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She's Like Esther! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 01 October 2007 07:18
I've told the story of Claudia Bohnert before but I finally found more information and a picture of her on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners Website:

A little background:

In August of 2005, I received a letter from a recently retired pharmacist (who I had not met) named Claudia who had attended a Called & Gifted workshop in a South Carolina parish (that I did not teach).

As a result of her discernment, she had volunteered to serve as a lay missionary in Tanzania. There she would teach pharmacology at the very first medical school in the country. Claudia’s mission: to enable Tanzanians to qualify for funding for AIDS medications by training them to administer the drugs in question. This woman’s skill and expertise could conceivably save the lives of an entire generation and change the course of a whole nation. When I told her story at a small group gathering in my parish in Colorado Springs, one woman blurted out “She’s like Esther! Who knows but what she has been prepared for such a time as this?”

And now the rest of the story:

Claudia joined MKLM in 2005. Although originally from Bethpage, N.Y., she came to Maryknoll from Annapolis, MD. Claudia holds a PhD in pharmacology and worked for thirty years in the pharmaceutical industry. She has extensive international experience in strategic planning and chairing and working on boards, as well as extensive technical expertise in research and development of drugs.

Claudia was very involved at St. Mary’s Parish in the Diocese of Baltimore, where she taught English as a second language. She also volunteered at an orphanage for AIDS babies, a home for women with AIDS and their children, and a homeless shelter. Claudia received degrees at the State University of N.Y. at Albany and University of Rochester School of Medicine. She is a mother with two grown children.

Current Ministry:

Claudia teaches clinical pharmacology to medical students at Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences. This is a new medical school founded by the Tanzanian government and Catholic Church, with Weill Cornell Medical College (U.S.), to increase the number of MDs above today’s single MD for every 25,000 Tanzanians. The first class is scheduled to graduate in 2008.

Claudia’s also teaches pharmacology to MDs seeking further specialization, and to Intensive Care Unit staff and anesthetic nurses. Her research at Weill Bugando Medical Centre includes a clinical study of schistosomiasis, a major tropical disease in Africa. She also serves as study coordinator for a large clinical trial of a drug regimen to treat AIDS in the poor in rural Africa who lack access to AIDS drugs used elsewhere.

I am blown away. Claudia is impacting so many lives. What moves me most in reading this is noting how incredibly skilled and experienced Claudia is, what a wealth of knowledge she has to offer. Claudia is an Esther and she has obviously been prepared for just such as time as this.

And yet, the irony is that such a possibility was beyond anything Claudia had ever envisioned for herself. As Claudia put it, “I was deliberating what to do next and whether there might be some purpose for my life.” Discerning her charisms “set me on a path that I’d probably taken years to find on my own.”

What can one person do?
What Can One Person Do? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 01 October 2007 06:45
I love this.

The story (via the New York Times) of the obscure mid-level government official (Eduardo Arias) in Panama who read a label on a toothpaste container last May and then patiently spent a day off walking (he doesn't own a car) from health department to health department attempting to report that the toothpaste contained poison.

And in so doing set off a hunt for poisoned toothpaste that reverberated across 6 continents, reached all the way to China and saved who knows how many lives.

Fr. Michael Sweeney (my former partner in crime before Mr. Mike joined us) told me of once witnessing this exchange between a young college student and Dorothy Day. The young woman asked Dorothy "but what can one person do?". To which Day responded with some asperity:

"What is it that you lack? You are young, free, educated, healthy. Just what is it that you lack?

I've talked to so many western Christians who feel helpless to make a difference outside their own little circle. We are the freeist, wealthiest, most privileged people with access to the most remarkable technology in a globalized world and we are still asking "What can one person do?"

Sometimes this question can just be a way to blow off our larger responsibilities as lay apostles. But sometimes, it is because we truly believe that we are powerless because we have only heard the stories of people who do small things with small impact. That being obscure is the same thing as being powerless.

In fact, I've noticed that Catholics sometimes prefer the stories of small things. I recently overheard a man observe that he was uncomfortable with the stories of creative lay apostles being featured every week in his parish's bulletin. Stories of ordinary Catholics engaged in prison ministry or going on short term mission trips or working in creative ways with the homeless or unemployed. Why can't they talk about things that most Catholic can identify with, he asked, like smiling at someone or maybe bringing them a casserole?

Because my friend, we can smile at someone and tackle the transformation of human structures and cultures. We can do small things with great love and large things with great love at the same time. Indeed, you can't do large things with great fruitfulness unless you attend to the small things as well.

Because we are exceptionally privileged lay apostles called by Christ, as part of the overall mission of evangelization, to transform the cultures and structures of the world so that they nourish all that is fully human.

Because "a little butterfly in Panama beat her wings and created a storm in China.”
The Least is the Greatest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 01 October 2007 04:31

Today is the feast of St. Therese of Liseux, the "Little Flower," and by happy coincidence the day's Gospel (Lk 9:46-50) fits her beautifully. In response to the rivalry and envy Jesus recognizes between his disciples, he has a child stand next to himself and tells them, "“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9:48).

Children didn't matter much in Jesus' culture, and certainly would have been considered among "the least." To "receive" one such as a child requires something of a death within us. How often have we had the experience of meeting someone who is important, and watched their gaze focus somewhere over our shoulder, searching for someone "greater?" I can tell you I've done the same thing to others; after Mass when one of Christ's anawim (e.g., an adult whom I find to be a bit odd, or the woman who always has a complaint, or the bore) approaches me and craves my attention.

I can't help but imagine that when you encountered Jesus, you knew you mattered. I can imagine his gaze was penetrating, and depending upon the state of your soul, immensely challenging or tremendously comforting - and perhaps both, simultaneously. But you knew you mattered. It can be the same way in prayer, at least when we are able to stop focusing upon ourselves.

To "receive" someone is to engage in a kind of kenosis, or self-emptying. I have to set aside my own desire to be accepted, to impress. I have to stop evaluating how I am coming across to the other. I have to be humble, like Jesus, who, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:6-8)

Therese sought this kind of self-emptying. She chose to do simple acts of kindness and service with the greatest love possible. I remember reading that the nun in her convent who was most annoying to Therese thought herself to be Therese's greatest friend! This great saint and Doctor of the Church believed, “One word or a pleasing smile is often enough to raise up a saddened and wounded soul.” That simple observation reveals the heart of one who has forgotten herself and is able to receive the other as Christ.

Who needs your attentive and caring gaze today? What wounded soul will the Lord place in your life, and how might He work through you for that person's good? My prayer this morning is to less prideful, less preoccupied with my self, so as to make room for Jesus. For the objective of our own kenosis is not to be filled with that wounded person who stands before me, but to be filled with Christ, who alone brings healing to the world.
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