Three years ago I was on my way to Miami, Florida for the annual Mission Conference hosted by the United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA). At the time, I had no idea what I would be getting myself in to. I was a college sophomore, had only been an intern with USCMA for two months, and had never helped on a project this large before. When we got to Miami, it was full speed ahead preparing the registration table, setting up the displays, and making sure the camera equipment was ready for the first session. Amidst all of the chaos of the conference I was able to learn a lot and meet some amazing people.
During a keynote presentation on her time in mission and about the theology of mission Sr. Madge Karecki, SSJ-TOSF shared what she called “The Eleventh Commandment”—thou shall not be comfortable. This was my first foretaste into what it was like to be a missioner.
It was here at the conference where I felt one of my first calls to mission. My time as an intern with USCMA inspired me to be a missioner and led me to Franciscan Mission Service.
Fast forward three years and I returned to the annual USCMA Mission Conference, this year held in Arlington, Virginia. This time I went to the conference not as an intern, but as one of four panelists for a workshop on Young Adults Speaking Out for Justice.
My fellow missioner-in-training, Maeve, two students from the University of Maryland, and I led the panel discussing why justice is important to us, how we have answered our gospel call to serve and speak out of justice, and how we believe young people can be invited to answer their own call. (PHOTO 3)
Prior to the workshop we attended a keynote presentation by Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. She spoke on “Living Gospel Justice from the Heart.” During her presentation she discussed how accompaniment and the call to ministry of presence are two of the main calls in the gospel that speaks to justice.
During my time as a missioner-in-training with FMS, accompaniment and ministry of presence have stood out at two of most important virtues in mission. This idea was one of the main themes during our panel. Why do I want to work for justice? Why did I become interested in service and advocating for justice? Why did I discern my call to be a missioner with FMS? I have felt the power of accompaniment and have found that my passions lie in the gospel call to go and be sent out.
I felt that power of accompaniment during a spring break mission trip to San José, Costa Rica while I was interning with USCMA. Throughout the week the children of the Monte Carmel community in San José were always present. When we were digging large piles of dirt, attempting to level the ground, they were cheering our names. When we were painting the chain link fence shiny, metallic silver, they were teaching us Spanish. After their school day, they would run to us with huge smiles on their faces and big loving hugs.
It was in these moments that I not only realized God was calling me to accompany the children I met in Costa Rica, but that they were accompanying me as well.
USCMA and its annual Mission Conference ignited a spark and desire for mission for me. It led me to become a missioner and helped cultivate my passions to speak out for justice as a young adult. Here I am today, answering my call to walk with people on their life journey knowing that they are walking with me too.