Catherine Scholastica K. Mutua is a Religious of Notre Dame of the Missions from Kenya. Her academic background was in theology and religious studies, peace and development, with certification in early childhood and Scripture. Her first ministries were in teaching nursery school and coordinating the oblates. Recently, she returned from the Philippines, where she had been living and working for 21 years, primarily involved in peace-building and development programs. She hopes to continue similar programs in the Machakos Diocese in Kenya.
In light of World Day for Consecrated Life (Feb. 2, celebrated in parishes Feb. 5-6), could you point to one Scripture passage that underlies your commitment to consecrated life? Which? Why?
I worked for two years as a Religious of Notre Dame of the Missions in a conflict area in the Philippines; as the only foreigner, struggling with a new language, it was complex, messy, risky and demanding. People were seeking shelter with us in the evacuation sites — very depressing and hopeless, especially to those living in tents. But the people we worked with gave me hope — many of them young people providing food and services, and assuring our safety.
At the beginning, I was not sure if this was what I wanted to do, but the plight of those we were serving prevented me from saying another word — was my life more special than theirs?
I had to live alone, find my own food and a space for my prayer and spiritual nourishment. I did not realize that would be so demanding, and I was faced with emptiness, dryness and loneliness. Without a structured community life, I had to continue living my vocation.
The words of Jesus echoed in me: If I do not wash you, you have no part with me (John 13:1-15).
I realized that my own feet needed to be washed before I could wash others. I surrendered and, as Peter did, said, "You can wash my whole body as well."
Jesus showed us how to serve others; he did not wash them because of their worthiness, but out of love. Consumed by the spirit of God, I began washing the feet of the people in the evacuation sites — malnourished children, the old and young. I looked in their eyes and saw the same fear and helplessness I was experiencing.
My call as a consecrated person was put to the test: My vow of poverty now involved more than material things. I was washing others' feet — men and women, Muslims, Christians and indigenous peoples — in solidarity with their suffering and sharing with them my time, my space and whatever I had.
My vow of chastity extended to whoever I met: My love crossed over to those I knew and to strangers, to whatever culture or ethnicity I was serving — all my brothers and sisters sharing the same humanity.
My vow of obedience was more than obeying leaders: It was listening to the voice of God through those I served, to their stories of fear, frustration, and how they long to send children to school without fear, have farms safe from landmines, and permanent homes safe from destruction.
Instead of holding onto our love and traditional ministries, as religious we stoop down to wash the feet of others as Jesus showed us. We can't worry about status and titles, or our own advancement — we serve others because God has put them in our lives to add value and enrich their lives.
God assures us (Proverbs 3:5-6, 9 and Luke 12:12) that he has our backs in calling us to serve his people. As religious, our purpose is to listen to God's guidance and follow his direction. We can have assurance in who we are, and whose we are, so that we can serve others whom God brings into our daily lives.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists responded to this prompt: In light of World Day for Consecrated Life (Feb. 2, celebrated in parishes Feb. 5-6), could you point to one Scripture passage that underlies your commitment to consecrated life? Which? Why? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.