Faces of mission – Sister Kerry O’Reilly

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sister Kerry O’Reilly felt fortunate to be selected to serve 15 years as a missionary for her community, when the Sisters of St. Benedict in St. Joseph opened a mission in Recife, Brazil. While growing up in Goodhue, she attended Holy Trinity parish. Today, she celebrates Eucharist with Christ the King in Minneapolis and is on staff at Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice.

How did you become interested in missionary work?

Sister Kerry O'Reilly

Brazil, in 1982, was a church alive with seeking liberty and justice. Church leaders were courageous in speaking the truth and Catholics were coming together to pray with Scripture as a guide for their living with acute poverty. I wanted to be a part of this.

How was your service connected to your faith? What did it teach you about faith?

I lived among people who had few material resources and, most difficult, others who were destitute, lacking the basic necessities. I quickly learned the experience was about people; meeting them in their situation and seeing beyond the chaos of poverty, not wrinkling my nose at the smell of it, and accepting the hospitality offered. I encountered people who knew God in a way that I had never experienced. The quiet confidence of this relationship gave them a steadfastness that allowed them to live another day.

Talk about one memorable story from your life as a missionary.

The local church was a place for a praying, learning, growing community. One evening, I was meeting with a group of young women leaders in the sacristy of the church. I was the only person facing the door, so, when a young man came in with gun in hand, only I saw him. The women told me my already white face went very much whiter, so they knew something was wrong. He threw a shirt at us telling us to give over all our money. No one spoke until finally I croaked out — we are in church, we don’t have money here. Oh, was his reply and asked for us to throw back his shirt. The following day one of the young women was approached by the leader of the local gang who apologized for the intrusion. The “church people” were to be left alone because “they do good things.”

What would you like others to know about being a missionary?

The mission of Jesus is our heritage. He showed us how to live with each other and asked us to take care of each other. People make different choices in life and some are from other cultures; some people we don’t like very much and some customs seem strange. But we cross boundaries of preference and prejudice to bring “good things” and get to know people. We are missionaries when we do this.


Category: World Mission Sunday