“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” —John 13:34

In today’s Gospel, we are taken to the Last Supper, where we hear Jesus teach the disciples to love one another. He demonstrates this love by kneeling down and humbly washing their feet, then telling them, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:15).

Love is at the heart of our Catholic tradition. So much of our work is the result of selfless volunteers—women and men that care for and love the communities we serve. As part of their calling they make small and large sacrifices for others, and change lives.

Stephanie Summa, a physician’s assistant from New York, spent over a year stationed at the Mwandi Mission Hospital in Zambia as a CMMB volunteer. While there, she often visited Kandiana, a home for elderly and disabled adults nearby. The residents vary in age and origin, but they have much in common. Some are blind, have mental illness, or have been abandoned by their families. Some have lived there the majority of their lives with no one to visit them for love and support. So they have become their own little family.

helene and stephanie, CMMB volunteers

Dr. Helene Calvet with Stephanie Summa

For Stephanie, a visit to Kandiana was a bright spot after a long or difficult day at the hospital. So when the medical mission team arrived last year, Stephanie took two of the members, Dr. Helene Calvet and nurse practitioner Beverly Farinelli, to meet her Kandiana “family.”

“We were all taken by how sweet they were and their humble living situation.”
—Dr. Helene Calvet

Dr. Helene and Beverly had brought along some gifts from back home—soap, flip flops, cups, and towels—which overjoyed the residents. Then the volunteers proceeded to clean their feet, clip their nails, and trim their hair, bringing beautiful smiles to their faces.

Dr Helene cleans a patients feet in Mwandi, Zambia

Dr. Helene gives one of the Kandiana residents a little pampering.

“It is indescribable how genuine their belief in God is and how they expect nothing. Just by walking through the door you immediately feel at ease by the joy in their smiles as they welcome you.” —Beverly Farinelli

Medical care is not just about medicines, lab results, vital signs, and progress. Sometimes it’s just about listening with a sympathetic ear, holding someone’s hand, or finding ways to make them feel special. It was these simple acts of kindness that brought so much joy to the residents of Kandiana.

Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” We too can follow Jesus’ example by doing small things with great love. Whether it’s writing a letter, making a special meal, visiting a friend—small gestures yield big rewards.

In grace and peace,

CMMB/Healthier Lives Worldwide

*Today’s reflection was inspired by Loyola Press.