There was a sadness about him. He was a priest I met while on retreat in the Benedictine monastery of Mount Saviour. He was on retreat like myself. He was from the African nation of Uganda. As often happens on retreat, we started talking during breaks in our silence and meditations. He was responsible for working in a school where many Catholic children were enrolled, many of them orphans. He remarked to me how lucky we were in America. Such a thing like clean drinking water was so plentiful that people just took it for granted. He then shared with me the plight of many of the children of his school. They became sickened and some have died from the polluted water that they had to drink since there was no good clean water to be had.
He told me that there was plenty of clean water but it was buried far below the surface of the land.
We as a parish and as a Christian community have the power to change this. So I asked him to get us some specifications so that we could build for his community a well with a pump attached that could provide water for his whole community and stop the continual loss of health and life.
He sent me the plan, the name of the architect and engineer, as well as an itemized budget for the building of a water-source well for his community and school. With the help of our Propagation of the Faith office, we intend to make this the first project of our Mercy Fund. I only asked of him that it be named “Mary’s Well” in honor of our Patroness and that a sign be placed on it saying that this was a gift of the Catholic Faithful of Immaculate Conception Parish, Astoria New York United States of America.
It is my earnest hope that we can repeat this outreach of charity and mercy everywhere there is poverty and deprivation. It has always been that the spread of the Catholic Faith is augmented by these acts of mercy. Ancient authors, not all of the Christian Faith, attest to the effectiveness of Christian Charity in laying the groundwork for the acceptance of Christ.
In ancient Rome, pagans often abandoned plague victims while they were still living as they headed for the fresh air of the mountains. The Christians stayed to tend the victims, both those of the Christian faith and those who were pagans. When they greeted again those who had abandoned them, they also informed them of their desire to become Christians. Acts of mercy and kindness engender faith.
So it is my hope that building a well in Uganda will help to establish faith by making it credible to the suffering.
But why stop there? We can continue this work of mercy since the needs of this world are vast and those who suffer are as numerous as the sand at the seashore! There are preventable cases of suffering in all the continents of the world. Could we not establish outposts of mercy and loving kindness with those who suffer in other countries and situations? People risk their lives to migrate so that they can have some hope of bettering the life of their families. In our small but effective way, we can say by our merciful charity: life is worth living, God is good, and we are the loving hands of the Creator. See in the clean water of this well a sign of God’s love for you.
Given all the material advantages that we possess, to turn a blind eye to the suffering masses in this world would be a terrible sin of omission. It is my hope that we can connect our parish community with the global needs that have become very clear and present to us by the modern forms of communication.
I believe that this great joy to our heavenly Mother who, as our Patroness, is so content to see us imitating her Son in His mission of universal redemption!