Sunday, 15 May 2011

First Communion Sunday Part 1

 Today, Sunday May the 15th, is the last major event in my ministry here in Wiki... and even though there's a bit of sadness in my heart as I'm getting closer to saying my final goodbyes to these kids and this community, it will probably be the easiest event to coordinate since these kids are so perfectly behaved. They came to the Church -both grade 3 classes- on Friday for First Confession with Fr Doug, and I couldn't believe how perfect they were...they all sat quietly in the Church as one by one, each kid  went up to the altar to reveal to Father Doug one small thing that they were sorry for.They behaved brilliantly. Of course, there were teachers there  to ensure everyone was on their best behaviour, but overall, I think the students  were all happy and excited to be there and to be on their best behaviour.Some were actually quite adorable as they rushed or skipped to the alter with a big smile on their face!! Both Mr Howard -one of the teachers, and also a good friend of mine in Wiki- and I were laughing at the fact that some of the students went up to see Fr Doug, and as he spoke to them (asking them if they had done a bad thing recently) they vigorously shook their head. One girl in particular, I had to refrain from saying  in a loud voice"Oh Come on, it can't be THAT hard for you to find ONE thing you did wrong!!" (she's a bit of a rascal (for lack of better word) in class sometimes!!). Doug later confirmed that a few of them insisted they had nothing to confess, and so he just sent them back to their seats!! Part of their charm I suppose!!

 And it is that charm that of theirs that warms me even more on this brilliant Sunday morning, and is going to make it so hard for me to say goodbye to them. I was concerned that the weather wouldn't cooperate with the celebration..but it looks like we may have an absolutely perfect Spring day in Wiki!!It matches the mood of the kids around this celebration perfectly! One of my students -Maya- has been excitedly telling me weeks how much she was looking forward to this, that she got her ears pierced and was going to get a new dress for this etc... and although she's been one of the most vocal ones about the event, I have a feeling she speaks for most of students!!

 In truth, First communion has not been an as big of a deal as Confirmation for me: I don't have as big of a group to organize -no sponsors!-, I know the kids better so I'm not as worried about organizing them, there's no Bishop involved (-;, and Doug has been and will continue to be brilliantly supportive -or maybe I'm the one that's being brilliantly supportive to the community..I dunno!!-. But because of the excitement the kids have been feeling, I think I was a little more excited -and consequently, I was sleepless last night!!- about this one.
These, after all, truly were my kids for the past 4 months. No one has made me feel more welcome in Wiki than they have (Besides Fr Doug, obviously!). Not many have made me feel as appreciated and loved as they have (one of them continues to insist that I'm the best teacher she's ever had...though I think she's buttering me up because she wants a piggy back ride!!). I was especially taken aback by the 2nd group I teach...not only where they a little sharper in their knowledge of spiritual things than the first group, but they also surprised me on the last day. When I announced to the first group that it was going to be our last class together, some said "yay", others expressed their disappointment, but they were overall indifferent it seemed. In the 2nd class, when I made the announcement they all looked at me in complete silence, some with their jaws opened..almost as if they weren't expecting this news. I was as surprised by that reaction as I was in my first class with the other group when I told them I had homework for them, and they all in perfect unison said "yaaaaaaay" (it wasn't a heartfelt yay, but I figured they were too young for sarcasm, so I took that yay as an unexpected enthusiasm towards homework...of course by the next class, most of them had not done this homework!!).

  In the end, these kids, are one the main reason I want to come back to Wiki. I mean, sure, I'm drawn to this place because nobody else is,I feel that I've got much to learn from Native Spirituality and from the People of Wiki, and let's face it...this is DAMN beautiful country...but these kids have nourished my vocation here. Not only in their enthusiasm for religion, but in their affection for me.It's through that affection that I've also given them, that I finally understood once and for all what one of my purposes was in this life as a religious: To love each one of the children that I teach equally. To be a father/brother figure to all of them. Could I do this as a married man?? Maybe. But at the end of the day, I would return to my own home, where I'd have my own kids that were the most important people in the world to me. In this scenario, THESE KIDS in my classroom are the most important people in the world to me. No, I don't always remember their names, and some of them, I've never even spoken to, but they're no different in my mind and heart than the kids who cling to me as if I were the only person they loved in the world. What makes it even more poignant for me is that  I know that many of them, have parents who are divorced, are on drugs or alcohol, or are in prison, and they are in need of being loved in this world. It broke my heart when one of the first grade kids actually called me 'daddy', or when my grade 3s come up to me with outstretched arms and say "uppy" (when I know damned well that this school frowns upon 'the white teacher' picking up kids and I have to say 'no uppy' every time).

 But I've learned to love them without holding them, without picking them up. I've learn to take them seriously, to listen to their ideas and thoughts. I've learn to see them as my children, but also my brothers and sisters...and a huge part of me does not want to allow kids like this grow up without being loved. That is the MAIN reason I need to come back. But it's not my call, and as my wise brother Eric Hanna has reminded me...my vocation will allow me to create this kind of bond everywhere I go. I'm starting to believe that...and yet, I can never forget these kids that have such a strong need for Jesus in their lives. If they had Him, if they understood how much he loved them, perhaps, there'd be less depressed teens, less suicides -another one yesterday, though she was 25 this time...doesn't make it better..she leaves two children behind..and those two kids are now orphaned as their Dad was Jordan Trudeau, the fellow I mentioned in an earlier blog who died in prison). There is so much hardship in this place...no kid should ever be exposed to that on their own. They need spirituality to survive the crazy world they live in. Maybe that's my role in this life...to bring hope to the hopeless, and to bring God's light to those who sit in darkness.
That would make for a wonderful vocation...but for now,it's First communion time!



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