Develop A True Shepherd's Heart - A Heart Like Christ's
This summer, Jeff Ellis and I were given the assignment to take part in a six-week Spanish language and cultural immersion program at the Benedictine Priorato y Colgeio San José, located in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. During these weeks, we lived with the small but vibrant Benedictine community as well as other seminarians from the United States. Each day we received one-on-one instruction with a tutor in Spanish grammar and usage as well as on the culture, customs and traditions of the Guatemalan people and the Church in Central and South America. While I was initially apprehensive when Fr. Galvin asked us to participate in an immersion program this summer, I quickly realized – through my prayer in preparation for this experience – that it was God who was sending me to Guatemala. As always, God provided for us in amazing ways! The experience was extremely enriching and has helped me to deepen my commitment to preparing for the Priesthood and one day, to serving both our Hispanic and English-speaking communities.
There are many stories and experiences that I could tell about our time in Guatemala, but there is one in particular that I would like to share with you. When we first arrived in Guatemala and began to get to know the people and experience day-to-day life, I was immediately struck by the immense poverty which seemed to be everywhere. The challenges that the average family faces daily are staggering, and the ordinary comforts of daily life that we often take for granted in the United States are luxuries which most people will never be able to afford in Guatemala. But, while I was struck by the scale of the poverty, I was also equally – if not more profoundly – stuck by the immense joy, deep faith and the spirit of generosity which we encountered everywhere we went. Everyone, no matter how poor, was willing to give what they had to help one another, motivated out of a genuine love for their neighbor and an abiding faith in God. In addition, the joy and vitality with which the people live their Catholic faith in spite of the many difficulties they face daily, was truly inspiring.
As I have reflected on this part of my experience, I have been struck with the thought that, although we may think ourselves immune from the effects of our materialistic society, it nevertheless wields powerful influence on our perspective and what we prioritize in our lives. To counteract this influence, we must make the conscious effort each day to deepen our faith in God and in His care for us. We likewise must strive to develop a greater spirit of gratitude and generosity which will in turn help us to be truly joyful, even in the face of life's difficulties.
I am grateful to God for the opportunity to have had this experience as I begin my final two years of seminary formation. While I initially thought that I was going to Guatemala to learn Spanish, I have found that God was really calling me there to learn much more than the mechanics of language – He called me there to encounter Him more profoundly in the experiences I had and in the amazing people I met, to learn yet another facet of what it means to develop the heart of a true shepherd, following the example of Jesus.
En conclusión, quiero compartir unas palabras en español con mis hermanos latinoamericanos:
Estoy agradecido a Dios que he tenido la oportunidad de pasar seis semanas en Guatemala este verano para estudiar el idioma de español y también para conocer un poco de la cultura y las tradiciones de Centro y Suramérica. ¡Fue una experiencia increíble! Estaba sorprendido cuando yo ví la inmensa pobreza en la ciudad de Quetzaltenango donde vivíamos y en los pueblos circundantes. Pero, al mismo tiempo que la gente estaba pobre, ellos tenían un espíritu de gozo, generosidad y amor que era muy impresionante. En verdad, pienso que tienen una visión de la vida más como la de Jesús en el Evangelio cuando él dijo: "Dichosos los pobres en espíritu, porque el reino de los cielos les pertenece." (Mt 5:3).
Doy gracias a Dios por su presencia enriquecedora en nuestro diócesis y tengo muchas ganas de servir la comunidad hispana un día como sacerdote. Por favor, oren por mí y saben que todos ustedes tienen un espacio especial en mí corazón y en mis oraciones diarias también. ¡Que Dios los bendiga!