Friday, September 26, 2014

The Story of Wanda

Some three decades ago, in a southern diocese where we lived, my wife and I had been invited to a program of evangelization leadership training by a traveling priest, a gifted layman, and their team. Part of the gift of that experience was getting to know other Catholics from other parishes in the diocese. Upon completion of the training, we were sent back to our own parishes to implement the program we had gone through.
Many experiences came out of that program, including re-gathering of the leaders several months later. So it was that Wanda shared an experience that she and her girlfriend had. They were in a grocery store in their home town when they saw a young mother with her sick baby. They approached the woman and Wanda offered to pray for the baby. The mother said yes. They offered a simple prayer for healing of the baby and concluded their prayer with the sign of the cross. Immediately upon seeing the gesture, the woman pulled her baby back, saying, “Why do you make that sign? Don’t you know that he was crucified on a tree?” Wanda told us that she said to herself, “’Oh no, we’re in trouble here.’ The woman was obviously a Jehovah’s Witness.” So, she prayed quietly, “Lord what can I say?” The answer came quickly, as Wanda said, “I make the sign of the cross because I believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” With that they left. You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the Holy Trinity. Rather than get in an argument with the young mother, Wanda and her girlfriend witnessed to a foundational belief of Catholics. What happened to the woman and baby, I don’t know. While we periodically saw Wanda and her friend, they had not seen the woman again, at least until after we moved from that diocese.
What I did not mention above is that Wanda and her friend were black. They belonged to a small church with black parishioners in their hometown.  Sadly, just a few years later, after their pastor died – he was a charismatic white man – their small parish was closed. At the last Mass in the little church, many of the white parishioners in the much larger church joined their new fellow-parishioners and escorted them to the larger church. A bittersweet experience was succeeded by a new journey of the clearly integrated new (for Wanda and her former parish family) parish. Similarly, the separate charismatic prayer groups were merged.
The story goes on...

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