I'm a collector of many things. If you could peer into my office, you would see gifts and keepsakes from many mission countries. With each visit, I try to bring home items that represent the local culture and people I meet.
Sometimes, folks may become "blind" to the things they see every day. I fight against that inclination, because the things I've surrounded myself with, both in my office and in my home, also reflect another, more important collection: the people whom I've met along the way in this ministry.
Fidelito gave me a clay pot from Cuba; he was courageous enough to form a Missionary Childhood branch there, risking jail for promoting our faith. A wall hanging portraying musical instruments of Kenya came from Leonard, a man of great faith who came to Boston to make a better life for his family who stayed behind, waiting for visas. Along with many others, we prayed for his young son, and then his wife, to come here, reuniting their family. A tin that was full of fresh tea was a gift from Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of Galle, Sri Lanka.
The tin is shaped like its home country, which is often referred to as "The Teardrop of India." There is much to cry about in Sri Lanka right now.
According to the UN's World Food Program, nearly five million Sri Lankans, over twenty-two percent of the population, need food aid. Food inflation has risen to over eighty percent. The country's rice supply, normally mostly home-grown, has been devastated by a ban on imported fertilizer. Farmers predicted the crop failure; their seed was dependent on the foreign growth aid.
Fuel has been rationed, affecting not only those who drive for a living, but those who depend on public transport for work. The country has declared bankruptcy; the president and prime minister have resigned.
What's a bishop to do? If you are Bishop Raymond, you do the obvious: pray, and feed the hungry. With help from his own collection of friends around the world, Bishop Raymond has organized a local food drive. Bags of rice, salt, peanuts, onions, and other staples were trucked in, paid for by people who heeded the call to be Good Samaritans.
Bishop Raymond will speak about the needs of his people at Holy Family in Duxbury, Saint Michael in North Andover, and Saint Bartholomew in Needham as part of Boston's Missionary Cooperative Plan. His decision to come here during this time of great turmoil at home was a difficult one. He knows, though, that our support will enable lifesaving works of mercy, for months to come, in Sri Lanka.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.