It's the middle of May, and a good time for an update. So here goes ...
Meeting on June 10
You're invited to come to an important gathering to discuss next steps! We're also asking that each person bring a snack to share. Please kindly respond so that we can plan for the evening:
Follow the Star
From Barriers To Bridges
Come for an early-evening meeting of story-telling through multimedia and creative discussion.
I'll share what's happened in this mission to Ecuador since October, and host a discussion about how each of us can get involved and follow our inspirations. We'll mix serious and fun, and there always seem to be surprises...
What: A presentation and discussion (light refreshments served)
When: Sunday, June 10, 6:30-8:00pm
Where: St. Stephen's Church, 401 Hanover St, North End, MA 02109 (Limited free parking available)
Please help me to plan!
In April, I led a group of people who attend Mass at St Anthony Shrine in Boston in a small-group retreat that gave each person the opportunity to remember, honor, and memorialize their immigration experience, through their experience of God's hand in their migration. It was a wonderful day, from about 2:30pm until 6pm in the evening, and a very moving experience for everyone. We look at the Israelites' experience in migration from Egypt through the hand of God, and how that forms the basis for their new life going forward. Then, we each have the opportunity to claim our own experience with God in migration, and come away with a shared story and a take-home memorial to honor and remember it going forward. During the retreat, what really struck me was that every one of the immigration stories was marked by great sacrifice in leaving people and places behind and making a difficult passage, for the same ultimate motive: familial love. It was amazing to see the end, as dusk was settling in, that all the pieces had come together to form these lit lanterns, that provided all the light we needed.
We are planning on meeting this weekend to discuss the next steps after giving the retreat some time to sink in. There are several possibilities, including offering the retreat to others who participate at St. Anthony's in a "pilot" form, as the leader of the Hispanic ministry at the Shrine is open to it. Likewise, there's the possibility of offering it in other parishes. There's also the possibility of continuing on together as a group doing other retreats, workshops, and social activities. In any case, each retreat experience is customized and is part of a parish "mission", one that begins with a period of accompaniment, getting to know, and enculturation. If you or a parish or community you know of might be interested, please pass it along, and feel free to contact me.
Language in Communion
I'm in the process of working out a role leading a new 12-week language ministry program at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston. It focuses on turning the language barrier, especially between Latino immigrants and native born people, into a bridge in the setting of communion in Christ. Focusing on forming language learners in the context of relationships, it parallels the dynamic of Christian discipleship. And although it focuses firstly on Spanish-speakers learning English, it opens up the door to sharing Spanish as well and creating space for meaningful, organic encounter of the English and Spanish speaking communities in the parish. I've called it for now, "Language in Communion," and we'll see if and how it develops this summer. Here is an excerpt from the proposal:
This is something that, along with the immigration retreat and other similar program, retreat, and group ministries, I have hoped to develop on the Boston side of B2B for some time now. Because there is typically an accepted, substantial division between Spanish and English speaking communities in parishes and neighborhoods - a division that is a wall toward both authentic discipleship and toward God - these ministries touch on the fundamental basis to the Christian life in parishes/communities that contain both English and Spanish speakers. They get to the root of the problem, by touching on the vast potential for new graces and horizens when we are willing to follow Jesus and step into the world of the "outsider".
ESL at Casserly House
In looking around Roslindale for some part-time work, I came across the Casserly House near Healy Field. It is a house of local ministry by the Sisters of St Joseph. The sisters are retired and there is some young lay blood now managing the house and ministries. I stopped by to get to know them, and found they have an English teaching program in a ministry environment. It's a little limited compared to what I do, but after discussing it with the new manager, it seems she is migrating it toward my own philosophy/theology in language and culture learning and sharing. It gave me enough sense of a fit to decide to volunteer once a week for 2 hours. It's a very friendly and welcoming environment, and a great assistance to many people who live nearby in Roslindale where I live. I like the "vibe" and I'm glad I went. Come check out the website here.
Return to Ecuador / Passport and Visa
Because of costs, timing, and complexity, it didn't make sense to pursue getting a short-term visa from the local Ecuadorian consul in order to return to Ecuador before Nov 1. By the time the visa would likely come through, it would only gain me at best an extra 2 months, not worth all the cost, time and hassle.
I did get my passport renewed, and so the plan is to return to Ecuador in early November. From there, I'll work with the bishop to get a 2-year religious volunteer visa.
I have general contact with people I know in Ecuador, and things have not changed much, outside of some recent problems that stem from the financial situations in Venezuela and Colombia (and Ecuador as well). I'm looking forward to returning and developing more the mission in the parish there, building on where we left off after Christmas.
I am really looking to develop visits for people from the States, so please keep that in mind as you read all of this! It's something that I want to promote more, amidst the juggling of so many things. I'm looking for people who want to take a step outside and see what I see, understand what this is all about. The only way to really do that is to come ...
New Books ... Still ... Coming
As noted in the my last update, I'm trying to reprint the first book I wrote, Flowers In Winter, and then two more sequels. The good news is that I've finished updating the Scripture passages to the New American Bible version. All that's left is to write the auxiliary texts (introductions, etc.) and format and publish online. But that takes time and in the midst of looking for part-time work and my housing situation, it falls to the back burner. But sometime before November I aim to have them all completed.
Additionally, a friend might pass along some online publishing work for me to do for some income. The work contains personal stories presented by homeless people. If it happens, it will tie in well with the same tasks I need to do for my own books.
Loss of Meir
Still grieving the loss of Sr. Meir from the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph. She'll be especially missed when I return to Ecuador. Please keep her, her family and community and the great number of people who knew her in your prayers. as everyone takes another step in Christ.
Come and See
The other day I stopped by my neighbor's apartment across the hall. It's been a while since I stopped by because we haven't crossed paths so much like before. Her husband passed away about 2 months ago, and she often now stays with her daughter. She is Russian and speaks very little English, and so conversations "in passing" are hard to sustain. But when I get time and I know she's there, I go with my Google Translator on my phone. The other day that happened, and we were able to converse back and forth. She opened up her picture albums, and we went through everything. Afterwards I showed her some of my own on my phone. We spent an hour and a half talking and sharing pictures - with the help of Google Translate! I was so glad to talk to her, and she's going to help me plant a garden on the side of the house for some homegrown food. And she certainly could use the company for a while, living alone with the memories of her husband.
I say all that because God hands us a life with many problems, and then has the guts to tell us to love our neighbor. It can seem like an extra assignment in life, a burden for us that is really only for the retired who have a lot of extra time or the heroes with superhuman energy. So we complain to God. Mostly in a passive way. We don't tell God off or share our displeasure at it, we just blow it off, become resentful, and develop an anxiety, an anger, even a hatred for anytime anything having to do with the concept of "love your neighbor". Shouldn't they be able to take care of themselves? Don't I have to take care of myself and my family first - and I have a lot to do there, I'm always behind at that. I worked for where I am now, they should too. Shouldn't Americans take care of Americans first, we've got a lot of our own problems! Passive aggressive ways to tell God He's being unreasonable.
But that is the reason why God sends His Son to attract us and invite us and lead us to put all of our own lives aside and follow him into the world of our neighbors. It's because God has given us the problems and bad and unfair stuff of life for a good reason: He's put the solutions in our neighbors. We are actually not created to be independents. The solutions are not inside of ourselves. It's through our relationships with our neighbors that everything gets resolved.
And so when we are aware of our problems and busyness and responsibilities, the things that weigh on us in life, and then we hear God say, "Love your neighbor," He's not giving us extra work.
He's giving us the solution to it all.
Because He's placed the solutions in our neighbors.