Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beggars for God

“One beggar must help another.
Good people share with us
and we must share with the poor.”
Mother Xavier Termehr

On April 12, 1892, far from her German homeland, Mother Xavier Termehr, died in Iowa. The Congregation she founded, the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family, have their motherhouse in Dubuque and are often called “the Dubuque Franciscans.”

The Congregation began in Germany where they cared for orphans and the elderly. They also ministered to the wounded during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars. But, because of the harsh anti-religious laws of Bismarck, they left for the US and were established in Iowa where they cared for orphans and the sick. They later played a major role in Catholic education in Iowa – with missions to China, Chile, and elsewhere. Currently they have missions to the poor in Mississippi as well as in Honduras and Saint Lucia. Check out their website for more information.

I met the sisters while I was doing campus ministry in Iowa. Later, in 1988, I met some of the sisters who had begun missionary work in El Salvador. In 1992, I spent a six month sabbatical in Suchitoto, El Salvador, where the sisters had been working for several years.

I came here to Honduras, inspired by Sister Nancy Meyerhofer, who was working here. Now there are five US members of the congregation plus a Honduran woman who has joined them.

A few years ago I became an associate of the community and they are a great source of community and support. We often visit and I’m now assisting Sister Pat Farrell in an Alternatives to Violence Program in the Gracias, Lempira, jail.

The sisters here have shown me a great commitment to accompanying the poor, to visiting them in their distant villages, to assisting the people in their efforts to live out the Gospel in the second poorest country in Latin America.

I feel blessed to have them as friends. I join them occasionally for reflection and they have always invited me for Christmas and Easter meals. This year it was a great joy to have the meal at the sisters’ new house in La Entrada, Copán, in a poor neighborhood. The three sisters from Gracias and an associate of the congregation joined the three sisters there for the meal. As I arrived, they greeted me enthusiastically from their porch.

Theses sisters are, for me, an inspiration. They willingly have left the comfort of the US to live among God’s people here in Honduras. Three of them lived and worked in Chile, some of their time there during the Pinochet dictatorship; two of them lived and worked in El Salvador, during the war, ministering in a war zone. All of them seek to be present to the poor.

May the spirit of their founder, Mother Xavier, continue to bless them and give them the courage to continue their mission – beggars among beggars, sharing with the poor of this earth.


The image was painted by Jo Myers-Walker, a friend who is also an associate of the Sisters.

Sister Nancy is not in the photo since she was directing me parking my truck by their house.

No comments: