The Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit of the United States are also present in three Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and St. Kitts. The mission in St. Kitts began in 2006 with a small community in Molyneux.
The sisters provide missionary services such as pastoral visits, liturgical planning, catechesis, youth ministry, Religious Education Teaching, tutoring students in a public school and still maintain the functioning of a nursery school. In this article, Sr. Theresa Thanh Thao Nguyen shares her personal experience as a missionary.
One of Confucious’s quotes of wisdom said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” One could find God’s love anywhere and everywhere, but I feel blessed where God has sent me. Every time I feel the wind against me, He is there, soothing my burdened soul. Every time it rains and with every rainbow in the sky, I know that He is watching, and that He works miracles. Never have I seen as many rainbows as I have seen in St. Kitts!
Every time I see and hear the laughter of a young one or a Caribbean dance, I see the joy that He has shone upon us. Every time I enjoy the company of a Christian friend, my brother or sister in the Lord, I feel the comfort He brings us.
Every time I hear about conflicts and injustice done in other countries, I’m sad and distressed and angry about what is going on, but I remember all of God’s blessings towards me. Who am I that He cares for me? That is love, my friend.
My ten months of mission have affected my life in a much more positive way than any of my other experiences. My mission has transformed my life. It has affected my ability to set and follow through on goals. I have learned how to be a leader (at least I think I am). I recognize who I am and what potential I have in this world. Recognizing individual potential happens to both the missionary and to those they teach.
Every day I travel to downtown Basseterre to Immaculate Conception Catholic School where I teach Christian Living to two Kindergarten classes, two First-Grade classes and three Second-Grade classes, with two sessions for each class for approximately 45 minutes. The Holy Spirit has imbued my students with love and gratitude as they rush and give me big hugs whenever I enter the school. Since my teaching classes number nearly 150 students, I become filled with the Holy Spirit and ask for the graces to teach my students well and help me stay steady on my feet…whoa, so many children surround me! My goal is to teach children about Christ and offer them the opportunity to be good Christians. I help children to be in communion with God, with friendship, and with their family.
Other activities I have participated in have included: on Saturdays, if I have time, I join the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Choir which sings Saturday evening for Sunday Mass and at Sacred Heart Church I sometimes join the Youth for events, such as, Christmas Caroling, movie night, Lenten prayer, and Easter celebration. On Sunday the first of May I had a retreat for Catechists of both parishes Sacred Heart Church and St. Joseph. The weekend of May 27-29 I was invited to attend Life in the Spirit Seminar with youth in Antigua. Life is full of surprises! Life throws challenges and every challenge comes with rainbows and light to conquer it.
Every Saturday is a community day that we spend cleaning our convent and Holy Family church in Molineux. Every Sunday I go to Sandy Point to Sacred Heart church and participate in Mass with the parishioners. After Mass, I teach First Holy Communion preparation to four students praying and hoping always for God’s blessings for the children to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist before Christmas.
Sometimes I also attend Holy Mass at St. Joseph in Old Road which is celebrated by our very own SVD Priest. St. Kitts has four Catholic Churches: Immaculate Conception Co-Cathedral, Holy Family in Molineux, Sacred Heart in Sandy Point and St. Joseph in Old Road. The dominant religion of St. Kitts is Christianity (mostly Methodist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Moravian), but religious freedom for others is not affected adversely as only 6.7% of the population are Roman Catholics. The current population of Saint Kitts and Nevis is 53,914 as of Sunday, May 29, 2022, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
The mission has provided multiple lessons in building patience. Things don’t always go the way I like them to as a missionary. Going through tough timesn teaches me patience and an ability to cope with difficult situations. It helps me strike a balance in my professional and personal responsibilities. This experience helps me focus on things that are important eternally, not just in the moment. My family and I have been immeasurably blessed by my experience as a missionary work.
Here people have very little in terms of worldly possessions, yet they are happy and content in their circumstances. It is exhausting work because of the emotional connection I have to the work I am doing, and because there is a lot of disappointment as well. It is disappointing to observe those parishioners in the different parishes who are not living out their faith. But any despair I experience is washed away when I work with the children who thirst for the Good News of the Lord and are filled with joy. My time with the children is so rewarding and I have grown and learned so much about people from a totally different culture, the world, the church, leadership, myself, and what I really believe. Despite all the challenges, I am continuing to do my mission work—to spread the seed and let God take care of the rest.
Sr. Theresa Thanh Thao Nguyen, SSpS