A local newspaper in Botswana, Africa, visits a Filipino madre and likes what she’s doing.
“SISTER OF MERCY”: The Botswana newspaper report
SISTER MARY JO
Sister Marie Jose Garcia, or Sister Mary Jo as she is more usually called, is a very special person. Her name and work are becoming well known in Francistown, and many refer to her as the ‘Sister who helps the poor.’ We recently visited her to find out more.
She came to Serve
Sister Mary Jo arrived in Botswana from the Philippines in 1983. She came to serve, to reach, to teach and to share her faith. As a trained social worker, she applied for and was given a post with the Social Welfare office of the Francistown council. At that time the department was in its infancy, and there were four other officers, none of whom had been trained. Part of her job was to deal with the problems of juvenile delinquency, destitution, out of school youth like the street children. It was here that she to see the extent of the problem of the disadvantage. Many of these problems come she says, from increasing urbanization and the breakdown of traditional values and family ties. After six years she decided to leave the department in order to have more contact with the people she wished to serve. Accordingly, the council gave her a plot at Phase 6; and this is where Sister Jo now lives and works.
Feeding the Poor
When she first received the plot, the area was just a bush, but the local people, mainly women and school children, helped her clear the area, and build a house. It took about three months to complete the work. From this base she was able to begin her programme of feeding the poor, and this has been continuing ever since. She receives funding for the project from societies like the Lions and Rotary clubs and the business community. Dr. Spooner, a specialist at Nyangebwe Hospital, also sponsors the feeding and regularly attends the weekend food servings. The food is cooked by some of the mothers. On average about eighty children attend. They are mainly malnourished and are in genuine need of help due to their inadequate diet.
Her services are not only directed towards the children. However, she sees her role as serving the community, and developing a programme of self- help, as the help the council can give is very limited. A sewing co-operative, for example, has been set up. Sister Mary Jo hopes to stay for another three years to see this projects like this develop.
Bringing Good News
Asked how she felt about her work she replied: “Even if I’m pulled out from here tomorrow I feel happy that something has happened.” She considers her mission a calling from God, and quotes from St. Luke. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
Life is beautiful
She feels it beautiful to develop people, as a human person is the most beautiful thing. Life is beautiful, and despite the disappointments, there is so much to hope for. She adds: “I have been blessed with many friends who have helped me, that is a clear sign of God’s love for people. I feel at home here.” She went on to comment that people who come to he say: This is not just your house but ours.
Speaks Fluent Setswana
Watching the little sister and the smiles and laughter of the children, it is indeed a clear sign that her mission is a calling of love, and her work reveals her faith in action are louder than any words. She welcomes visitors, so why not go and see for yourself.
She came to serve, to teach and share her faith.
“People say: This is not your home only but it is ours too.”