Sunday, 26 June 2011

Novice Road Trip!!

There was definitely a need for discernment with this blog: I could continue writing it, because I enjoy doing so, and it connects me to many people that I love...but the tone in it is about to change dramatically. This is no longer about Wiki and the drama and joys that this communitiny brings/brought me ( until recently, I was still deeply affected by, and had regular dreams about this little town. It's quieter now, for better or worse, though the most recent one had me finding two sisters dead after they had taken a suicide pack...rather disturbing). But the key thing is that my Jesuit journey continues, with or without Wiki. Personally, I'd rather be there, but in the end, I go where I'm needed..I go where I'm missioned.

 And it seems that  where I'll be m missioned to in the Fall, is Regis College in Toronto for studies. I'm still a little fuzzy about what I'll be studying in great detail. I'd like to be able to study some English lit and writing courses, but the focus will of course be on Theology (with a bit of philosophy on the side). You may be able to discern from the tone of this blog that I'm not deeply excited about going back to studies. I dunno..I guess I kind of am. I think indifference better describes how I'm feeling about this.  I know I need to better understand my faith and the wonderful ideas that shape it before I go out and try to teach it again, and I look forward to deepening my understanding of this wonderful faith of ours even more in Toronto. Yes, I'd rather be out there in the world, bringing God's love to people with my own loving presence to them, but I think that living presence needs to be a bit more deeply rooted in intellectual stuff than it currently is. 

 In the meantime, a whole summer of activities has been upon us at the novitiate community. Right now, we're in the Denver phase of our journey. 5 of us plus our Socius drove down to Denver from Montreal. We saw a lot of America the Beautiful, but with very few stops. Kuddos to our 4 drivers for being such machines!! We made it to Indiana by the end of the first day, and we decided to stop by Michael Jackson's house in Gary. Some of the guys were a little nervous about going to this ghost town where we'd probably be the only white folks around...but in the end, not only was the house amazing to see, but some of the people who lived there came down to chat with us, and were super friendly. There's apparently a Jesuit community in Gary, but we didn't know about it, so we spent the night at a hotel.
  The next day of driving too us all the way to Nebraska, more specifically, Omaha,where we stayed at the Campus of Creighton University.I liked Omaha. Unlike Denver where we currently are...there's nice beautiful clouds once in a while! Dazzling lightning across the Nebraska sky...very nice. The downtown is very quiet..but it's quaint. And we went to watch some ceremonies for the World series of College baseball which were starting the following day at a big new stadium. Lots of people, gorgeous was nice to share this moment with the local people. And there was something kinda spiritual about the whole thing that I still can't describe. Maybe I felt like we were getting a glimpse of local life and culture, that we were connecting with these beautiful people, if only for one brief moment. dunno...but I enjoyed it and would love to return there for a visit later on in my Jesuit career!!

 The next and last day, we drove from Nebraska to Colorado (which may get it's name from the Spanish for Red Colour, which is what many settlers would have seen in arriving here, with all the Red stones). With us, about 55 other novices form across the US. It's been a daunting task to remember all their names, and I assure you that I still don't. We've had some nice dialog with many of them, but of course the focus of our presence here is the History course...actually, I wonder about that. The Jesuit history course is an important reason for our presence, but I also feel that I've share many special moments with these guys that have in some ways strenghened my vocation, my connection to the Society. So I wonder sometime if the course really is my main priority here..if creating a communion with these other men may not be an even bigger priority!!
  Finally, I can proudly say that I have climbed the Rockies!! Unfortunately, as I gloat about having climbed the rockies,I need to be honest and say that I didn't quite get to the top. We did an expedition on Saturday -waking up at 5:30 am to get to our starting point at a reasonable hour-. There were about 16 of us -including Erik and Marc from Montreal, the two only priests/formators on the hike-  that were going to try to climb a 14000 feet peek. Well..I made it to about 13000 feet. I could see the peak, and have lovely pictures of it and of the whole mountain range, but my body was telling me loud and clear that I was out of juice for this (and to get to the peak, I would have had to deal with a very long climb that was exhausting the heck out of me already!). So one of my novice brothers and I quit near the end, and headed back down. There was one more American novice who couldn't make it to the top...everyone else did, some paying a rather steep price for it with major migraines and sickness waiting for them on the way down and even after the hike. I really am looking forward to putting up some of my pics from the mountains...they look a little like the ones I took in Vancouver the summer before I entered, except, this time, I actually got there on my own, without some kind of transportation as I did in Vancouver (Whistler).
  I believe that's all I got for now. I will confess that I've lost some of my passion for writing these days..could be because I'm so focused on the work that lies ahead. I'll try to reconnect with that in the days ahead!! I owe it to myself, and to those who do enjoy these!!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Roamin Catholic

Deep breaths...
My friends, this is by far the most ACTIVE Summer I've had probably in my life. I got back from Wiki...what...2 weeks ago? Well, since then, I've been to Toronto for Ordinations, to St Sauveur for an 8 day retreat, and tomorrow I am leaving for Denver Colorado for an 30 day class...after which I'll be in Midland for the Jesuit Congress. Then I'm back in the Manitoulin Area for a 6 day Villa days with my fellow Jesuits scholastic -I'm not going to be a Scholastic in the Society of Jesus as I plan to become a Brother this August, but the other scholastics are my brothers, my peers and my friends!!-. Anyways, we don't stop for breath much this summer it seems...which is both good and bad. It's good because I get to see lots of pretty parts of our continent and to meet the American Novices in Denver as we plunge into Jesuit History!! Not so fun that there's not more stability in my summer...I miss my students, my best friend (Claire!! Love you!!) and my family very much and would love to spend more time emailing or calling them. We have a lot of big changes ahead of us in the Fall, and it would have been nice to take in the beauty of Montreal a little before leaving it.
 Surprisingly, I'm not feeling the pain of leaving this beautiful city, nor the sadness of not being close to my kids in Wiki. I'm feeling at peace. We just came back from an 8 day retreat that really centered me on the importance of Jesus as a friend that I needed to get to know better..and not only did I walk with him, but I allowed him to walk with me in a way that was very touching. He's got a lot to teach us I guess!!
 I hope to be able to write more of these blogs this summer!!


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Final weeks and days: reflecting on Wiki

Although I am now back in Montreal, the memory of Wiki still remains quite strongly with me. Especially in my dream life. Not only do my kids feature in many of my dreams, but I'm also getting less pleasant dreams that involves the suicide of teenagers that keep me up at night sometimes. Perhaps this is an expression of the grip that Wiki will always have on me. Even if there are people who suffer more on this big planet than the people in Wiki, there are few places that I feel more called to live than in Wiki these days!! But now, I have to go back and continue the story that I left off with from the previous blog:
Going back to the depression I felt after the Services on First Communion's funny how my stay here both started and ended with this feeling of depression. They were very two very different levels of it of course.
The one I felt after a few days here was quite powerful, and borderline frightening:One morning in particular was especially frightful... I woke up in the morning, and was unable to get out of bed.There was this rather loud voice in my head proclaiming how I was being useless here and was wasting my time not just in Wiki, but in religious life in general. I mean, obviously, much of that had to do with the fact that I was 'settling in', not working on any projects, but also being overwhelmed of having to walk in the shoes/shadows of other great novices before me (more on that later)
It was through prayer, and a lot of it too, that I would get over this phase, and with time, would learn to be confident, and comfortable of the things I could contribute here in Wiki on my own term, without feeling pressured to imitate  what any of the other guys had done when they were here. That would take a while, but it was one of the most liberating feelings in the world once it did come!!
  But the depression I felt on 1st Communion Sunday was a different kind. Not as aggressive maybe. It was almost like quiet sadness over the fact that I would be leaving I had mentioned, there was also this feeling of being excluded from the other celebrations of the day, but that was not a big deal in retrospect and I already explained why in the previous blog, though for a few days, I just assumed I was sad at being excluded yet again here in Wiki.
   After a day of binging with movies and junk food -which I did during the rest of  that Sunday- I slowly emerged with a different perspective on the issue: I wasn't depressed for any other reason that I felt that I was leaving these kids behind. When I tried to express this to the community at our meeting on Monday, I wept pretty intensely for the first time since I had been in Wiki. The one thing that sticks out for me in Wiki is that these kids aren't all well surrounded by loving families, and for some of them, I feel like I  was the closest thing they had to someone who cared about them with all his heart (I'm sure that isn't totally true..but it's what it felt like, and  at the same time, with all the broken families here, I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of a warm loving environment is one of the things that leads some of these kids on such a bad path after a while).
 I guess, you may say this is me having a Messiah complex...wanting to save these kids from their hardships. But as one wise man reminded me, that's not my vocation as a Jesuit. I'm called to love unconditionally, but not to be attached, because one never knows where the spirit will lead me. Well, that's going to be hard for me. I get attached easily, especially to kids. that's what I keep telling people about my experience: If I had gotten attached to the kids, but had not felt that the attachment was mutual, then I would have moved on somehow. but everywhere I went, if some of the kids saw me, they'd wave frantically or call after me. One even gasped with excitement  when she bumped into me at the market one day! I guess it's safe to say that all this attention got to my head..completely. Maybe that's part of the danger with this vocation to Wiki I feel I have. I like it here because I feel more loved than the novitiate, or any other Jesuit community for that matter.

   Despite this, I can't forget one basic thing that draws me back to Wiki: No one  (no Jesuit) wants to be sent here (with a few exceptions!) and rightfully so. This is a difficult environment. Lonely, isolated and at times, very cold -both in terms of weather, and in terms of the reception we get from the community- . For we Jesuits who are trained to live in community and to dedicate ourselves for the well being of all who are in it,this kind of life is almost contrary to our vocation that is focused on helping all souls, and serving a large number of people. .But our vocation also has another aspect: We basically go where no one else will. Historically, this has  been true with Jesuits going to many far off places to spread the love of God. And it was true in Manitoulin as well...the first men sent here were indeed sacrificing their lives for the well being of this small community. I personally feel that it would not be much of a sacrifice. I'd be far from my friends and family, true, but I would be with others that I love as much as my friends and family back home. Others who perhaps need to be reminded what it's like to be loved unconditionally.
  I was reminded of this on one of my last days in Wiki. Not long after Kristen Jackson committed suicide, another woman, Julie Trudeau also ended her life. She was a bit older (25), but her death was no less tragic. those of you who have been reading this blog will remember that I spoke of a Jordan trudeau who had been murdered while in prison, leaving his wife and 2 kids behind. Julia was his wife. Those kids were now without mother or father. And yet, as sad as all this was, what grieved me was this little boy that I met during the wake. Everyone I spoke to -kids and adults- told me he was like a little devil child that would probably end up in prison some day (how one can say that about an 8 year old in grade 2 is beyond me). And I could see he was a feisty one..but somehow, I also inspired some gentleness in him. He (along with two other girls) joined me for evening mass and was so well behaved. Later that evening, during the wake, I saw him walking around and looking sad...I was in the Church during the wake, and I beckoned him to come sit with me. He came, cuddled against me, and started sharing that he was sad because the other -bigger- kids were always picking on him. At that moment, this boy was not a trouble maker or a future criminal for me..he was a little boy with a lot of pain around growing up. He was a little boy that needed some attention and love. there seems to be a lot of kids like that in Wiki.
  Maybe that is why I was so quick to point out to our provincial that even though not many Jesuits want to be sent here, I felt that this was about to change, both with me, and with others. We understand the need here...and it's not a need that is greater than starving children in Africa or homeless ones in Haiti...but it's our country's need rather than some other one. I don't feel at all called to doing missionary work abroad when there is so much work
to be done in our own country..but I guess, as usual, it's hard for me to pronounce myself confidently on the matter. Things could change.
However, if things do change, I do hope that I remember that little boy in Wiki who touched me so much; That I remember the members of the community - even if they were few in numbers- who welcomed me as if I were a son (one of the DOS said she saw me as a son on my last day in Wiki, and I pretty much lost it!!) and who have so much to teach me.  That I lovingly remember all these kids that I was so dedicated to during these 4 months, and that I would love to see grow old. I'm not allowed to limit my vocation to just one place, and I will not do so. However, nor can I allow myself to forget that place, and whatever the Good Lord has in store for me in the future, I hope I will always have time for this community and all it has to offer!

 God bless Wiki

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

First Communion Sunday Part 2

My really  belated account of First Communion celebration, part doos:
What a day! What a wonderful experience of ministry this was! I actually have some pics from the whole celebration, which can be seen on Fb, though I was limited in my picture taking as I was working during the Mass. It started in Kaboni at 9am. I originally had only 2 or 3 kids on my list who would be receiving First communion there, but in the end, there was 8-9 of them that came, including the lovely Juliana and Deborah Lynn who, are already quite naturally beautiful, were even more so as they were all dressed up like mini brides. When I look back upon it, I'm greatful at how much smaller this service was. It was much more easy to manage 9 kids than it would be to manage 40 of them at Holy Cross. Mind you, some of the kids weren't getting the concept of First communion, as they put the Host in their pockets after receiving it!! I don't think any of my students did this..I told them so many times what they needed to do during 1st communion and how to do it!! This was a student from out of town whose parents wanted him to receive the Sacrament  in Wiki!
( In case you still doubted that there was some prestige around Wiki, this will prove to you that it's there. Some actually came from Sudbury, which is a million times bigger -and has more Churches- than Wiki, but it doesn't have the same special connection to the reserve I guess!!-.)
  The one gratifying factor about Kaboni was that I was able to witness first hand the appreciation of the students for the work I put in to making the certificate. One in particular, Juliana came up to me and just  quietly stood next to me, pointing at her certificate and smiled...I don't know why, but THAT made my day.

 We of course knew that Holy Cross was going to be a little, to say the least. Holy Cross is the Church next to rectory, and it's the 'prestigious' Church in town. It's the one everyone wants to get married in, the one most people get their kids baptized in, and the most sought after for funerals -even though some of the other Churches are more convenient for those!-. In fact, it would have made more sense for some of the families to bring their kids to 1st communion at either Kaboni or Buzwah -the two other major Church. There's a 3rd one that only gets used once in a while in South Bay-.However, most families opted for HC, which was fine by Doug... less work for him!!
  Anyways, the drive from Kaboni to HC is usualy close to 25 minutes...I feel Doug did it in less time that Sunday. And it was a good thing too!! By the time we got back home, it was just barely past 10am, and some of the students and their families were already arriving!! Shalayna and Novaleigh -two of students I know a little better...see kids...that's what you get when you answer my questions in class..I end up remembering your names!!- of course all primped up. I had originally just waved at them and kept on walking to the rectory, assuming they would want to be with their families...but Shalayna came running after me. I tell you, if I ever doubt again how much of an impact I had on some of these children, I'll have to remember this little detail and many others that have taken place over the past week to remind me how attached some of these kids are to me!! But I digress!
  Organizing the kids to enter the Church was interesting, and not half as chaotic as it had been with Confirmation.I gathered them all in the hall across the Church -Jananseau hall..I think that's how you spell it- and once there,  I put on a more playful role, calling up the kids one after the other to line up in a sportscaster's voice, which amused both kids and parents!! Of course, all that was in vain. I had them line up alphabetically so that I could have no trouble handing out certificates to them in the end (my certificates were organized alphabetically), but they actually were going to be walking in two by two, boy and my alphabetical thing was all for naught, which meant that handing out the certificates to them would be crazy and was probably the most chaotic experience I had in Wiki. -after mass, they each individually received a blessing from Doug, and came to get a cross, and a certificate from me and one of the teachers- ..but now I'm breaking the perfect chronology of this blog and am talking about an event that happened at the end...

 Coming out of the Jananseau hall with the kids was cute. All the girls were dressed in beautiful dresses with short sleeves, and they all complained in unison about the frigidly cold Spring Wiki day the moment they stepped out!! But the rest was smooth. They lined up perfectly. Once in the Church, I had to organize them a little as to where to sit..but it went smoothly. I had asked both teachers to read. One refused to, and the other forgot his glasses, so that didn't work Friend Cindy read. hmm...I guess the rest was kind of boring and not worth blogging. I mean, it was exciting to be in the see all my kids lined up perfectly in their beautiful see how quickly they responded to me when I asked them to come up and bring the gifts with me -I think half the kids wanted to come up with me for this!!- etc...

 At the end of the hour or so that it took to have these boys and girls take their first communion, there was a lovely sense of accomplishment..but also sadness. I originally thought the sadness was mostly due to the fact that I had not been invited to any of the post 1st communion parties as I had half hoped -this is Wiki after all...I was not a member of the community, and I should not even have half hoped for this-  but I would soon realize there was a deeper reason for this depression. That will be the subject of my last blog concerning the subject of this beautiful reserve and the crazily beautiful experience I had there.