Thursday, 24 March 2011

A growing ministry

I am slowly consenting to this 'posting a blog without pictures' business. It frustrates me because there are stories to be told that need immages, and I do have the immages...just not the computer to process them so well. At the same time, my own experience of Wiki is not limited to a few good stories! And so, on I blog!

  Some reflections on how my ministry's been shaped by one man's misfortunes: In a nutshell, Fr Doug is rather ill these days, and I've had to step up to the plate to help others in the community  making sure this parish continues to function as beautifully as ever. Sometimes, this simply involves answering the phone, helping people obtain certain documents, or just practicing a ministry of presence by being in the office as much as I can to deal with the people that walk in here. However the challenge in the past week has been Communion Service. I actually did not expect this would be one of the tasks I'd be required to do in Wiki, and was a little uncomfortable around having to do it at first. However, since last week, that all changed. I presided over a few services during the week -always with a homily improvised on the spot, another task I never thought I'd be comfortable doing that I have now excelled at according to parishioners!- and was surprise to see how much I enjoyed the experience. It's prayerful (kind of like this blog!); it's a wonderful act of communion with the community;and it gives me a tremendous sense of peace to contribute something to the community, while receiving something from them at the same time.
  Then end result of all these spiritual gifts that I receive everytime I celebrate a communion service is that many of the fears, trepeditations, and reluctances that I had around this aspect of the ministry have slowly faded away and have been replaced by a genuine confidence and a joy at being able to add this very beautiful layer to the ministry of presence I try to live in Wiki.

 Now some of you may be thinking " you DO have a desire to celebrate the Sacraments and are therefore more open to the option of  becoming a Priest?" Ok, maybe most of you reading this blog respect my vocation enough to not say stuff like that, but I will still adress the question, since I find it's a valid point, and in a way, there is some truth to it. I am saying that this experience has taught me that I'm not as closed minded to the possibility of celebrating the Sacraments as I once thought. And I have indeed been  absolutely honored that this community would trust me enough to fill in for Fr Doug during his (as of today, still ongoing) period of convalescence, and have been downright extatic about all the compliments I've received from parishioners(" Great'd make a good priest!!" was not my favorit, but there were countless others!).
   There is however, one thing that has not changed: As I've mentioned earlier, what is essential to me is the ministry of presence. That is not to say that Priests can't live that presence -I know many do!- but I feel that not being attached to pastoral duties in this parish, has given me that freedom to be even more present to the community in a very personal way...and that is a freedom that I've always understood as being a fundemental part of my own ministry. I've tried to phrase this as diplomatically as I could...I expect those who read these blogs to be brutally honest with me and tell me I'm out of line if I am or whatever...but I stand by what I've said. I know I'd make a great priest....and I'd probably make a great husband and father too..doesn't mean I'll give up all the work I've been doing thus far just to prove that to myself or anyone else!! The only thing I have to prove is that God's love is growing in me everyday as a brother, and I like the direction this is taking. Why change it!!?

 But to come back to my original point: What's been exciting is that my own concept of a brother's vocation has been growing  beautifully here. And my work with the kids continues for better or worse. I don't always feel like I am in the best position to be teaching these kids about the Faith, but I always seem to connect with them in a very genuine way that makes me want to finish what I've started with great love for them -even the ones who don't pay attention to me!-. I'll even come out and say it:  I can see myself doing ministry in Wiki in the future because this is a marginalized community. There is much hardship and hopelessness here, which means that there is a need for God's light and wisdom in this community, but I feel that there also much room for God's love in the hearts of many people here, even if there is a shortage of people willing to spend the time with them to help cultivate that love. I can see myself doing that and being good at it...just...not yet. For now, I give them all that I can offer. I hope it's enough...and I hope to continue to receive as much as I have both from this community, and from the Holy Spirit who tirelessly nudges me on and give me joy in this place.
 On that note...praise be to God!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wiki in the Dark: A brief account of my faith life in Wiki

I apologize for the lack of entries. I was ambitious enough to believe that I would need good photos to go with each one my entries, which partially explains the delay in entry writing. But I'm slowly resigning myself to the fact that my camera can't keep up with the events of my ministry I'll have to fake it!!

 My prayer life in Wiki has been quite rich . As I've mentioned in previous entries, there is a beautiful spirituality that accompanies the 'hardship' that this community witnesses on a regular basis, a spirituality that I have been deeply moved and inspired by. As a side note, I will explain that I use the word hardship with caution: I don't think people in Wiki see more death or suffering than any other community in this country. However everyone is so close here, that every death, every example of hardship that occurs, seems to affect everyone in the community. In most communities on this continent, too much exposure to the darkness this world has to offer would kill people's faith. Here, it only strenghtens it,and  makes them realize that they can't overcome that darkness without without the support of the light of God's love.

 Besides being tremendously inspired by the community's faith, my own prayer life has focussed much on our Lady, thanks to a poster that Santiago left behind last year.

The best way I can describe it is that Our Lady of Guadaloupe completely drew me in during prayer.  See ever since I've entered Novitiate, most of my examen prayers had been honest and genuine, but a little routine, and sometimes even lifeless: I would 'tell' Jesus about my day and try to think of something spiritual about the events that shaped it. In this case,  I wasn't telling Our Lady anything..she invited me into a dialog, where I feel like...there was another  perspective being offered about my day. If for example I would say something like "Nothing major happened today" she would turn around and say "are you sure? Because I saw you reach out to kids, help seniors, and bring joy into many people's lives today. I'd say that was something major!" She in short, does not allow me to me to wallow in this self criticism as I usualy adopt when I reflect upon my days. She helps me to dig deep in the seemingly unexciting events of my days to expose both the struggles, and the beauty that mark my walk with Christ.

  This past Sunday, you might say that I faced another aspect of this type of praying: The power went out in Wiki. At first I was kind of restless. I had been working on a outline for my class the following day, and was anxious to get this done so I could enjoy my Sunday evening (which in Wiki, basically means watching movies on the movie channel! Can I get a Woot Woot!!!?) But something about a power outtage really brings you back to the meaninful things in life. Not only was there no tv or internet or radio...I couldn't even read anymore because it was getting darker by the minute. By the time night time had settled in, I felt moved to just, observe Wiki in the dark. It was actually quite beautiful to just look at the night sky envelopping the little  town, or to watch how the lights of the cars coming up the road affected the landscape so much more now that the street lights and all the other lights were out.

 Eventually, I snapped out of this prayerfull reverie, and I felt called to prayer.  I sat in our Chapel with the blessed Sacrament for probably a half  hour. Maybe less. What was striking was that, without all the distractions around me, my mind, and my spirit were so much more at peace. And again, in my prayer, I did not do all the talking. God was able to share with me in a very direct way.  Again, this is hard to describe, but the best way I can explain it is that God helped me understand that this 'imposed' freedom from all the technological distractions that fill my days, was an opportunity to reflect on how good that freedom felt, how it actually brought me closer to God. How I have come to depend a little too much on those distractions to deal with the isolation and loneliness of Wiki. How perhaps, in the end, this was a very real, and tangible invitation to come back to the source of my joy in this life.

Makes sense...the challenge is that knowing this and living it though...not so easy!
Un jour a la fois!!
Something like that (-;

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Shrove Tuesday and other stuff

Wow, the days sure are going by quickly here.  Shrove Tuesday in Wiki has come and gone.
Tuesday was actually a rare occasion in the rectory, where there was a constant stream of people -young and old- coming in an out of the building I live in to help prepare or purchase  food for Shrove Tuesday! I helped with some of the food preperation this morning, which was a nice experience. It was nice to hang around with these wonderful women even for just a little bit! In honor of  International Women's day that we just celebrated this week, I feel inspired to pay a tribute to the women of this community!! 

 I could talk about the DOS- essentially, though not exactly women deacon-. They on their own are extraordinary women who lead prayer services and wakes around Wiki. The religious life of this community may not be what it is without them. But even besides the 6 women who perform that role beautifully on the Island (3 of them are the core group. The others I don't see as much), there's a slew of others who are heavily involved in raising money for the parish, organizing prayer groups, translating Biblical texts in the language,  and various other activities. I've befriended a few of these women here, and I can't help but stand in awe at all of them. They, more than anyone else I've met here are a beacon of hope in this community. There's a lot of bad news and sad stories that emerge from Wiki. It would be hard for anyone to have the cahones to continue working for a better community in such an environment..but you wouldn't know by watching these women commit themselves (without even thinking twice) to hundreds of groups and activities and seminars  that work at bettering community life. In my humble opinion, they are the life, not just of the parish, but of the entire Wiki community!

 On a non Shrove Tuesday note: My classes are going very well. I find my grade 8s a challenge to say the least -you would too when only 1/4 of the students actually listen to you!!- but the dozen or so  people who listen to me are very engaging, so I do enjoy them very much!! Besides them, I now pretty much have my hands full with the visits to the nursing home, 5 other classes at the Junior school and the occasional fun projects with the Gym teacher!! I had a challenging week last week, but I think things are looking up. I was deeply moved this week after my 2nd class with the Grade 3s. I knew the students would be off next week, so I wished them all a wonderful vacation and was getting ready to leave...but many of them came to me and gave me great big hugs. It made my day to say the least!!

 Signing off from Wiki!!
 Happy Lenten season to all of you!!