Fr. Britto's Blog

My Sister

Over the last several weeks you might have seen the name, Josephine Berchmans, on the prayer list published in our bulletin. Some people have asked me whether this is someone from my family. The answer is “Yes.” Josephine is my older sister and she has not been well. More than a month ago, she had a mild stroke and her right side has been affected. She is unable to move her right leg and hand. She needs the assistance of others to sit up or to walk. Over the last few weeks she has made slow but steady progress. The doctors have been assuring us that she will recover completely.

She has been a Franciscan sister (Franciscan Missionary of Mary) for the last forty-two years and she lives in an industrial city south-west of Madras where we all grew up. She has spent her entire life caring for the poor and young people. The first one to go to Europe and the US for higher studies, Sr. Josephine also specialized in communications. Before she went into semi-retirement – in religious life you never go into complete retirement – she maintained the website for her sisters. She also conducted retreats and workshops for students, teachers and nuns.

More than thirty-two years ago doctors discovered a tumor in her brain and she underwent major surgery. Thank God, she recovered completely even though her left side was affected. As a result of the surgery, her left hand lacked coordination and she lost her hearing in her left ear. Now after this stroke, she is unable to use her right side. I have been calling her about once a week. Last Monday morning I was on the phone with her. When she used the word “paralyzed” it finally hit me. I was close to tears. My heart went out to her and yet I feel helpless.

Thinking about my own helplessness I have come to appreciate what families and individuals go through when their loved one is in the hospital or in the nursing home or in hospice. I have anointed many, many people. I have now come to realize personally the helplessness they all must feel. I am more than 8,000 miles away. I have no power to heal her or take away her pain. I asked myself, “What can I do in this situation?” This is what came to me.

First of all, I can and must pray. Prayer has power that we do not have. Prayer makes us believe in miracles. Prayer changes our hearts so that we can bow her heads in submission to God’s will. When we do not pray, we try to carry the burdens ourselves. As a popular hymn says,

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Second, I must surrender myself to God’s will. I must believe that the Lord knows what He is doing. If I love my sister, the Lord loves her far more. Sr. Josephine gave me a great example in this. During our conversation on Monday, she said to me, “I have surrendered myself to the Lord. He will get me through this.” Often I have to remind myself of the words of Dante: “Your will is my peace!” In the grand scheme of things, everything will work out for the best. As Paul writes to the Romans, “Everything works unto good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

Finally, I must take one day at a time. When the Lord taught us the Our Father, He asked us to pray for bread for today. We should not get ahead of ourselves. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus invites us not to be anxious about tomorrow. Here are his words: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 5:34).

Please continue to keep my sister in your prayers. I thank all of you who have already prayed for her. By praying for one another we once again assert our common belonging in the family of God.

May the Risen Lord revive our hope and strengthen our faith!

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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