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Archive for June, 2011

Seekers

Do you ever have moments when you know you are in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing, living in the flow of grace and suddenly, gratefully, aware of it? Last weekend I had many of those moments while on retreat with a group of young adults from the Diocese of El Paso. We were at the San Patricio Retreat Center in south-central New Mexico for a “Seekers’ Retreat” (see www.charisministries.org)  Having the retreat on the weekend of Pentecost added a special dimension to the reflections on what “charis” or “grace” each participant was seeking in their life.

The team of young adults had been preparing talks, music, liturgies and prayer experiences throughout the Easter season. The energy, enthusiasm and depth of reflection they brought to this ministry for their peers never ceased to amaze me. They not only carved out time from their very busy schedules to come to weekly planning meetings but it was so evident from their sharing that they live their faith every day and are capable of mining their experiences of seeking God’s presence as examples for others. What incredible ministries they provide for the people of God! They serve immigrants, handicapped children, soldiers, and people in need of legal assistance.  They serve on parish councils and in Catholic schools. They have given years of volunteer service in the U.S. and abroad. It is no wonder that they would step up to the plate when asked to serve on this retreat team.

My friend, Fr. Bill Morton, also served on the retreat team.  A member of the missionary Society of St. Columban, Bill is accustomed to crossing cultures in mission – which is what we Baby-Boomers do when we serve these next generations of Catholics. All of us were grateful for the gift of having a priest with us for the entire weekend (as well as during the preparation of the talks for the retreat). Bill’s sacramental ministry, teaching on the Ignatian examen and availability for spiritual direction really rounded out our retreat experience.

And me? I was able to watch the entire ensemble in action from the vantage point of the kitchen!  I had volunteered to prepare meals for the retreat because I enjoy planning menus and cooking for medium-size crowds like this one. The disproportionately large number of men on the retreat made it a bit more challenging  but I was up for it. My brother has always said that our family motto is “Until we eat again!” and that was truly the situation during the retreat. I stayed a couple of steps ahead of the hungry “Seekers” and still had time to be available for pastoral counseling and the group activities.

The closing liturgy on Pentecost Sunday included a special blessing in which each participant, team members and retreatants, asked for the gift (charis) they needed to continue moving forward in faith. How many of the young adults asked for the gift of courage!  Reflecting on the frequency of that request, I think I understand why it might be so necessary.  Like the disciples huddled in the upper room after Jesus had ascended into heaven, these young believers face a world that can feel overwhelming and hostile to the Gospel message. They know that they are called to respond to needs far beyond their capacities.  Courage!

I feel blessed to be able to accompany them in my ministry, to en-courage them, to tell them that this seeker’s journey has been amazing.  I have had every gift I have ever needed, and I have never traveled alone because the One whom I was seeking was always seeking me.

 

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On May 31, the Feast of the Visitation,  Sister Peggy and I went to La Clinica Guadalupana.  By the grace of God, the generosity of people concerned about access to healthcare in the colonias and more miracles than we could count, we started the clinic fifteen years ago. The vision of the clinic was the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe: to create a space of healing and welcome for all people but especially the most marginalized and forgotten.  We felt called to provide basic medical services with a strong emphasis on prevention of disease, and to make that care available regardless of ability to pay.  We tried to keep everything as simple as possible which was quite a challenge given the realities the business of healthcare.

I left the clinic three years ago when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Peggy left a year later and the clinic has been closed for re-organization for almost one year.  Because the need for services is as great as ever, we are confident that in God’s Providence the doors will soon be open again under the auspices of another larger community health center.

Peggy and I were there to pick up a few items with sentimental value and supplies that we can use in our ministry to handicapped children in Mexico.  Of course everything we saw, from the scale to weigh patients to the large rosary on the exam room wall, had sentimental value.  The memories of so many people and events whispered around each corner. “Do you remember when this washer/dryer was donated?” “Look! There are two dogs laying under the trees…just like always.  People are still dumping their pets in the desert.”  Every drawer and cupboard was full of stories.

It is hard to leave a place you love- even when you know that the time is right- even when you know that you gave all you had to give.  We trust that someone else will have the skills and resources to take it to the next level.  We did what God asked us to do: to bring healthcare where there was none and where no one else wanted to go. 

The Mexican elder tree in the front of the clinic had been cut down. It was so beautiful and fragrant in its day.  But I noticed that a good strong shoot is coming from the dead stump.  It reminded me that this is God’s way.

Driving away I gave thanks for each patient and every co-worker.  And as I had done so many evenings as I left the clinic I prayed a blessing and entrusted each one to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s tender care.  There was no avoiding the sting of tears, the aching heart, the deep awareness that what once was will not be again.  My heart holds all the stories of healing that happened within those walls.  Gratitude is the only response that soothes: profound gratitude for those who were part of the journey of faith and service that was La Clinica Guadalupana.

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