The third Sunday of Advent reminds us to rejoice because the coming of the newborn king and savior is near. As Christians, we are called to reflect Jesus’ love in the world. At the Chimbote Dinner in October, Sr. Margaret Mary Birchmeier, OP, spoke about how the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh make it possible for the Center for Social Works to reflect Jesus’ light. In doing so, together we help illuminate the darkness of those who are suffering. Sr. Mary Margaret’s presentation is below; she explains how our support and service to the poor in Chimbote enables them to see the face of Jesus, our Savior, in their every day circumstances.
“Lillian and I always attend Mass at our chapel parish, Santa Rosa de Lima. One day, when we finished Mass, Fr. Fernando offered us a ride home. When we were settled in the car, a family that had attended Mass with us came by. They had a little boy about 4 ½ years old, and he came up to the car where Fr. Fernando was, and with his amazing eyes, he looked directly at Father and said, ‘Chau Jesús!’ or ‘Goodbye Jesus!’
“I was thinking of this story and it reminded me of something Fr. Jules Roos once said when a member of our Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids Leadership Team was visiting. After she had experienced the desperate poverty, the number and the extent of the straw shacks reaching into the foothills from north to south, she turned to Father and she said, ‘Does God know about all these people?’ And Father said to her, ‘God knows. My concern is whether THEY know about GOD.’
“And so the Social Works Center really is the face of God to the people in Chimbote. I can tell you, that over the past 50+ years, there definitely has been improvement in the health care in Chimbote. We no longer see newborns dying of lockjaw; we don’t see toddlers and young children suffering from polio and other communicable diseases. The malnutrition rate has dropped drastically. The infant mortality rate has gone down. The maternal mortality rate still needs some help, but we are improving. All these things have improved over the years.
“Two other things are outstanding. There are definitely more well-trained medical professionals eager to help in Chimbote, and there are other facilities. And we are on the brink of opening a new one* and it definitely will provide more services to those in need.
“But I say tonight, the only statistic that really counts is this: when the sick poor leave our center, do they leave with amazing eyes and say ‘Chau Jesús!’ Or do they leave with a bewildered look, and ask, ‘Where has Jesus gone?’
“We ask for your continued support and your prayers, that we will always be the face of Jesus in the Social Works Center in Chimbote.”
* February 18, 2018, will be the blessing of the greatly expanded, totally new Medical Clinic – Nueva Posta Medica.
Sr. Lillian and Sr. Margaret Mary at the 2017 Chimbote Dinner.
Sr. Margaret Mary blesses a dying woman.
Children in Chimbote who are malnourished can receive treatment from home visit teams.
Home visit nurses check in on families who can not come to the clinic for care.