This is the evening before my last class (for the time being) in Aymara. It’s amazing how quickly my mind shifts from the present to the future. When I return to Mococmoco on next week, it will already be the second week of Lent, and the rainy season will be grinding slowly to an end. I can expect lots of mud, and damp, rather cold, weather.
It has been a wonderful time here in Cochabamba. Since this is my second mini-course at Maryknoll, the faculty and staff are already like old friends, and the goodbyes this time are bittersweet. I don’t know when I’ll see them next. Jikisiñkama we say in Aymara — an open-ended goodbye that means “until we see each other again.” It’s like the Spanish, Hasta la vista. My classmates have been great, as we support each other in our struggles to speak new languages with some kind of clarity, devoid of elegance. Equally mixed in emotion is my departure from the Casa Provincial of the Daughters of Charity. To me, they have truly become kullakanakaxaxa — my sisters. With wonderful conversation, both light and serious, secular and sacred (is there a difference?), at every meal; a warm greeting when I return from class; a celebratory spirit that unites worship and life, and sometimes raucous laughter and carrying on (the annual dousing with water on the weekend before Ash Wednesday was just plain FUN!), being here has been like being at home. Going back to a house with only two of us will be another adjustment. Thank God Diego is such a warm and welcoming soul. Maybe I’ll throw a bucket of water at him when I arrive in Mocomoco to get things going again 🙂
On a different note, I have been dreaming about ministry. What am I doing here? What will I be able to contribute? Certainly, acquiring some minimum language ability and cultural sensitivity is only a beginning, but what’s next? Several recent dreams have had an impact. For those of you who don’t put any stock in this, the Bolivians like the Irish believe in the significance of dreams and spirits and fairies and the like. As an Irish missionary sister once responded to the challenge, “Sister, do you believe in spirits and fairies like these pagan people do?”: “I won’t say I do and I won’t say I don’t….but there they are!”
Back to the dreams. They were of simple conversational moments with some of the people I have already met in Mocomoco and the surrounding villages. And so, maybe that’s where it will start. I’ll struggle to provide the sacramental life which is their right, and I’ll continue to learn the ways and words of my new sisters and brothers so that eventually I’ll be able to encounter the Word of God with them. Then together, we can figure out why God has drawn me here.
I was searching for a “model” to chart my way as the future unfolds. In an article in our international journal Vincenciana, recently republished on CMGlobal.org, former Vincentian Superior General Robert P. Maloney, C.M., wrote,
Let me suggest, as a conclusion to this article, ten characteristics of the missionary priest today. There are surely many others. [For Bob, a missionary priest:]
-is a mobile evangelizer, on fire to spread the good news.
-has an international perspective, a global world-view.
-is in vital interaction with the culture of the country where he serves.
-learns the language of his people.
-is deeply rooted in the scriptures.
-is creative in confronting the needs of the poor.
-is well informed about the social teaching of the Church.
-is engaged in ongoing formation.
-is a man of God, deeply rooted in Christ.
-lives out the five missionary virtues: simplicity, humility, gentleness, self- denial, and zeal.
Bob says that, by nature, a Vincentian priest is a missionary. That feels just right. He says we are “…to breathe deeply of the missionary spirit that St. Vincent inspired in the Congregation, to let it fill our minds and hearts, and then to go. “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).[Vincentiana 44, n°6, November-December, 2000].” These ten characteristics ought to keep me busy for a while. I’ll miss my new friends in Cochabamba, as I always mis family and friends at home, but if my dreams are right, Nayar machaq amigonakax altiplanon suyt’apxitani (new friends are waiting for me on the Altiplano.)