The African nation of Zambia has special meaning for Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch.
For six years beginning in 2009, she traveled to the Diocese of Solwezi in Zambia to offer Wholeness Holiness Retreats, special times of spiritual rest and reflection for religious sisters and priests serving in difficult conditions.
From 2009 until 2013, she went with Franciscan Sister of Mary Connie Fahey, and then in 2014 with Mary Catherine Harris, a friend from North Carolina who assisted as retreat leader.
The story of their work in Zambia is described in “Trasna,” a book by Grand Strand author Bill Hancock, in collaboration with the three women.
The title is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “the crossing place.“
“The reason for the book is to help raise money for the religious sisters working in Africa, and also to expose readers to the concept of the spiritual crossing, the idea of that choice of going back or taking life in your hands and going forward,” Sister Margie said.
Sister Margie, who is based in Greenville, met Hancock after a presentation she gave at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach.
Even though she no longer makes annual trips to Zambia, she still visits churches to tell her story and help raise funds for the Daughters of the Redeemer, one of the orders of women religious who work with the poor in the Solwezi Diocese.
Hancock was moved by the sisters’ story and wanted to hear more. The book contains their extensive reflections and detailed, emotional stories of the things they saw and heard in Africa.
There are stories of women who must walk many miles just to get clean water, and families living in houses made partially of cardboard boxes. One particularly harrowing story tells how the young girls in one part of the country faced abduction by human traffickers if they tried to walk to school.
Joy is also present in the pages as well, whether it is a description of vibrant worship services or the happy dedication that the women religious there bring to their work. Sister Margie likes to recount one story of a joyful liturgy where people danced up the aisle during the offertory, presenting fruit, chickens and vegetables as offerings.
Harris said her one trip to Zambia transformed the way she looks at the world.
“I didn’t come back the same person — the trip gave me a significant shift in perspective in many ways,” Harris said. “I learned about the grace God has given me in my own life and I saw the grace of the people there, even though they were living in such poverty. I realized that life is a continuous cycle of giving and receiving, and that both are mutual. When we give to others, we also receive something in return.”
To learn more about Wholeness Holiness retreats, the book “Trasna” and the work in Zambia, contact Sister Margie Hosch at firstname.lastname@example.org.