With This Light - Tenacious Caring

With This Light - Tenacious Caring

I choose to believe that most people are good and caring. None of us are perfect but we're generally good people. But how far does our caring go? Does it extend past our friends and family to strangers, outcasts, and the most downtrodden? Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps we just need a little inspiration to get outside our comfort zones and expand our caring.


With This Light, is a new documentary by co-directors Nicole Bernardi-Reis and Laura Bermudez about Sister Maria Rosa Leggol, OSF, a Franciscan Sister often referred to as the "Mother Teresa" of Honduras. With a title like that, what could be more inspiring?


Sister Maria Rosa died in 2020 of COVID-related complications in her 90's and had been a religious sister for over 70 years. An orphan herself, she knew what it was like to grow up with no family and dedicated her religious life to helping the children of Honduras in every way imaginable.


Bernardi-Reis and Bermudez were able to interview Sister Maria Rosa extensively before her passing and it's clear from the outset that Sister was a live wire. She joked about needing to be a bit crazy to do the work she was doing. She tells the story of how her first homes for the kids came about. She took it upon herself to negotiate with the contractors for ten houses. It was only when payment was due that Sister's religious superiors were informed of the project. Sister was able to raise donations, even interrupting an airplane takeoff to convince a benefactor who was going out of town to provide for her needs before flying.


As she was ministering in the 1950s and 1960s, Sister Maria Rosa noticed all the displaced children due to the violence common in the streets of Honduras. When her first ten homes we built, they filled on the first day. So many were in need and throughout her lifetime, Sister's program benefited more that 87,000 Honduran children.



Sister Maria Rosa Leggol with a child in "With This Light."  © 2023 Miraflores Films. All Rights Reserved. 


To make Sister's story tangible, the filmmakers chose two teen girls, Maria and Rosa, to follow as they struggled to make their way in life. They are both students at Reyes Irene School for Girls founded by Sister Maria Rosa. Rosa suffered abuse within her family and has found safety in one of Sister's homes. She attends school and studies hard to pass the entrance exam for university. Both of her sisters live in transitional housing for those hoping to attend university and Rosa dreams of being re-united with her siblings there.



Rosa in "With This Light."  © 2023 Miraflores Films. All Rights Reserved. 


Maria is only 14 but her mother cannot afford to have her living at home. She's taken up residence with her 17-year-old boyfriend and her class attendance has suffered. Therefore, counsellors at the school as well as both children's mothers talk seriously with Maria and her beau, Alfredo, about the responsibilities of adult life.


One might wonder how the school would allow this. Sister Maria Rosa emphasizes that it's not her place to control the lives of the children she helps but only to provide the best support she can, teach them what's right, to stand up for themselves, and then leave them in God's hands. She says, "There is no man that is all good or all bad. We are children of God and we have a little bit of both. God did not come for the saints. He came for those of us who have problems, sinners, and that is why we cannot reject anyone."



Maria and Alfredo in "With This Light."  © 2023 Miraflores Films. All Rights Reserved. 


Interspersed with Maria and Rosa's stories, the audience is gifted with glimpses into the wisdom Sister Maria Rosa has to offer, as well as her love of Jesus (she's always clutching a crucifix large enough to hang on the wall!) and her love of soccer (which she watches from her recliner, rosary in hand).


One of the beauties of the documentary is that it treats poverty with respect without being demeaning. The thousands of children affected by the realities of poverty and violence that still exist in Honduras continue to be served by the many, many programs Sister Maria Rosa began. There's one scene, on the occasion of her 70th jubilee of religious vows, when, from her wheelchair, she speaks into a bouquet of microphones. A journalist asks her about her 70 years and the service to those in need. She responds, "I have only one role in this world and that is to love and serve my God and my neighbor. As long as there is a child on the street suffering, Maria Rosa cannot be happy."



Sister Maria Rosa at press conference in "With This Light."  © 2023 Miraflores Films. All Rights Reserved. 


May we all be inspired by this example of tenacious caring.


Please click here for Sister Nancy's article and interview with the directors and executive producer, Jessica Sarowitz.


With This Light will have a select theatrical release beginning August 11 and then move to streaming platforms on August 15. Click here for more information.






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