Betty Pasela

Little Falls

Seeking What Is Mine to Do

My husband Jerry and I became Franciscan Associates in 2011. As we deepened our love for God, we found the Franciscan way of living a good fit for us. Becoming an associate was a way of fulfilling my desire to love more and give more of myself to others. Now, at 71, I still have a longing for becoming who God calls me to be; and, as Saint Francis would say, to discover what is “mine to do.”

In the mid-1960s Jerry and I served as Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in West Africa. Following our two-year service, Jerry continued to work in West Africa as a staff member for the Peace Corps and for Save the Children. Altogether we spent 17 years in five different countries while working with the Peace Corps and Save the Children. We returned to the States in 1987. Jerry worked at St. Cloud State University with international students; I was an RN at St. Gabriel’s Hospital.

Our dream was to return to Africa as PCVs after we retired, but Jerry’s health did not permit this to happen. My Jerry passed away in January 2013. We have two children with three grandchildren and though I kept busy with family and volunteer work, I felt I should be doing something more. I prayed that God would show me what to do.

One day in June 2013, I had an overwhelming feeling with the message “Peace Corps.” This sounds corny, I know—but that’s what happened! I thought about it for a couple of months before approaching my children, who told me to “go for it.” I submitted my application and sat back to see if I would be accepted—and here I am, right now in 2015, a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa.

I work with very committed co-workers in a wonderful organization called Amangwe Village. All of our projects involve, either directly or indirectly, helping people prevent and/or live with HIV/AIDS. South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in Africa—you can’t find a family here that has not been affected in one way or another with this disease. Major programs include Home Based Care which cares for sick folks at home, support groups for HIV and chronic illness, a day care for 40 children, foster care placement for children, a “toy library” from which day cares can borrow books and toys, an organic garden to teach folks how to grow their own nutritious foods, and a self-help program to assist women to support themselves and their families. We also do other projects such as a wheelchair program, deliver food parcels to families in need, help people get their legal identification papers so they can go to school, and a Child Protection Day for 400 pre-schoolers.

Until a month ago, getting to Mass was a real problem for me. As a PCV I am not allowed to drive a vehicle (I can have a bicycle but at 71, I passed on that!). The closest church is in Enseleni, 10 miles away and off the local taxi route. This July we had a change in priests, and our new priest offered to pick me up for Mass. Yes! Mass is in Zulu, but I have my prayer book in English and can “generally” follow the Zulu sermons. The music is outstanding, often accompanied by dancing. Father Louis has nine other parishes to cover, having one Mass in Enseleni and then others in the outlying villages.

I do miss my family—especially my three grandchildren, but I am happy and believe this is where God wants me for the moment. So here I am, Lord! Thank you for showing me what is mine to do.

More about Betty's story

Little Falls, Our Lady of Lourdes: Faith Community Nurse Going Back to the Peace Corps in South Africa

Betty Pasela is returning to Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Betty left for assignment in South Africa, January 19, 2015. Betty said she would have three months of training, including three weeks of medical training, then immersion, living in a rustic area for nine weeks with a family in South Africa. Betty’s mission will be with HIV/AID’s work, in an English-speaking area. Her first Peace Corps assignment in Africa was in French West Africa, in the area that Ebola is found today, where she spent 13 years. Betty says she met her husband in the Peace Corps and they were married in Africa and their children were born there. They spent 17 years in the Peace Corps and other mission ministries before returning to Little Falls and OLOL where she has been one of five Faith Community Nurses.

From the Peace Corps website: “The Peace Corps has been a leader in international development and citizen diplomacy for more than 50 years across more than 139 countries. Since the Peace Corps' founding in 1961, the agency's mission—to promote world peace and friendship—has not. Today, the Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in collaboration with partner organizations and using cutting-edge technologies and well-tested best practices to enhance impact.”

OLOL has four other FCN’s. Donna Deering says, “Will miss my comrade in Parish Nursing functions, esp. Our Grief Support Group mtgs. The Peace Corps are getting a Treasure!!”

Vibrant 70-year-old volunteers at Amangwe

Working in South Africa is something Betty Pasela and her late husband had planned to do.

Servant Song

by Donna Marie McGargill, OSM

Faith Community Nurses and those like Betty Pasela hear a call like this song.

  1. What do you want of me, Lord? Where do you want me to serve you? Where can I sing your praises. I am your song.
  2. I hear you call my name, Lord, and I am moved within me. Your Spirit stirs my deepest self. Sing your songs in me.
  3. Above, below, and around me. Before, behind and all through me, your Spirit burns deep within me. Fire my life with your love.