APPLETON — Mother Mary Catherine and Seth Alfaro have both experienced extreme suffering, one as a missionary working with the sick and poor, and the other as a survivor of a brain injury and near-death experience. They will share what they’ve learned from those trials in a Holy Week event at the Xavier Fine Arts Theatre.
On Monday, April 15, Mother Mary Catherine will open the two-night program, “Making Sense of Suffering.” She spent 10 years with St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity and is now the founder of the religious community, Missionaries of the Word, based in Baileys Harbor.
The following evening, musician Seth Alfaro of Grand Rapids, Mich., along with his parents and aunt, will describe the suffering they experienced after a two-story fall in 2017 put a 21-year-old Seth in a coma. Seth has a particularly pointed message for young people about how his short stay at the gates of Heaven changed him.
Both talks begin at 7 p.m. in the theater at Xavier High School, 1600 W. Prospect Ave., and are free and open to all. Neither tickets nor reservations are needed, according to event sponsor, CIA-Faith Mission Operatives, a lay ministry in the Diocese of Green Bay.
Mother Mary Catherine has worked to relieve the suffering of some of the poorest people in the United States. She served in an AIDS hospice, visited prisoners at San Quentin, worked with gangs and teens in detention, and helped at soup kitchens. But it would be a mistake to think that these experiences left her sad or distraught. Instead, she sees suffering as a part of love.
To those who ask how an all-loving and powerful God could allow suffering, she says, “To ask this question is to ask the question, ‘What does it mean to love? Total, faithful, fruitful, free.’
“Loving and suffering are united. You cannot separate them any more than you can freedom and God’s manner of loving us,” she said.
Alfaro said he experienced God’s love when he was near death. “When I was in my coma, I saw judgment,” he said. “I was in a line. It didn’t even make sense how long it was, and there was a light at the very end and that’s where people were being judged. I was scared to death,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t deserve heaven.” He said he saw all the times he could have chosen God, but did not.
Alfaro will be joined that night by his parents, Christopher and Christine, and his aunt Kathy Barth. They will recall the role prayer played in Seth’s recovery. Christine’s story of grief, including the death of four infants due to natural causes, is told in her recently published book, “The Delight of My Heart: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief.”
For more information contact CIA-Faith Mission Operatives at [email protected] or call (920) 450-3025. Readers are advised to allow for extra time because Prospect Avenue is under construction.