Saturday, October 08, 2011

A missionary in the United States

I arrived in the US in the Newark airport, late on Friday night, September 30. It was a normal set of flights, except that I got a full-body pat down at the Atlanta airport.

I spent a few days with a friend whom I’ve known since we met at Camp Don Bosco in the summer after fifth grade! He’s pastor of a church in northern New Jersey. It was a nice way to transition into the US since I didn’t have anything I had to do.

His parish was having their annual carnival; so I got to see a little of the US parish culture with snow-cones, beer, food, rides, and carnival games. No rides or games for me, but it was good to see so many people and to see so much involvement in the parish.

I took a few hours to go into Manhattan to walk around. Manhattan is a great place to walk; it’s so easy to get from one place to another without needing transport other than your two feet. It was fascinating to see so many people from so many different cultures and countries, hearing different languages.

I did stop into one “mall” by Columbus Circle (to use the bathroom); that was another culture, with a large atrium and lots of stores with expensive goods that I would never use nor have the money to buy.

Tuesday, I took the train to Philadelphia where I’m staying with a cousin while I make other visits.

A friend of another cousin invited me to speak to the seventh and eighth grade religion classes at her school. The students were attentive, especially the seventh graders who were full of questions.

One question really hit me: “When you were young did you ever think you’d be a missionary?” To be honest, I didn’t. It was only after going to New Orleans after Katrina that it became a real possibility for me.

As I spoke with the classes I also tried to share how the people in the parish of Dulce Nombre in Honduras are missionaries, evangelizing other people in their communities. One can, and should be a missionary where one lives. I hope that they got this message. We who are missionaries abroad have the privilege of doing it in a special way – but all followers of Christ have this call to mission.

Some people have said that what I’m doing in the US is “reverse mission” – but I really consider it to be just “mission.” How can I help share the Good News of Jesus with the people here, reflecting on the poor I work with in Honduras?

So far I’ve mostly had the chance to do this visiting friends and family. A dinner with the sisters at the convent where my cousin lives was a delight. A visit with an Augustinian friar who was two years behind me in grade school was like visiting a long-lost friend, even though I hardly knew him way back then. (It helps that he works with a parish that has a large concentration of Spanish speakers and that he spent eighteen years as a missionary in Japan.

Monday I head out of the Philadelphia area, first to Detroit and then to Iowa. After three retreat days, the working vacation begins: about 16 presentations in three weeks – at University of Detroit-Mercy, then in Ames at St. Thomas Aquinas and at classes in classes at Iowa State, and also some presentations at Simpson College and Loras College.

I’ll also have ample time to visit with friends – and probably eat way too much! But it’s part of my mission, even though I’m homesick for Honduras.

It’s hard to be away, especially in the light of the violence being perpetrated against the poor in the northeast part of Honduras and in light of the situation of our bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, who has to send the Vatican his letter of resignation when he turns seventy five years old November 7. Interestingly some of the opposition groups are trying to recruit him as a presidential candidate in the 2013 elections.

My home now is Honduras and I’m homesick for Santa Rosa and Dulce Nombre. But being here in the US is something I need to do – another call from God to be a missionary.

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