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The Girls of Santa Ana by Frances Ratay SSJ

Recently, I participated in a Mission Immersion Program in Esquipulas, Guatemala. During a visit to the Santa Ana bar- rio, after watching videos and playing games, three 7-8 year old girls, Olivia, Christina, and Kaylee, “invited” me to take a walk around their “neighborhood.” Off we went, hand-in- hand, speaking Spanish and English words and phrases, pointing at objects, laughing and communicating from the heart. Olivia pointed to her home, a small dwelling with a tin roof and dirt floor, hardly large enough for two people. She smiled and was filled with such pride. Her young mother and three siblings welcomed me into their simple one-room house. I was humbled by their kindness and trust.

Despite a scarcity of material resources, Olivia, Christina, and Kaylee were rich in spiritual gifts- freedom, joy, trust. They possessed a real knack for welcoming the stranger – me. I envied their energy, their peace, and their lightness of spirit. Since our visit to the barrio, I've taken a long look at my own spiritual checklist. How welcoming am I to others different than myself? Do I listen to another to find common ground or just dwell on differences? What holds me back from really being free?

One of the readings during the week in Guatemala was from 2 Corinthians 14. I was reminded of the line: “The love of Christ impels us…” This is why I had come on the Immersion Program, and now I understood. Yes, I saw the love of Christ radiated in the faces of Olivia, her family, and the children of Esquipulas – the Christ who welcomed all strangers!

Frances M. Ratay SSJ 
Biology and Religion Teacher 
Little Flower High School Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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