Restoration

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Posted April 19, 2011 in MH Whitehorse YT:
Footsteps

by Marg Stobie.

When I was at Maryhouse, our bishop, Bishop Gary Gordon, told us a story I’d like to share with you.

When he was a pastor in southern British Columbia, Fr. Gary was assigned by the bishop to fill in for the chaplain of a woman’s prison. He was to celebrate Mass for the prisoners every Friday for eight weeks.

The timing of the Mass was such that he had to travel a couple of hours through "horrible" rush hour traffic. Much worse than that, though he faithfully celebrated Mass each week as he had been asked to do, no one, not a single woman, ever came! He never saw a single face.

He considered going to his bishop and asking whether there was any sense to his continuing, but he didn’t. He just kept going and saying Mass each week. The whole thing was a mystery to him.

When the regular chaplain came back, he thought this was the end of the story. But no. When he spoke with the Protestant chaplain of the hospital, a good friend of his, this chaplain told him that woman after woman had told him how grateful they were for Fr. Gary’s ministry.

Fr. Gary was incredulous, "I never saw them!" he said. "What would they be grateful for?"

The answer, from woman after woman, the chaplain told him, was, "We heard his footsteps." "We heard his footsteps."

The women who heard his footsteps knew that he was saying Mass for them, and that was enough. They knew in their hearts that this man, this priest (and his bishop and God, even) cared enough about them to do this.

It seems to me that this is the mystery that all the priests, Sisters, and lay workers, and all the Madonna House staff who have ever served in the Yukon, live.

We may not be able to point to monumental, concrete, or countable results from our work. But we do know that lots of people here, big and little, in Whitehorse and the native villages, have "heard our footsteps."

We pray that they realize, whether clearly or just dimly, whether knowing Who sent us or not, that we did and do care enough about them to be here.

This is our participation, in a certain sense, in the mystery of Advent, in the mystery of the Incarnation. God the Father loved us enough to send Jesus, so that we could hear his footsteps.

Let us be grateful for his "ministry" to us, and unlike those shy? wounded? women in the prison, let us run to meet him. He longs for us to do this (and those women, too).

This article appeared under the title, "A Story from Prison," in the December 2009 issue of Restoration.

 

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