By Frank Wessling
Sister Ludmilla Benda, RSM, has long been a familiar figure around Davenport, especially as a collaborator with the late Father James Conroy in feeding the homeless and hungry poor at St. Anthony Parish.
But this 86-year-old nun is more than what she appears to be and more than all of her activities during a long life: more than a nurse and hospital administrator, more than a parish minister, more than a prolific baker of Christmas fruitcakes, more than the person who leads the feeding of over 100 people most Sundays at Father Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope in downtown Davenport.
Sr. Ludmilla is a church leader. She calls people into works of charity and justice.
Folks who might be sleeping late with no good reason or rushing out to a golf course are instead ladling soup and passing out bread at the vineyard on a Sunday. Or they are answering a call to contribute milk. Or they contribute and collect money for the ministry.
No matter what they do specifically for Sr. Ludmilla, the deeper call she makes to people is an echo of the Gospel calling us to see and be with the poor among us.
This is what church leaders do. They call us with a Gospel tune to act as Christ today. Some of our leaders wear Roman collars, some wear miters, some wear habits identifying them as members of religious communities. Some only wear a lifetime habit of being with struggling people in their need – and of bringing others awake to see those needs.
Sr. Ludmilla herself is a modest woman who might be unhappy with this piece. She isn’t the only one who is faithful to the vocation of service; there are many similar here in the Davenport Diocese and around the globe. But she makes a good representative for all of them. And she needs a little notice now as she works to recover from injuries suffered when a car hit her on the street recently.
Be with her in prayer. We all need the lift that she and people like her provide.