Before leaving the United States, Sister Taposi (Gomes), CSC assured me, “Katie [Yohe], don’t worry about the crowds in Bangladesh. All you must do is say the name ‘Holy Cross’ and the people will know you and know where to take you.” I figured this was just her way of calming my nerves before traveling to Asia. But her statement proved to be entirely true. For I came to learn that Holy Cross is globally synonymous with care for creation—for people and the planet.
An Opportunity to Witness
As the Congregation’s Laudato Si' coordinator for mission advancement, I embarked on a three-week trip to see and learn firsthand about the work of the sisters in the Area of Asia. My goal was to also reinforce our congregational commitment to care for our common home. My time there was filled with learning the history of the sisters’ work in India and Bangladesh. And I was transformed by the love and compassion of every single person—sister and lay—affiliated with our ministries. The many schools, clinics, pastoral ministries and other social services provided by the sisters in Asia exemplify what Pope Francis describes as “Living … vocation[s] to be protectors of God’s handiwork …” (Laudato Siʹ 217).
Every community we visited was working hard to advance the Congregation’s global efforts toward fulfilling Pope Francis’ urgent call in Laudato Si'. I saw firsthand the impact they are having in their communities. And I had the opportunity to lead conversations and workshops to help them advance those efforts even further.
Care for Creation in Action
Seeing sisters in Laitlawsnai, India, practicing sustainable growing techniques shared by the local women was powerful. Clearly the practice advances the goals of Laudato Si', but it also highlights the collaborative efforts happening in many of the communities where Holy Cross sisters serve. As another example, students who reside in Congregation hostels in India and Bangladesh have been promoting water conservation. The students proudly showed us their gardens and rainwater harvesting tanks, which serve as educational tools for the community. The young students from the hostel in Jatah, India, also showcased their community pigs. And in Kulaura, Bangladesh, we blessed a new classroom and planted a tree to symbolize the exciting new growth happening.
The scope of sister’s ministries and relationships in India and Bangladesh brings to mind the theme for this year’s Season of Creation. Sisters are greatly impacting the “flow of justice and peace” in their respective communities. And collectively, with their ministry partners, they are truly a mighty river responding to the needs around them.
Well Known for Their Care of Humanity
Every day of the trip, I had the opportunity to visit a ministry site and talk to the people there: eager students; parents caring for disabled children, who often are treated as outcasts; children who live on the street but are now receiving an education; people on the peripheries receiving spiritual formation; empowerment program participants; teachers working at the Congregation’s schools; single mothers working in the tea gardens, and many others. With each encounter, I gained a deeper appreciation for the impactful ways the Holy Cross sisters dedicate their lives. I witnessed them gracefully responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of those who are poor. I quickly learned that “Holy Cross” isn’t just a commonly-recognized name in some parts of Asia. It’s the sisters’ model and message of care for creation and humanity that makes the name so well-known. It is their transforming love that makes them appreciated among the people with whom they serve.
Laudato Si' Coordinator for Mission Advancement