January 3, 2017
Compañerxs, Friends, Dear Ones –
Let this long overdue email serve as part two of my ongoing life updates newsletter. I still haven’t landed on a fitting name, but one of these days I am confident that the right words will make themselves known.
I believe we left off at the beginning of last fall, as I made preparations for Maryknoll Orientation in New York. While last summer was busy and full of goodness, I was glad to be officially starting the next chapter of things and to gear up for life in Bolivia! Orientation was, in its own right, busy and full of goodness. Throughout the 10 weeks I spent in Ossining, I lived with the Maryknoll sisters. These remarkable women graciously opened their doors to us, shared meals, and imparted stories full of wisdom and humor. It was such a gift to learn of their many decades in mission across the world. Evenings spent with the sisters, chatting over toast and tea, capped off full days of learning and reflection. My fellow missioner candidates and I spent our days hearing from a multitude of speakers on topics ranging from physical, mental, and spiritual health in mission to radical non-violence and Catholic social teaching. While all of our speakers were remarkable, I particularly enjoyed time spent with John Dear, Marie Dennis, Robert Ellsberg, and Cathy Breen. As I write their names all together, I am realizing that each has, at some point in their life, been apart of an intentional community, whether the Catholic Worker in New York or other peace-seeking communities across the country and globe. They shared with us their experiences of God at work in their lives, in the life of the Church, and in the life of our country and world. I am so grateful for their ongoing witness to the Resurrection, and I hope I can live up to the challenges they extended to us during our time together.
Each day of orientation was unique, but what really wove it all together was the community of Lay Missioners I was able to share it with. Our crew of Missioner Candidates came from all kinds of backgrounds, and had numerous entrances into this same desire for mission. Learning from them and hearing their perspectives on the daily topics of discussion made for a rich, mutual sharing that augmented the expertise and guidance of our guest speakers. It was also a gift to get to know the dedicated Lay Missioner staff and former lay missioners who so generously offer their time and talent to support us as we prepare for and live into our life as missioners!
Amidst all of the reflecting, studying, vaccinating, and general preparing, plenty of fun was had throughout my short time in New York. Most notably, I was able to witness the wedding of two INCREDIBLE humans. I hopped a quick flight to Nebraska and joined many members of my Loyola family in celebrating the love of Kathleen and Jacob Meradith-Eyers. It was a beautiful wedding celebration (PHOTOS!!!), full of laughter, good music, great dancing, and, most importantly, a community full of love to wish the newlyweds well in this new beginning. By the end of the weekend my face hurt from smiling and laughing so much! I was also able to enjoy the beautiful autumn colors that come with October in the Hudson River Valley. A short road trip up to Boston allowed for quality time with still more of my wonderful LUC and CASA family. I even made it down to DC to share in community during the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (three cheers to Chris and Kim for making my attendance possible!!!).
Thanksgiving was spent breaking bread with numerous communities. Namely, I shared a Thanksgiving lunch with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, after which I made the trek down to Brooklyn to feast on the most delicious turkey I have ever eaten with my dear friend Zac and company! (Fun fact: I am the only person who can claim to have partaken in all two of the turkeys that Zac Davis has ever prepared. Needless to say, I am honored to hold this distinction). More trips into downtown for visa application fun allowed for further exploration of NYC. I managed to find some REALLY good ramen (Hide-Chan Ramen. 10/10 would recommend). Also bagels. I hung out in hotel lobbies with NYC locals as I awaited various appointments (or simply tried to stay warm). I got to see my favorite band, the Weepies, perform with my parents, amidst my mom’s first trip to the Big Apple! Finally, I was able to share life with the community members at Maryhouse Catholic Worker and at the Benincasa Community. I don’t know that I can adequately describe the folks that have committed their energy and their goodness to these communities, but I am in awe of their faithfulness and their commitment to Gospel non-violence and the pursuit of justice in our local and global communities. I am glad to know of their continued efforts, and I hope to live up to their example!
As my time at orientation came to a close, I was able to participate in two very special Maryknoll celebrations. First, our humble group of 8 partook in the Covenant Ceremony, wherein we signed the Covenant marking the beginning of our journey as missioners with Maryknoll. Mary Boyce, a Maryknoll sister, graciously served as my witness in this ceremony, and I am so glad to have her cheerful, prayerful support. Then, a few short days later, we participated altogether in the Sending Ceremony. Marie Dennis returned to reflect with us on the work we would soon begin. My mom and dad were able to come into town to share in the celebration, as Joan Mury, another incredible Maryknoll sister, called Filo and I forth into mission in Bolivia. As we received our mission crosses and celebrated, we also shared many grateful goodbyes with all those who had a hand in our formation throughout our time in Ossining.
My parents and I made the drive back to Northeast Ohio together, and I was able to spend the holiday season in Cleveland with family. My short 3 weeks at home were full of Christmas cookie making, Christmas tree hunting (more PHOTOS), adventures with my grandpa to his favorite restaurants, and a day at my alma mater, Padua Franciscan High School, to share with the seniors a little bit about my entrance into mission. Then, for New Years, my mom and dad invited many of our extended family members and friends to join us for a sending off party of sorts, to be accompanied by some (really bad) Buckeye football and the ball drop. It was such a gift to be able to see everyone and to gather together over all of my favorite foods. As 2016 – a year of so many achievements and so much joy – drew to a close, my pending departure snuck up on me. I haven’t gotten much sleep in these dark, early days of January, as I scramble to pack my life’s belongings (sans a mountain of books) into two checked bags and a carry on. My flight leaves tomorrow, January 4th. I’ll make a quick pit-stop in Atlanta to visit a dear friend, and then I’ll be on my way to Cochabamba! My first few weeks will be filled mostly with language school and getting to know the city and community – but more on that soon enough. Excitement abounds! Also nervousness. Also gratitude. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about fitting all of my emotions into a suitcase…(:
And now. The regular features:
Must listen to song of the week: Hold Back the River I thoroughly enjoyed singing this song a little too enthusiastically as I drove around town running errands over the holidays. But I also like the message it conveys – this invitation to presence, to vulnerability, to authenticity in relationship with one another; to not make excuses or let things get in the way of loving each other and just being good to one another. So. I hope you like it, too.
Must read news article(s) of the week: To mark the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017, Pope Francis, in an unprecedented message, articulated the role of active nonviolence in the pursuit of peace. This message came on the heels of “a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference in April that reexamined the church’s teaching of the just war theory.” (see NCR article) Plainly, the pope stated, “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” Considering the economic, racial, military, and otherwise systemic violence that is rampant in our country and world, I think a prayerful consideration of personally lived nonviolence is vital to the creation of a world where peace and justice reign. I would encourage you to read Francis’ full message, but also the final message of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference, which inspired Francis’ words.
Wisdom for the week: The Lay Missioner Candidates chose the Beatitudes as the theme of our Covenant Ceremony. I try to embrace them as our marching orders, as followers of Christ. They are the directives Jesus leaves us with: to be merciful, to thirst for justice, to be peacemakers, and to work towards the creation of God’s reign in our own time…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the reign of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the reign of God.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who came before you. ~ Jesus, Matthew 5
For those of you who missed Episode 1, you can find it and future updates in the archives. Otherwise, that’s all I’ve got for now. The next time you’ll here from me, I’ll be in Cochabamba!!
Hasta prontissimo, amigxs. Until soon.