Sr. Elizabeth Doyle spent Corpus Christi evening waiting for help by the side of a septic tank where she’d fallen, joining in with hymns being sung in the nearby chapel.
It happened on Corpus Christi. I had celebrated the Feast with its special Mass and Procession, Brass Band and traditional hymns with all the people of Camina and its surrounding villages. In early afternoon, I started out on the journey home; a four- hour drive over rough mountain roads and long desert stretches to the coastal town of Iquiqui. The sturdy Toyota pick-up truck was well able for this terrain and I arrive at my destination as evening was closing in.
Our house in Iquiqui was a simple, one-storey structure with a small patio at the back, where a few geraniums struggled to provide a little colour. Close by was a shed for gardening implements and, by the wall. A dustbin. Our little patio was boarded on by a wall of the newly – built chapel which towered above our house. We were so close, in fact, that all the ceremonies celebrated in the chapel were perfectly audible in our kitchen! Prayers, hymns and sermons all came in through the open windows, and on this, the Feast of Corpus Christi, there was a special hum of excitement as the parishioners filled the chapel for the 7:30pm Mass.
Sister Anita, having greeted me on my arrival, then left to attend Mass and I proceeded to unload the truck. Shortly, I heard guitars strike up the Entrance Hymn, and the great volume of song assured me that there was a large congregation present. Mass continued as I finished my tidying-up, and then I made my way outside with some rubbish for the dustbin. And then it happened! Just as I lifted the lid, the ground cracked beneath my feet and I fell about two feet into space! I had stood on the lid of the septic area which had broken under my weight! Fortunately for me, there was some wire mesh which prevented my falling further and I struggled hard to extricate my feet from this, suffering some scratches in the process. But there I was sitting on the edge of the septic tank, on the bare concrete, completely unable to get myself into an upright position. The rough, cement walls held nothing which I could grip, so I had to sit there patiently until help arrived.
Darkness was beginning to fall, Mass was ending and the Procession was beginning. Chileans love to sing, so verse after verse was added as the people expressed their devotion. I tried to join in, even from my undignified position, and waited for the final strains of music to die away. I had now been sitting there for one hour and forty minutes! Just then my heart jumped for joy as I heard a key turn in the front door. It was Anita, and so I began to shout “Anita! Anita”.
A little pause followed and then I heard” Where are you?” Following in the direction of my shouts, Anita appeared and stared in amazement!
“Please go across the road to the Garcia family,” I asked, “ and bring back some help.”
And so she did. Along came two grown sons of the family, and after their first look of astonishment at seeing Sister sitting on the ground, unable to get up, they quickly got to work and hoisted me unto my feet. By that time, of course, word has spread, so it was not surprising to see seven or eight little Garcia’s all running into the patio to see the spectacle.
While I thanked the Garcia family for all their help, I was preparing what I would say next to the workman who should have repaired the faulty talk weeks before!