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Benedictine Encounters

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Editor’s note: Missioner Anna Klonowski reflects on times she has experienced hospitality and how she has felt moved to reflect that example in her own life.

As an FMS lay missioner, I am a proud member of a diverse, widespread, Franciscan family. I am a part of this family today largely because of my formation by another Catholic order—the Benedictines. I didn’t decide to attend the College of St. Benedict because of its Benedictine heritage, but I certainly came away with a deep respect for the Benedictine Values. They are close to my heart, and I still try to live them out in my life as a Franciscan missioner.

One value has stood out to me in my daily interactions here—hospitality. The Rule of Benedict speaks of hospitality by simply stating: “Let all…be received as Christ” (R.B. 53). During my time in Cochabamba, I have been received as if I were Christ being greeted by his loving disciples—with joy, acceptance, and warmth.

I experienced hospitality when I traveled to La Paz. I could not sleep on the overnight bus and so the next day, I was tired and badly needed to take a nap. Without thinking twice, the Franciscan priests offered me a comfortable guest room at the monastery to sleep in and a set of keys so I could come and go as I pleased.

I experience hospitality every time I return to the Maryknoll Language Institute and am greeted with a big hug from everyone I know, even though I finished language school several months ago.

I experience hospitality when I visit my host family, who still invite me over and want to know how I’m doing and what I’ve been up to, even though I no longer live in their house. My host mom’s hospitality shines through her cooking—she loves to cook and she loves for people to eat her food. When I visit, I eat as much food as I possibly can to choruses of “You don’t want more?” and “You don’t eat enough! Eat more!” In our conversations around the table, when I tell them something I am excited about, they’re excited too.

Hospitality has been present to me in so many ways here, and that has made me reflect on how I can better live out hospitality on mission.

How can my daily actions better reflect an attitude of love and openness?

How can I be more accepting of my community members and show them that they are important to me?

How can I bring joy and warmth into the time I spend playing games with the children at Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza, whose lives have been altered permanently by sexual violence?

Because of the example of hospitality set by so many people I have encountered here, these questions and more will be my guide throughout my time on mission.

Reflection question: How can you practice hospitality towards others today and receive each person as Christ?

Long-term overseas mission is a natural extension of the ideals and interests that direct Anna’s life. At the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, she connected her deep faith with her enthusiasm for social justice and women’s leadership while studying theology, Hispanic studies, and global business leadership. Anna fell even more in love with the Spanish language and Latin American culture during a semester in Xela, Guatemala. Her call to care for creation revolves around a desire to preserve the world for those who are marginalized, as well as for future generations.