By Bill Hurley, Associate
As we walk through life, the average person meets a few hundred thousand people. I venture to say that perhaps one hundred of them make a lasting impact on each of us. I first met Sister Barbara Ford in 1996. In one morning, she clearly became one of the one hundred people who would make a lifelong impact on me.
As the new Development Director for the Congregation, I was eager to meet as many Sisters as possible. Each had their own wonderful stories of ministry that motivated me. I could easily steward their stories to our many benefactors. Early on this December day, Sister Arleen Ketchum called and asked if I had time to meet “Bobbie.” A few hours later, as Bobbie and I sat and talked, I realized this was a woman of achievement, a woman with goals, and, most likely, the humblest person I would ever meet.
Having done some homework, I knew Bobbie had been an educator, a nurse, a midwife, a spiritual counselor, and now a missionary. I knew her Sisters loved her, and I knew well that I should listen to her needs.
Bobbie did not just present a few items she hoped we could fund; she explained why each was so important.
That morning she taught me that many people in our world do not have access to drinking water. She taught me about the Guatemalan civil war. She taught me how many men and boys were murdered when they did not join the government’s militia. She taught me how their families suffered, were lied to, and why their families longed to recover their bodies from mass graves.
Above all, Bobbie taught me the difference between serving the poor and walking with the poor. I finally understood the meaning of charism! In two hours, I was hooked. Whatever need for the people of Guatemala was presented to me, I would strive hard to figure out a funding source.
On Sunday morning, May 6, 2001, Sister Dorothy Metz called me at home to tell me Bobbie had been murdered the day before in Guatemala City. Sister Dorothy, a close friend of Bobbie’s, was saddened and upset. How could the people Bobbie loved so much take her life? Yes, I was initially angry, but as the news settled in, I realized how upset Bobbie would be at my anger. I knew she would not be angry, and I knew she would be forgiving. I prayed and thought and soon accepted. I became thankful that she could forgive. I knew I, too, had to forgive.
Over the next few days, I learned that Bobbie’s mother also forgave. I spoke with her at Bobbie’s wake and heard such love and forgiveness. I listened to the forgiving words of Bishop Julio Cabrera Ovalle, who accompanied her body to New York, as he cried at her funeral mass. It was a mass of forgiveness.
Sister Barbara Ford was a woman of love, compassion, hard work, leadership, service and forgiveness. Indeed, she is a woman I will remember always.