Have you ever spent time with someone who clearly operates at a different level than you? They simply don’t see the everyday barriers as, well, barriers? That is what I felt when I listened to Sister Lucy Kurien last week at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Eastsound, WA. Sister Lucy is the founder and director of MAHER Communities based in Pune, India. Maher translates to “My Mother’s home.” You can read about her amazing organization here.
In 1991, a local woman, seven months pregnant, came to Sister Lucy desperate for shelter from a husband who was threatening her life. Sr. Lucy, a cloistered Catholic nun, was unable to take her into the convent but suggested they meet the next day to determine a solution. That evening in a drunken fit, the husband poured kerosine on his wife and lit her on fire. The Sister heard the chaos and came to the scene to help but the woman couldn’t be saved. This tragic episode left Sr. Lucy depressed and desperate herself to make a difference.
Through a trusted and beloved guru, Sr. Lucy was able to connect with a Europen donor to start Maher in 1997. This organization is now a full-fledged NGO and over 4000 children, women and [now] men have benefited from the sanctuary and programs of 46 homes. Each location celebrates all religious holidays and when prayers are offered, they are given in honor of the “divine.” Jesus and Ganesh, for example, get equal treatment at holiday time but are not sung or spoken during meditation or prayers. This teaches tolerance as well as assures safety for those living and working there.
St. Lucy shared stories of different children and women broken from family and/or cultural circumstances. The programs of tender-hearted staff allow these individuals to heal, build strength, and eventually learn a craft. They graduate to stay on as supportive staff or leave as independent and productive citizens.
After her talk, we asked her basic questions including how we could apply what she learned to our own community. Her immediate response was “If you have the love in your heart, you can do anything.” When someone asked a question in relation to our own challenges with homelessness, her advice was to “Replace fear with love.” After a few more unrelated what and how questions, she connected the thread running throughout all of them by saying,
my gift is being fearless.
I believe that is the key-fearlessness. I believe that we put up artificial walls thinking they will keep us safe, when they only isolate us from what’s possible. I am also certain I was in the presence of a saint. It just felt different. But before I start building a pedestal, which is a horizontal wall, I’m going to follow the rope where this fearless woman leads me.
How can you replace fear with love in your own life or in your own community?