Sister Judith Hilbing, prioress at the Dominican Sisters motherhouse, Sacred Heart Convent, Springfield, Ill., shared this story in response to a question to put her regarding her celebration of 60 years of religious profession: What experience have you had that has transformed your understanding of consecrated life? Learn more about Sister Judi and the other jubilarians here.
About the photo: Peruvian textile from the Smithsonian Collection. Accessed at https://www.si.edu/object/fragment:chndm_1971-50-7.
In our Fe y Alegría School, established in the Canto Grande desert, was a young boy named Pedro Quispe.
When Pedro was about 12 and had been in our school a few years, his cheek became mysteriously swollen. Subsequent tests revealed that Pedro had cancer.
When he was released from the therapy program, he had no place to go where there would be sufficient hygiene for a few weeks, so our five sisters in Lima agreed to give him hospitality. They all fell under Pedro's charm and simplicity.
A bed without sheets
Pedro returned home and continued the fight against cancer as it spread throughout his body. One Sunday, after a night of fever and chills, Pedro's mother asked if I would come to visit him for the last time. I went together with Sisters Doris and Margarita and we found him lying in a cluttered, stifling hut, on a bed without sheets with his jacket rolled up for a pillow.
We prayed and he repeated the words as he clutched the cross on the rosary around his neck. Tears ran down his cheeks as he said, "...and in my illness with my pain, I give myself to you," and he died.
As sisters, we make choices for the life of the world together, and even in the midst of provisional tensions, privation, frustration, and pain there is always a whisper of Gospel values, or an eruption of hope, or the reality of solidarity lived out in community.