Orphans and singles are like two halves of the same whole, a perfect fit.
The Singles Serving Orphans mission made our first trip in February 2008 to Casa de Elizabeth orphanage in the little town of Imuris, Mexico, just two hours south of Tucson, Ariz.
We made it our double charge to help the orphans there while studying and embracing our call to chastity.
Since then, many of us been back 15 or 20 times or more and have formed an extraordinary bond with the young orphans and with each other.
At the orphanage we do large and small construction projects. We provide food and cook and serve meals for the kids each day. We do arts and crafts, clean and paint, play and pray, and celebrate God’s goodness.
The first time we went to Casa de Elizabeth there was a little girl named Banky who had just been found abandoned in the streets. She was angry and mean. She had bad teeth and wouldn’t smile.
With patience and love and a couple trips, we were able to melt her tough exterior, and she soon became a favorite to all of us. She said she was 6-years-old. A year and a half later she was a well-adjusted, happy kid, but she was still saying she was 6.
No one knew, we realized, when her birthday was.
We gave her a birthday party with presents and a homemade, heart-shaped, triple chocolate cake.
More importantly, we gave her a birthday.
All her friends (she has friends now) sat at a big table with Banky at the head sitting in her favorite missionary’s lap, and she was the happiest orphan girl in the whole world. Now she knows she has a birthday, and she tells people she is 7, and she smiles the brightest, sweetest smile of any orphan ever.
When Pope John Paul II died, the newspaper in Atlanta, normally an anti-Catholic paper, quite miraculously printed a huge banner headline that proclaimed “We are all orphans now.” In a way all of us are orphans in this world until we are united finally and forever with our Father in heaven.
But we orphans can be adopted by orphans; we can all be orphans together, and we can know that this makes our Heavenly Father smile. And with the eyes of our hearts, we can see the beautiful smiles of our Papa, John Paul II, and Mother Teresa, together with the Father, smiling on us and on our Lord as he comes to fulfill his promise, “I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you.”
Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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