Next up in our Work It Wednesdays Series on the Corporal Works of Mercy we have a special post from a special young woman, Casey Hollier! Today she shares with us her experiences of working with the poorest of the poor both in Haiti and in the local community. And how God often aligns our gifts with the great needs of our community--we just have to pay enough attention to take the hint! I hope her words stir your heart to action as they do mine! God love you.
St. Lucy, pray for us!
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” - Matthew 25:40
I spent my first year out of college as a missionary with Life Teen, which conveniently allowed me to put “adulting” on hold. In September of 2015, I packed up my car and drove to Camp Hidden Lake, located in the quaint town of Dahlonega, Georgia. The mission year consisted of nine months of formation as a missionary disciple which taught me a great deal. As disciples, it is necessary that we sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him, and as missionaries, we are called to share what we come to know at His feet. Within the formation period, I took a mission trip to the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization, the Life Teen base in Madian, Haiti.
On one of the last days of our trip, we traveled to a monastery in the mountains to spend time in prayer. We were given Pope Francis’ letter on the upcoming Year of Mercy to reflect upon. In this letter (which you can read here) Pope Francis says, “I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us.”
A few months later, we wrapped up our formation period by reading Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel. This quote has stuck with me ever since:
“Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.”
With Pope Francis’ words in the back of my mind, I moved to Haiti for three months. We spent our time visiting neighbors who thought they had been forgotten. We visited a nearby community of people one town over that had been ostracized for being the poorest of the poor. We visited with the prisoners who had no other visitors. As much as I loved my experiences in Haiti, I knew I had to come back home. You see in Haiti, you cannot escape poverty. You cannot turn away and act like it does not exist. I wanted to continue rediscovering the corporal works of mercy within my own community back in America.
Shortly after moving home, I came across a job posting for a position at Catholic Services of Acadiana (CSA). I knew this is where I was called to be. Entering into the lives of our suffering brothers and sisters, while also using the marketing and public relation skills I developed in college was a double blessing that merged my missionary heart with everyday life. In my role as volunteer and development coordinator at CSA, I work with our frontline staff in acquiring the items our clients need, whether those be basic hygiene items or supplies for when they move into a home. While most clients have no idea what my job is, I have the privilege of being around them from time to time and getting to know who they are. If nothing else, I am able to just stop and listen to how their day is going. To enter into their lives for a brief moment.
As much as I loved being in Haiti and love working at CSA, it is also painful. You get attached to people. You hear their stories and you feel hopeless, wondering if loving them in the limited capacity that you are able is enough. Although there have been many, many tears, I wouldn’t trade these experiences or relationships for anything.. I have learned to lean on God a little more, trust in trusting a little more each day that He keeps His promise and takes care of His people… even though I often don’t understand His ways. I am thankful that my life has become wonderfully complicated with the lives of others, and I pray that we are all able to lean into the suffering flesh of others.
St. Lucy, pray for us that we can see others with kindness and compassion.
Mesi Bondye mesi! (Thank you, God, thank you!)
Casey Hollier loves loving God's children, old fashioneds, and learning as much as she can from her Aunt Katie. A native of Houma, LA, Casey graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2015 in Public Relations. She now uses her skills to help the poorest of the poor in the Acadiana area. You can look for Casey on IG: caseylhollier.