During these days of lockdown our presence to others is a real gift.  This article shows that the telephone is playing a key role for the people on the reservation as Sr. Marie Rose listens to and walks with them the sacred journey of life.

In a way, when Sr. Marie Rose Messingschlager, CDP moved last year to the Gallup, New Mexico diocese, it was a return to her beginnings. Sent almost forty years earlier to Tekakwitha Mission in Houck, Arizona after earning a licentiate in Pastoral Missiology from Rome’s Gregorian University , Sr. Marie Rose began a lifetime of ministry among Native American peoples. Now, after twenty-six years of service in her most recent position as the director of Native American Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, she finds herself back where she started—and loving it.

As a pastoral minister serving among the Pueblo Indians of the Acoma and Laguna communities, there has been plenty of work to do on the reservation. Teaching RCIA, visiting the sick in their homes and in nursing facilities and participating in the “Meals for the Elders” at the Seniors’ Center are but a few of the activities that have filled her days. Although she has been busy responding to whatever needs present themselves at the moment, Sr. Marie Rose’s focus has really been on a ministry of presence: observing, listening, and empowering the others with whom she is walking on the sacred journey of life.

The pandemic, of course, has had its effect. Twelve members of her RCIA class this year still await Confirmation. Roads leading to the reservation have been blocked to all but enrolled members of the tribe in order to control the spread of the virus, and right now it looks like the lockdown will continue at least until next January. The telephone is playing a key role these days as Sr. Marie Rose continues to listen to and empower as she can her sisters and brothers on the reservation. The lockdown also means she has some time to work on the house where she lives, a place last inhabited by Sisters some twelve years ago. And while her attempts at planting and growing a vegetable garden have only succeeded to date in providing a feast for local elk, squirrels and rabbits, this isn’t really a problem for Sr. Marie Rose. Immersed in Native American spirituality, she revels in the interconnectedness of all creation and every opportunity her new ministry offers to practice that togetherness in every way!

Listening to and walking with people is a gift we can give to others no matter who or where we are.  As people of Providence, let us reach out, especially to someone who might be experiencing loneliness from isolation.

Barbara McMullen, CDP


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