Mississippi mission: Welcome back to this house of love

Mississippi mission: ‘Welcome back to this house of love’

On the early morning of March 20, twenty- two Academy missionaries, with a pillow in one hand and a Vera Bradley duffel in the other, embarked with mixed expectations for their week in Jonestown, Mississippi, supporting the work of the Sisters of the Holy Names.  Accompanied by Sister Mary Patricia Plumb SNJM, counselor Ms. Debbie Lubrano, parents Mrs.  Katty Joseph and Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, and mission trip leaders Marianna Sotomayor, Meredith Zingale, Brianna Kemm, Bianca Roberts, and Mary Green, the girls were excited, yet nervous about the week ahead.

Upon entering Jonestown, the seventeen new missionaries were astonished to find such dilapidated and isolated landscape within the United States. Many girls began to question how Jonestown residents could possibly live comfortably in such deplorable conditions. Their new-found awareness allowed the girls to immediately pounce with much intrigue and vigor to work at the projects planned for the week.

Once arriving at Sister Kay Burton’s house, the residential headquarters for the week, the girls were anxious to begin their work on Ms. Belle’s residence. Unlike prior years, the girls committed themselves to an imposing workload. The task at hand included cleaning, repairing, and painting one bathroom, three bedrooms, the kitchen, and the living room, all in less than a week. Although the task seemed unachievable at first, the Academy girls’ positive attitudes and “superwomen” qualities overshadowed the impossible as they swiftly raked, swept, and painted the rooms.

Besides the main task, the girls were also able to participate in other community service activities throughout the week. This year, the girls volunteered as teacher aides to Kindergarten, second, fifth, and sixth graders at Jonestown Elementary. They played with the children, as well as helping them with class work. After school, girls participated in P.E. classes and arts and crafts with the preschool children. Also, the girls drove to the nearby Tutwiler Clinic to help Dr. Anne Brooks SNJM rearrange and clean the medical center. The girls not only learned the famed story of Emmett Till from Dr. Anne, but were surprised to learn about her own inspiring actions by no other than Brian Williams on Nightly News that Wednesday night.

Even though the girls worked endlessly and put much effort into their work, there was still time for exploring the Delta. In one week, the missionaries travelled to five different states, including a guided tour of Arkansas and the Mississippi River by no other than Sister Kay herself. She also recounted the stories behind historic Old Jonestown during a spooky cemetery tour. The girls also participated in the yearly Jonestown walk-a-thon, where residents donate money to AIDS victims in Africa. At the end of the week, everyone enjoyed a warm Southern potluck dinner, as provided by fellow Jonestown residents, followed by a group of young Jonestown girls teaching the Academy group how to properly “bunny hop.”

All in all, the week surpassed all of the missionaries’ expectations. Not only did the girls finish painting the rooms on time, but they were also able to paint doors and buy extra furnishing for Ms. Belle and her family. Their extra efforts were seen through the tears of joy that Ms. Belle shed as she proclaimed “You all are always welcome back to this house of love!”

For more information about Sister Kay Burton SNJM and the Jonestown project, please click here.  For the interview by Brian Williams of MNSN with  Dr. Anne Brooks SNJM, click here.

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Mississippi mission: ‘Welcome back to this house of love’