CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 10 November 2018

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A visit to the Maryknoll Motherhouse—A series of reflections

Fifteen students and three teachers from Maryknoll Convent School (Secondary Section) visited the motherhouse of the Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining, the United States of America from August 10 to 20 to retrace their roots and visited the Maryknoll Sisters who served in Hong Kong, especially the school  
 
 
This summer, I had a short yet fruitful trip to the Maryknoll Motherhouse. Sister Jeanne, Sister Arlene and Sister Susan warmly welcomed us when we arrived in New York, jet-lagged after a 16-hour flight.
 
During the trip, I built up a good sleeping habit as I had more than seven hours of sleep daily and kept to a sleeping schedule. I adopted healthy eating habits because I had meals which were specially designed for the sisters which comprised food with less artificial ingredients, sugar and sodium and had regular meal times. 
 
I finally got the chance to visit The Big Apple. Despite the rainy weather, the trip was fabulous overall. On our first visit to New York City, it was raining so hard. We prayed for the weather to get better because we had to walk a lot. During our ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty, there were rain showers, however, when we arrived, the rain surprisingly stopped. It was truly a blessing from God!
 
In Hong Kong, I seldom attend Mass in English and will only attend Mass weekly. At the Motherhouse, however, we started off every day with morning Mass and prayer. My faith in God certainly increased. On August 12, we witnessed four sisters professing their finals vows after few years of service in their assigned countries. 
 
On August 14, the Vigil of the Assumption of Mary, we paid a visit to the Church of the Assumption in Peekskill and attended Mass there. The experience was awesome as we walked around outside the church with parishioners and sang songs after Mass. We then recited the Hail Mary together in six different languages. 
 
That night, we went to a carnival to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption and even performed there. During the feast, we danced for five minutes non-stop. To be honest, we rarely have the opportunity to experience this in Hong Kong.
 
Visiting the sisters who live in retirement was probably the best part of the trip. We brought joy to them when they might be feeling bored in their rooms. Every sister has her stories of her own experiences during her mission. They are never selfish, but selfless. 
 
I had always wanted to know what made them willing to give up marriage and sacrifice so much to their vowed life. It was heartbreaking to see some of them suffering from illnesses and some were unable to respond to our questions.
 
Although some of the memories have faded, the sisters never forget the abundant love that God has given to them and, most importantly, they never forget to pray. 
 
To my surprise, some sisters aged 90 or over are still able to walk from their rooms down to the dining room and chapel. Some who carried out their mission in Hong Kong or Macau many years ago can still speak fluent Cantonese.
 
The visit with Sister Corinne was memorable. She is 101-years-old and was at one time our school’s principal and supervisor. She taught music at MCS! The whole group sang Cantonese songs, songs from The Sound of Music and the school song for her. When we sang our school song, there were tears in her eyes. The song touched her heart and she even sang along with us. 
 
I feel honoured to have experienced so much at every point of this trip. I managed to make the most of every moment. I was lucky to be able to wake up early in the morning without a struggle so that I could take part in more activities such as watching the sunrise, delivering newspapers, harvesting on Pachamama Farm and singing along with the Sisters at 6:30am. 
 
Weeding is one of the most fabulous activities I have ever experienced. Sister  Dora guided us along while we were weeding. We helped to get rid of the unwanted weeds so as to help the plants grow healthier. Some of us also helped with altar work like cleaning the chalice after Mass. I learned more about what an alter server does and now care more about the Mass. 
 
Some of us also decorated the party room for sisters who were celebrating birthdays in July and August. We didn’t just receive love, we also spread love and joy to one another.
 
In Hong Kong, I only get to see sunsets occasionally. However, during the trip to the Motherhouse, I was able to spend around 20 minutes admiring the changing colours of the sunset. Not only was the sunset right in front of me, but also two deer appeared at the same time. I had longed to see creatures at Sunset Hill. I captured this moment with my camera. Apart from deer, I came across rabbits, squirrels and even fireflies. I was awed by this remarkable view with its wonderful beauty. 
 
The cultural evening wasn’t as disastrous as I feared. In fact, it turned out to be quite successful. Before the event, I thought we hadn’t had rehearsed enough and hadn’t prepared well. That evening, around 100 sisters came to the cultural evening after being brainwashed to go to Rogers’ basement on August 18 at 6:30pm. I was so glad that we brought broad smiles to their faces. 
 
It was Sister Jeanne who arranged everything for us during the stay and spent a lot of time with us despite the fact that she’s already 88-years-old. She even joined our legion meeting and shared a few bits and pieces of things that happened when she was working as a teacher, principal and supervisor at Maryknoll Convent School. 
 
Sister Betty Ann took us to the Maryknoll Sisters heritage exhibit. She’s 95-years-old and I was astonished by her good memory. 
 
Our thanks must also go to everyone at the Motherhouse, especially the sisters who gave talks on different global issues for us and those who accompanied us to New York City.
 
I’m so thankful to teachers and groupmates for preparing every detail of the trip before and during the trip. The journey wouldn’t have been so wonderful without everyone’s contribution. It was a fresh experience because we didn’t go to New York mainly for sightseeing but to visit the sisters. I have grown closer to some schoolmates whom I may not have talked to before. We have learned to ask for nothing; refuse nothing. I felt so blessed to be there.
 
I found it very hard to say goodbye to the sisters even though we had only spent a few days with them. I miss everyone whom I met on the trip and I will definitely pray for them. I hope to see everyone again soon. 
 
 
 
Ginerva Li, Form Three