Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 3 Kids dancing before the imageThe celebration began a week before the actual Feast Day with prayer services in all of the villages. On the Sunday before the Feast Day, Bishop Antonio Jose Lopez Castillo celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation. Twenty-two teenagers made Confirmation, among them were 12 Guajiros (indigenous people) from Yuba tribe who live at the Barquisimeto Boys Town.

To help the young people celebrate their Confirmation, the Mission Helpers organized a concert with a Christian Catholic band from city of Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara State.


The Feast Day itself began at 6:00 a.m. when women from the community prepared a meal that was served to everyone following the 10 a.m. Solemn Mass. At the Mass, 30 children from the villages made First Communion. At 3:00 p.m. the rosary was recited and at 4:00 the procession began.


Manzanita_Mt. Carmel 2 Carring StatueMore than 300 people came from the district villages as well as from villages across Lara State. They processed with the revered statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, leaving the church at 4:00 p.m., walking a distance of about six miles, and returning to the church at 7:30. There was a final blessing, followed by fireworks.

My beautiful pictureThe much-loved yearly celebration—a highlight of religious and community life—is organized and executed by the Mission Helpers with the help of a dedicated corps of Lay Missioners.




Mothers Day Reflections

By Sisters and Friends of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

Loretta’s Mother

I could always pick my mom out in a crowd of moms.  She was the one with the prettiest hair—all white. My mother had 11 children and she treated each one of their needs.  She was named Mary Rosalie but went by Rose and what a Rose she was!

I can remember one time asking her, “Why aren’t we normal?”  She laughed and said, “We are.”

She taught me a great lesson when I was in the second or third grade.  I volunteered her to make a cake for my class.  She got all the ingredients and the cook book and she put them in front of me and said, “You are going to make this cake.”  I learned to make a cake from scratch and to never, ever volunteer my mom for anything again without her permission.

Mom had a deep faith, a great prayer life and trust in God. These were the best gifts she gave our family.  She had a good sense of humor, a compassionate heart and a love for all people.  She was involved in church, social action, civic and community associations.  She taught us to reach out to those in need, to invite people to the table, and to see Jesus in each face that we met.  She also had a devotion to the Blessed Mother and would have us pray the Rosary on our knees or in the car.  I chuckle when I remember this because as my Dad drove faster and faster, Mom’s voice became louder and higher in pitch.  It went like this:

Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Hon, slow down!!

I can’t help but smile.  I’m not sure if she thought it was the hour of our death, but sometimes it sure felt it.

Our Mom loved us and she let us know it.  Because of her witness of love to God, Mary, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I am a better person.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

–Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH

Darla’s Mother

My fondest memories of my mother are of the times we have spent together, just the two of us.  I was six years old before I was blessed with a baby brother, so I have always had a close bond with my mom.  My husband, son and I have been blessed to have had my mom (and dad) living under the same roof with us for the last 25 years, so the bond between all of us is even stronger today!

To this day it is her love for her family and our one-on-one times that I will remember, and cherish, for the rest of my life.

–Darla Benton, daughter of Millie Stuchinsky

I first met Jesus, really met him, when Sister M. Anonymous dismissed me, a precocious second grader, from my First Communion class and forbade me from receiving Communion with my classmates, including my identical twin sister.  Despite my mother’s representation to “Sister” and my parents to “Father,” I was not permitted to return.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, sitting under the willow tree in our backyard, anxiously awaiting my parents’ return from meeting with the pastor.  After what seemed an eternity, my mother appeared, bearing a plate full of toll house cookies and a glass of milk.  She sat on the grass next to me. I can still retrieve the scent of White Shoulders.

In a voice filled with tenderness she said, “Honey, you are not going to receive Communion with your class.  That is Sister’s decision and we must respect that.  But Dad and I believe the reason is bigger than Sister.  We believe that Jesus wants you to himself on your Communion day because he has something special to say to you.”

Immediately, for this seven-year-old, raw disappointment was transformed into a sense of being special and anxiously awaiting what Jesus would say to me. To this day, I believe that my relationship with Jesus was born from my mother’s words.

–Sister Clare Walsh, MHSH

Rosemary’s Mother

Mary Burke Maguire is a wonderful and loving mother.  We (her children) feel it is both a privilege and an honor that she lives at The Villa in Baltimore.  The Villa is a retirement community of religious women—Sisters of Mercy and the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

It is fitting that she spends these years of her life in such a community.  Mary Maguire is one of the holiest women I have ever known.  Holy in the sense of God first in everything she says and does.  Our mother bestowed on us faith, hope and love that know no bounds.

–Rosemary Thompson

Mariel’s Mother

My mother was beautiful.  My friends always said that they had never seen such a beautiful woman.  It was not her physical beauty, however, that impressed me the most. We had many religious items that graced our home; these did not impress me the most.  What truly influenced me throughout my life was Mom’s steadfast faith.  Through many difficult times, Mom trusted unwaveringly in God and set an unforgettable example for all of us. Even at age 80 she continued to attend daily Mass.  I remain forever grateful to her for having encouraged me in my decision to become a Mission Helper. Mrs. Helen Rafferty, mother of Sister Mariel.

–Sister Mariel Rafferty, MHSH

Among my favorite memories of Mom is this: I was seven or eight, my sister 12 or 13.  We had a big doll the size of a two-year-old child.  She wore real baby clothes.  Neither of us played with her anymore, but she was one of my prized possessions.  One day in the cold of winter my mother said, “You don’t play with that doll anymore. How about giving it to Rosie up the street?  She may not have a doll.”

I immediately tensed up and got possessive, but my mother reasoned with me.  “You have other dolls, but Rosie doesn’t have any.  God wants us to share what we have.”

After a while she wore me down and I agreed. I took the doll to Rosie.

Sometime later I was at Rosie’s house, and I was hoping to play with the doll.  But Rosie said, “My mother threw it in the stove.”  I was horrified and sickened.  That doll was as big as a baby who could walk, and I pictured a child being thrown into the flames.  I must have left right away because my next memory is of running home and bursting into the house crying.  Mom asked what was wrong and I sobbed, “Rosie’s mother burned the doll up in the stove.”

Mom always had a calm way about her. She thought for a moment, then said, “Maybe she needed to do that because they didn’t have wood for the fire.”  That stopped me for a second, but then came another onslaught of crying and I sobbed, “But it was MY doll.”

Mom triumphed again.  “No, it wasn’t your doll.  You gave it to Rosie. When you give a gift, it’s not yours anymore and you can’t tell people how to use it.”

My mother taught me many little lessons like that, and I’m grateful for every one of them.

–Sister Kathleen Lehner, MHSH

I have so many memories of my mother, Theresa Gertrude Hubich Bunn.  I remember her sitting on the side of my bed and teaching me to pray “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” and “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bless the bed I lie upon, four angels to guard my bed, two at the foot and two at the head…”

I remember lemon meringue pies so delicious that I picture heaven including pie, coffee and watching the sun rise over the ocean.  I remember walking toFortMcHenryin our Easter outfits and hats on sunny Easter afternoons.  I remember Uncle Wiggley stories and if the sky doesn’t turn green and trees don’t grow upside down, I will tell you more memories next year.

–Sister Susanne Bunn, MHSH

Donna Fannon’s Mom

Some of my favorite memories of Mom center around being “always ready for a ride” and “dressing for the occasion.”  Until recently, Mom has always been ready to go on an outing, but only with the proper attire.  This photo was taken at the Red Lion Inn a few years ago. My sister and I took her there for a spring getaway.  For us it was a time to relax, but for Mom, it was an event.

Mom continues to greet each day as something worth dressing up for.  She had the same outfit on this week for a visit to the doctor’s office for a routine blood test.  “After all,” she said, “one never knows whom we will run into on the way.”

I find a great lesson in that, especially as I try to be prepared to meet God at any moment along the way…and be ready to respond.  Thanks Mom.

–Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH