Being Sister Tracy calls me to something challenging and extraordinary. What do you think of when you hear the word “sister?” A sister is family, a confidant perhaps, someone who walks with. Throughout history, women religious have been close to the people, walking beside them through joys and sorrows. I’ve already experienced this privilege in my short time as a Sister of Charity.
The relationality the title invites is perhaps my most treasured part of being a sister. I hear a lot of stories, and I get intimate glimpses into the real lives of my fellow humans. People often trust me with deep questions and honest conversations. What a gift, and one that I reverence! During my most recent trip back to Ecuador, after having been away for three years, I found myself in several of these frank, intimate conversations. I’ve been turning them over in my heart as the World Meeting of Families approaches. I offer two of them to you.
Maria lives in one of the most dilapidated houses I’ve ever seen. Made of rotting wood and lifted off the ground on short stilts, the house is buckling in, the floor folding in half like a creased piece of computer paper. As I walked up to the house, calling her name, I was surprised to see her step outside with a chubby toddler in arms. When I last saw her a few years ago, she had two young girls. We both smiled as our eyes met, and she introduced me to the newest family member.
I climbed the steps into the house. Maria’s two girls were working away at their homework on a little plastic table. Maria stood over the stove, the steaming pot of rice drawing out beads of sweat on her forehead. We all fanned ourselves and swatted at mosquitoes.
As we chatted, I remembered how much I love Maria’s free, bubbly laugh and glowing smile. She updated me on all of the kids, especially the little one.
“Three kids! I don’t know how you do it,” I marveled. “Do you think you’ll have anymore?”
Her smile faded, and her cheeks flushed with anxiety. She set down the spoon she’d been holding.