A wonderful, amazing article about a wonderful, amazing lady. Do go read the whole thing!
.- Lucia Otgongerel was born in Mongolia 30 years ago without hands or legs. She lived in a deep depression until 2002 when she converted to Catholicism and, as she explains, discovered “true joy.” Today she works in the capital city of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, as a teacher for seven children with special needs.
Now Lucia claims, “I could not live without my faith.” She overcomes the challenges of her physical condition though an intense life of prayer: including the daily Rosary, meditations and study of the Bible in the midst of her predominately Buddhist country.
In an interview granted to UCANews, Lucia explains that her daily work with seven disabled boys whose ages range from 15-19. Lucia teachers, despite not having hands: cooking, cleaning, reading and writing at the Faith Center, a small school run by St. Mary’s parish in Ulan Bator which opened last September.
The sixth of eight children, Lucia Otgongerel was born in the Zavhan, a remote province in the Asian country of Mongolia. She had a very difficult childhood that started to improve when she began using her first prosthetic leg. Because of it, she was able to attend cooking classes at a very young age which has greatly increased her cooking skills.
“Even without hands, there is nothing I can’t do. I can open doors with keys, sew, work on the computer, use the cell phone, cut up food, cook – nothing is impossible! I like embroidery and beads. People are surprised when they see my parents’ house, decorated all over with my needlework,” she says.
She recalls that in 2001 she began going to Mass because her sister was the friend of the bishop’s secretary. While she was interested in the celebration, she did not have much faith. She explains that she enjoyed the songs sung in English and the words continued to ring in her ears, though she did not understand the lyrics.
Faith in Christ began the following year and after praying the Rosary intensely, but with great difficulty at home. She realized the importance of prayer and decided to convert to Catholicism.
“Since then, I pray a lot, every day, all the time. I pray a lot and cry. When young people in the church see me like that, they just leave me alone, and when I come out of the church laughing, they know I was praying.”
“It would be hard for me without prayer. I pray every morning before I leave home….Later in the day, I also read the daily readings and meditate. I try to implement the message of each day’s readings. It gives me much power.”
“Prayer is an important part of my life. I am alone a lot, so I pray all the time. I make time to read the Bible. I am also writing a book about the church in Nisekh and about faith.”
“My faith is very important to me. I could not live without my faith.”
This dear lady, Lucia, just by living her life, has so much to teach us. She teaches us that no matter what difficulties may befall us, life is still good and valuable. And so are people, no matter what their limitations seem to be. Human beings and human life are incredible. They can’t be judged or valued. In our supposedly advanced society, a child who would be born with Lucia’s handicaps would likely be aborted! Just because the doctors, the parents, or whoever would presume that such a creature would only be miserable and pathetic and a burden to everybody. Their assumptions don’t leave any room for the wondrous, miraculous, surprising powers of life and humanity, and they definitely don’t leave any room for God and faith.
She teaches that faith can be a true, transformative source of life if we let it. It can, and should, be so much more than just something we do on Sundays. I remember the person I was before I re-converted to the Church, and for a number of months afterward. I often fell prey to depression, despair, frustration. I let doubt and my own sinfulness and errors get the best of me. But I reached a point where I just completely threw myself into God’s hands. I just let go, submitted, and let faith and prayer take me wherever they would. And almost overnight, God brought me 180°! I didn’t do it… I couldn’t possibly have done it myself. I just let myself be with God, let God make of me what He would. And neither I nor my life have ever been the same.
I found the same kind of “true joy” Lucia has found. A joy that defies the world’s rather shallow and shabby definition of joy as being roughly the same as pleasure. True joy is a most serious condition, often shrouded in tears and in strife. I love and totally identify with this:
“I pray a lot and cry. When young people in the church see me like that, they just leave me alone, and when I come out of the church laughing, they know I was praying.”
The world looks at the tears and the stuggles of a Catholic’s life and assume (there’s that word again) that Catholics are the most miserable and masochistic of creatures. The people of this world want nothing to do with that. They would rather take life easy, with pasted-on smiles, feeling and experiencing nothing of real joy. And they miss the beatific smiles that light up our faces after we’ve poured ourselves out (literally, through our tears) in union with God, in our prayers, Sacraments, and/or meditations. They can’t look with wonder at the world as we do in those moments. Their souls can’t experience the levity, the enlightenment, the purity that ours do at such times. They are too busy seeking out the next pleasure with which to try to fill up the emptiness inside them. We must certainly pray for them.
We must remember that converting the world requires that we be converted ourselves. Conversion is not a one-time event. It is ever ongoing for as long as we live in this world. Stories like Lucia’s really help me to strive harder and set my sights higher. Such stories put everything in perspective. God bless our sister Lucia, and thanks be to God for speaking to us and inspiring us through her!