Sister Mary Kay Brooks

Sister Mary Kay Brooks helps paint a home during a mission trip to Mississippi.

In 2016, Sister Mary Kay Brooks recently participated in the Hands-On + Hearts-In collaborative mission experience sponsored by the Sisters of the Living Word, the Chicago Archdiocesan Vocation Association and the Sacred Heart Southern Mission to assist women who are discerning a possible call to consecrated life.

The unique experience offers a hands-on opportunity to assist those in need, as well as prayer and reflection as participants live in community with sisters from a variety of congregations. The hands-on services they provided through this program included tutoring children, assisting at a food pantry, cleaning homes for the elderly, repairing damaged homes and serving meals at a soup kitchen.

Mission trip offers profound experience

In the hours before the light of day arrived, I quietly began my journey from Iowa toward Holly Springs, Mississippi, for my first mission trip. The darkness was significant because I was heading toward a mission trip where I felt as if I was totally in the dark.

I never experienced a mission trip before so I didn’t quite know exactly what would be happening during the week. As I slowly drove through the golden wheat fields, I became more at peace as I observed the farmers harvesting their fields and recalled childhood memories.

Sister Mary Kay Brooks (center) serves food at a soup
kitchen in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

No day contained the same activities. We went from painting, tutoring children, serving food to those in need to home improvement evaluations. But the activities were not the most significant events that happened for me.What touched my heart most were the people. Who are these women and men who need help? They are my neighbors, my brothers and sisters who happen to have life circumstances or events in their life that are beyond their ability to handle by themselves.

One woman who comes to mind most often is Rita. Her roof was damaged during last year’s tornado but was replaced improperly. Her kitchen ceiling was falling in, and the water reservoir was leaking. She had not had a shower in her own home for more than a month.

The morning we arrived to evaluate how the Sacred Heart Southern Mission Home Improvement team could help, her water heater broke. She went from not being able to take a hot shower to not having water at all. The home improvement team immediately began brainstorming how they could get her water immediately.

The tears streaming down her face at the thought of having a hot shower was humbling. Rita continued to call us “angels” for arriving on the worst morning of her life and giving her hope.

Giving hope to others, being the face of love to others, being the hands that can provide the work to bring back life is what this mission trip was about. This is what I experienced in being of service to others.

In the distance of what I thought was darkness came a bright light of God’s love and mercy.

– Sister Mary Kay Brooks, SSND