What is mission?

3 words


by Naoimi Nelson



I wake at the break of day

To the tune of 6am

And I am greeted by the sweet scent of French baguettes

And the even sweeter smiles of Toni and Loretta.


I wake to the sight of bare humble walls

Yet they have the only decoration needed:

The crucifix.


I wake in order to serve with my hands

And yet somehow

I am the one being served

By Walt and Shelby’s jokes and joyful laughter

And Barb’s delicate hands fixing my broken rosary.


As I listen to Joanne and Mariel sing

As I watch little Tommy receive his first communion

As I witness faces wearied with pain and suffering turn into smiles

My heart weeps tears of joy for the miraculous healings

Of love replacing hate

Of faith replacing doubt

Of hope replacing despair

Of light replacing darkness

Of joy replacing sadness.


I wake in order to be the instrument of my Lord for 7 days

And joy overwhelms all exhaustion.

I have never felt more alive.



My eyes flutter open to the tune of 6am

And with it, my heart flutters in awe at the peace of this place.

Never has a more worthy and fulfilling purpose directed my life.


24 fellow volunteers kneel by my side

As I look up at my Savior in St. Paul’s chapel.

We pour out our hearts, words, and actions to Him

And implore for His aid

As we begin and end our day.


I learn the beauty of prayer and sacrifice with Jamie

And I walk in the footsteps of Bernadette with Judith by my side.

I learn the beauty of small acts as I set the table with Linda and little Lola.

And I learn gentle strength from the French and Italian grandmas in the Piscine baths

As we carry women to the holy waters at Mother Mary’s feet.


As I climb the Pyrenees and wander along the river of Lourdes

Sunlight peeks through the trees and glazes my soul in the beauty of my Lord’s Creation.

He called me to this place of peace to quiet my soul.


I wake in order to be the instrument of My Lord for 7 days

And peace overwhelms all chaos.

I have never felt more alive.



Each and every day I am welcomed by the overwhelmingly beautiful smiles of Mother Mary’s pilgrims.

Love overflows from her arms and I am a daily witness to miracles of the heart in this place.


Here, love manifests itself

In a hug or a kiss

In a smile

In a kind word

In a gentle touch.


As we gathered together to say our goodbyes

Tears, hugs, smiles, laughter, and song emanated from the Accueil Notre Dame

Love for one another and true faith in One God joined us together

In a wave of unexpected graces.


In a total of 168 hours I have gained more than just the ability to say “I went on mission”

I have gained a family.

I have gained brothers and sisters

Aunts and uncles and grandparents

I have gained a newfound respect for the dignity and beauty of the human person.

I have learned how to love.


I wake in order to be the instrument of my Lord for 7 days

And love overwhelms all pain and suffering.

I have never felt more alive.