Mother Clare Matthias, C.F.R., and Father Bernard Murphy, C.F.R., returned to New York as renewed as the priests from the Apostolic Vicariate of Harar they met on their mission trip to Ethiopia Jan. 19-30.
“As much as we gave to these men, they gave much much more to us, at least for me a renewed zeal and desire to serve and to serve well,” Father Murphy, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal who was on his fifth trip in Ethiopia, told CNY.
“To see their heroics, to see their joyfulness, to see their generosity was a great witness to my own vocation.”
Mother Clare, community servant (superior general) of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, completed her third trip to Ethiopia.
“It’s exhilarating actually because I think when you do what you’re created to do and what your charism has prepared you for, it’s exciting, hope giving and energizing,” she said.
Mother Clare, the journey’s organizer, first met Bishop Angelo Pagano, O.F.M. Cap., of the Apostolic Vicariate of Harar on his visit to New York in 2018, when he invited the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal to Ethiopia. Two mission trips were made in 2019, and a third was planned in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the trip.
An eight-day retreat for all priests in the Apostolic Vicariate of Harar was the focus of the most recent visit. Mother Clare and Father Murphy were joined by Father Daniel Williamson, C.F.R., and Sister Chiara Fedele, C.F.R.
“The purpose of the retreat and the purpose of any retreat I offer is a renewed sense of what their vocation really means, a renewal for them so that it might be a renewal for the Church,” Father Murphy said. “If I’m renewed in my relationship of love for the Lord, then I’m gonna be a renewal for the Church.”
The priests and sisters brought gifts for the priests and parishioners in Harar such as 10 monstrances, 20 images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, hundreds of rosaries for children receiving First Communion, hundreds of miraculous medals and supplies such as hand sanitizer and masks.
“Our priests need to know they are loved, supported and needed,” Mother Clare said. “My hope is they were being really nourished in that message that God loves them and through us, the Church loves them too and we wanted to support them in their own spiritual lives.
“There were hours and hours every day of Eucharistic adoration available to give them an opportunity to be renewed by being in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” she explained. “Coupled with giving them a monstrance to use in their parishes to show them that the renewal they received by being close to Jesus in the Eucharist, they can offer to their people as well by making Eucharistic adoration more available to the people as a source of renewal to the whole Church.”
Mother Clare shared the moment she’ll remember from this trip.
“On the last night of the trip, we offered a Eucharistic healing service for the priests,” she said. “As a sister being present first of all for a priest retreat and ministering to priests was a unique and privileged thing.
“To see the priests kneeling in the adoration for the healing service and clearly being moved by the Lord in that moment was a particular grace. It was obvious that the Lord was touching them and I felt like I had a privileged place to be able to witness that. I thought it was a very beautiful moment of recognizing God’s great love for his priests.”
Mother Clare felt fortunate to have this opportunity to assist Bishop Pagano and the priests in the Apostolic Vicariate of Harar. She said she returned home “rejuvenated, happy and grateful to serve in this way” before noting that another trip to Ethiopia is likely next year.
“It’s in the works,” she said.