Good News!

“Hearing and reading so much about refugees and immigrants who know intimately the apathy and lack of hospitality given them in countries around the world—whether on the high seas or when on buses to God-knows-where—I want to spread Good News of what has been going on in our state of Tennessee.”

I heard via the grapevine that one of our oblates had entertained 43 small immigrant children. Our oblate started out with about 10 children. At a church festival, she had a booth and was face-painting any child or adult who wanted something painted on their face. She had put up a small sign inviting children to art on the following Saturday. It would be free. They would tell stories, build with color, have lunch, and get to know others.

That was September. By Christmas, she had 43 children. She asked the church if the children might put on a Nativity story through song. All the children had a part, and for the main characters, they drew names. When Sister Michaela Hedican, who was oblate director at the time, was told what was going on, her immediate response was, “Oh, what little angels.” The children were delighted! Many of them had never heard the Christmas Story before, so being called an angel was special to them…and tit-for-tat, they gave S. Michaela her name, “Madre,” since, as the kids said, mothers always give names to their children! Now, they had a challenge: how to express their thanks artistically. They planned to surprise S. Michaela with their artistic expression of gratitude for her work with the oblates and for calling them angels. Each one wrote his/her name on a candle for their “Madre Angel.” Good News, right?

They did all kinds of art; their teacher wanted them to have experiences like their “rich” counterparts were having in a paid after-school program. She found a place where she could purchase clear glass plates, and some of the children chose to paint Christmas dinner plates for their families. Some of the children used clay and pressed their thumbs into the clay to make necklaces for their moms and grandmothers. She found some old tables at Goodwill, and a couple of the boys cleaned up those small tables and painted them for their parents.

But COVID struck and the families scattered; everyone was frightened, and most families slid into the shadows. They moved, changed phone numbers, and some moved to other states because they felt it was not safe to live in Tennessee. One little girl could stay with her godmother who had a green card, but she had to say goodbye to her mother who was deported! That was hard!

After COVID, only a few of the children could be reunited. They were older by then, and though there might have been a continuation of work in the arts, five of the children wanted to be baptized, but not in church where everyone would see them…so we had our own baptismal service. We just did it! They were old enough to know that baptism is just the beginning and that, when they were able, there were other sacraments to receive. For now, they were baptized!

GOOD NEWS, dear oblate!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Photo: The angel window at Saint Scholastica Convent, taken by Sister Nancy Bauer