October 21, 2022

St. Mary of the Knobs students embrace nun’s missionary message, raise $16,000

Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Sister Loretto Emenogu, archdiocesan mission educator for the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), shows her astonishment as Tracy Jansen, principal of St. Mary of the Knobs School, presents her with a check for more than $16,000 the students raised to help children in need around the world. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Sister Loretto Emenogu, archdiocesan mission educator for the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), shows her astonishment as Tracy Jansen, principal of St. Mary of the Knobs School, presents her with a check for more than $16,000 the students raised to help children in need around the world. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

FLOYD COUNTY—Sister Loretto Emenogu quietly strolled through the cafeteria of St. Mary of the Knobs School in Floyd County on Oct. 5. As the students recognized her, their faces brightened. Choruses of “Sister! Hi, Sister!” spread from table to table like ripples of joy.

It had been a month since Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Sister Loretto, archdiocesan educator for the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), had visited them, and they had a surprise for her.

When school principal Tracy Jansen presented her a check for more than $16,000 that the children had raised for the MCA, her eyes widened in astonishment.

“Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “I am so grateful, my precious ones! And you have shown how grateful you are for how God has blessed you and made you able to share your blessings with poor children around the world. You have made God so happy!”

Raising funds to assist impoverished children is one of Sister Loretto’s goals when she meets with children in Catholic schools, parish catechetical programs and vacation Bible schools throughout central and southern Indiana.

But two other goals are equally important, she told The Criterion: “Raising souls for vocations and showing how every child—no matter how small—is a missionary.”

Being a missionary ‘starts in your home’

MCA, operating in the rest of the world as the Pontifical Association of the Holy Childhood (or simply the Holy Childhood Association, or HCA), was founded in 1843 by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson in France. While visiting the United States in 1839, he had been struck by the poverty he saw.

“He was convinced that, though weak and needing care, children rich in faith and love were capable of playing their own part in the Church’s mission—and of even stirring adults to the same generous missionary spirit,” according to www.archindy.org/mission/mca.html.

His idea of “children helping children” spread. According to cutt.ly/MCAinfo, MCA/HCA now “supports missions in over 1,100 mission territories as they minister to children under 14 in need of education, health care, nutritional help, and other programs that protect young lives.”

Sister Loretto sees the association as “a way of making our children to understand what mission is.”

“Once a child is baptized, that child is a missionary,” she explained, noting that this is a lifetime role. “Every little thing you do is mission. Mission is nothing but love and charity. Nobody is exempted, and that’s the essence of the Missionary Childhood Association—to help children understand this from a very young age.”

Sister Loretto explains to the children that they don’t need to go far to be a missionary.

“It starts in your home first, with your prayers and you make sacrifices, when you respect Mom and Dad,” she said she tells the students she instructs. “If you respect and love Mom and Dad whom you see, it’s easy for you to love God, whom you haven’t seen.”

She also explains through stories and DVDs that the students can be missionaries by helping other children who are not as materially blessed as they are.

“I tell them it is about sharing whatever you have,” said Sister Loretto. “I say, ‘Here you have all this. Jesus wants you to help him help those children.’ That puts our children into the mind of understanding that Jesus shared his life for us, and they learn to share whatever they have. And when you give whatever you have, that is a way of expressing your love, your gratitude to Jesus.”

The message resonates with the children, said Jansen.

“When she speaks with the kids, their eyes are opened up to a whole different reality that they’ve never seen or thought of,” she said, noting that Sister Loretto has spoken with the students of St. Mary of the Knobs numerous times in Jansen’s nine years as principal there.

“She tells stories of some things that she’s witnessed, and it’s very powerful. She brings a whole new understanding to the needs in the world.”

‘Kind of like a chain reaction’

St. Mary of the Knobs School sponsors four fundraisers a year. For this year’s first quarter, the leadership chose to help children in need around the world by raising money for the MCA.

Part of the endeavor involved a walkathon held on Sept. 23.

But the real form of raising funds came by putting Sister Loretto’s message into action.

“We encouraged the students to perform acts of service for their family, neighbors and friends in order to earn pledges or money,” Jansen explained.

The students performed so many acts of service that they more than tripled the original goal of $5,000.

Second-grader Quinn Kerr said she and her brother Daniel, a kindergartner at the school, earned money by picking potatoes.

She recalled Sister Loretto talking about “kids helping kids, and that we should help the kids that don’t have anything.”

That message also stuck with fifth-grader Madelyn Naville.

“Sister talked about all the children that didn’t have what we have and are less fortunate, like some don’t have homes or parents,” she said. “It’s a blessing to them that we can give them more.”

She and her younger siblings—third-grader Harper and first-grader Christian—helped earn money for the MCA. For their acts of service, Madelyn cleaned her great-grandmother’s bathroom and dusted while Harper and Christian “kept [their great-grandmother] entertained by playing cards and games,” then helped their grandmother in her garden.

“It made me happy to know that I’m helping someone,” Madelyn said. “That doing something to help someone can help someone else, kind of like a chain reaction.”

‘So nice to have her presence in the school’

Jansen is grateful for Sister Loretto’s role in helping her accomplish the Catholic school mission of forming children in the faith.

For instance, the generous check was a surprise for Sister Loretto and helped in her mission of raising funds for the MCA.

But her true reason for visiting St. Mary of the Knobs School was to talk about the rosary with the students and to pray it with them in adoration in honor of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Oct. 7.

“Our kids don’t get enough examples of vocations,” Jansen admitted. “So, to have her visit, to see an example of a real Catholic sister, is a rare treat.”

Sister Loretto is likewise grateful for the opportunity to plant seeds of vocation as part of her role with the MCA.

“We have a need for vocations to the priesthood, the religious life, parenthood,” she said. “This is the time you catch the children because their hearts, their love is so open.

“This gives them a way of thinking about, ‘Why did God bring you here on Earth? God has a reason, and he has plans for you.’ I incorporate that [message] because vocations are also mission.”

Sister Loretto has heard from a few former students who later entered the priesthood or religious life.

But equally important to her are stories of children and families who changed for the better because of her talks.

“One child wrote me, ‘When you were talking to us, you were looking at me with your brown, chocolate eyes, and it was like Jesus was talking to me,’ ” Sister Loretto recalled. “After my talk, she said she turned her life around.”

Sister Loretto shared about another child who said her parents didn’t pray. She encouraged the girl to ask her parents to say a prayer before the meal that evening.

A chance encounter with the girl’s mother years later revealed the child had acted on the advice, “and our home has changed 180 degrees,” the woman said.

Sister Loretto’s eyes light up when she talks about the children she instructs throughout the archdiocese.

“I just love my little precious ones,” she said.

Jansen said the feeling is mutual.

“You know, she just has such a presence,” said Jansen. “The children are drawn to her, and they embrace her message. It’s just so nice to have her presence in the school.”

(For more information about the Missionary Childhood Association or to invite Sister Loretto to speak with children at a school, parish catechetical program, vacation Bible school or homeschool class, contact her at 317-236-1484. To donate to the international association, send a check made out to “MCA” to Sister Loretto Emenogu, Missionary Childhood Association, 1400 N. Meridian, Indianapolis, IN 46202.)

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