Introductions first! I was born in Baltimore, Maryland (USA) in 1949 and raised with with brother and three sisters in a quiet, church-faithful family but without the usual “roots.” We had come from grandparents immigrating from Ireland and Poland, my parents moved our home to Texas early on, far from our childhood familiar sites and memories. Like many post-World War II families, ours struggled financially. There were others of course, many neighbors like us and others who had it worse. But we grew to know them and trust our connection with them — it seemed natural that we children be taught not only to help each other but also those many others like us. Raised Catholic in strongly Baptist territory in Texas, I suppose that I always felt destined both to do something in the Church and to help the poor.
For me the vocation to be a Vincentian missioner came slowly even if it felt very natural… I entered at 14, more out of curiosity than anything, but matured and grew self-confident thanks to the simple, dedicated teachers and mentors who were my first experience of the Congregation of the Mission. It was with young high-school graduates like myself that I underwent “initial formation” as a Vincentian. Those nine years seemed intense but were no more than a start, albeit a good foundation. Soon after ordination I agreed to “try out” being a missioner in Guatemala, opening the door to friendships and experiences that would change me forever. And later…in ministry in seminaries, at our own novitiate, as pastor, teacher, student (again), and lay minister trainer… my life has been very rich with many pauses for “ongoing formation,” long since those seminary years.
CIF is my Congregation’s inter national “Center of International Formation.” CIF offers our members a special time and the resources to experience, personally and intensively, our own “roots” as successors of St. Vincent de Paul. We walk where he walked, reflect on what he did and said, and we ponder the terribly difficult settings in which he and those early “Lazarist missionaries” somehow thrived. Vincent knew well and welcomed back then (just as we can today) the grace which sustained him and the Spirit who guided his decisions.
Simply put, ongoing formation — and especially these weeks of CIF — are offered as nothing less than a moment of grace with the Lord. We are set free to question everything of our lives to this point, to let go of our busy lives for awhile, to empty-ourselves, to listen and see in new ways… and perhaps to recognize how some of Vincent’s life-changing events may be happening in our own life-journeys.
dpb: mercredi 02 mai