I shared the story of St Mary Euphrasia (SME) and heard how the tunnel was built many times over when induction was organized for new staff. My knowledge of SME was that she was a saint, a woman of strength and one who had much compassion and vision for girls and women.
SME came alive for me when Sr Anne Josephine shared how SME’s happy times at the beach in her early days became a much saddened childhood after she was sent to a boarding and how she endured the pain of separation from her mother and siblings. I began to understand the depth of her compassion for girls and women and how her early years’ experiences shaped her values and belief about helping others and subsequently starting a ministry for them.
My admiration for SME grew as more stories of her life were told. She was just like anyone of us who suffered the pain of betrayal as a leader and the challenges of working with the church and bishops. Despite all the challenges, SME was steadfast in her mission to serve young girls and women and the building of the tunnel in 4 months was a testimony of her determination and belief. Apart from carrying the financial burden of building the tunnel, she laboured and persevered to ensure that the tunnel was constructed in the shortest time so that the orphans could be taken care of.
It was not just amazing perseverance and creative problem solving but absolute faith in God and a deep-seated compassion that were reflected in her action. That left a deep impression in my heart. She also experienced the friendship, support of and collaboration with Count de Neuville and Madame d’Andigne.
As I walked through the tunnel, I kept thinking how SME built it in 4 months given the technology of her times. I admired her courage, vision and faith.
In the last tunnel walk, I was shepherded along the way from one end of the tunnel to the other. It was an overwhelming and emotional experience as the music, “Be still and know that I am God” was played. My tears flowed freely when I thought of the darkest and difficult moments of my life and wondering how challenging it must have been for SME too. Had she ever thought of giving up? What kept her going? It must have been her faith in God and her mission mindedness.
I felt it was God carrying me and reminding me that no matter how long and dark the journey ahead would be, God would be by my side and there would be light at the end of the tunnel. I was deeply moved and I sat in front of the stature of SME praying for perseverance, wisdom and strength. I continue to pray that I would be a compassionate companion to the children and women that walk through all our services in the Good Shepherd Mission, Singapore and the ethos of St Mary Euphrasia that “One person is of more value than the world” is and will be reflected in my companionship with them.
I am grateful to have experienced the special and inspiring moments in Motherhouse and to remember where the Good Shepherd Mission started. It is in remembering our history that the mission becomes more meaningful and a shared understanding of the history would bring us to shared future in the Mission.