Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Hannah Hagarty shares her discernment of “What comes next?” following the end of her service with FMS. In her final blog, Hannah candidly opens up about her approaches in trusting God with her steps moving forward.
My time serving as a Franciscan Mission Service Overseas Lay Missioner (FMSOLM) is coming to an end. I have spent some time reflecting on my 2.5 years as a missioner. My reflection took me back to my Discernment Days interviews in 2018. At that time, FMS had a placement in Guatemala. I have a particular love for Central America; my history of medical mission trips with my family to El Salvador holds a large piece of my heart and I was thrilled for the potential opportunity to live in a culture where I grew up serving. When I was interviewing for FMS, I remember sitting in the library of the Casa San Salvador in Washington D.C. with Emily Norton, the Programs Director (and my future boss). I asked Emily, “What do you do with missioners who go to their country placements, fall in love, and don’t want to come back? Can that happen?” She just laughed and said something to the effect of, “We will cross that bridge when we come to it”.
Well, three years later, I am sitting as an FMSOLM in JAMAICA, and we’ve come to the bridge. We’ve arrived, and I’m crossing it.
I have learned a lot about myself while living in Jamaica, more in the last 7 months than I have ever in my life. This discernment process has truly been a transformative experience for me. I realized with the help of my spiritual director that I knew what I wanted to do. I just had a hard time saying it out loud, making it real. I came to realize that I have wanted to stay in Jamaica since the beginning of my time on mission. As I slowly, hesitantly began to share this realization with my loved ones the past few months, it seems that no one was surprised.
I deeply questioned what had stopped me from sharing my decision right away. Why was I so hesitant? Why? Because I am a people-pleasing enneagram 2. I didn’t want to hurt my American friends and family by deciding to stay in Jamaica. I didn’t want to raise false hopes among my Jamaican co-workers and the children I serve if residency here did not work out.
Ultimately I need to do what I want to do, not what I believe others want me to do – a daunting task for any type 2. I have often been complimented on my ability to “bloom where I am planted.” It is a gift that I have. My initial FMS dream was to bloom in Guatemala or Bolivia. The FMS mutual discernment process led me to realize God had prepared a place for me in his Jamaican garden. Now I have the opportunity to let my roots grow even deeper. Here I will bloom bigger and brighter than ever before.
My reflection about life on mission included revisiting the reflection I wrote about six months ago. My blog described the discernment process about staying in Jamaica or returning to the US, returning to school for a master’s degree, or getting a job. You can read it here if you’d like!
Around the time I was writing that blog, I entered into dialogue with the principal at Alvernia Prep. She and I have developed a nice friendship. I was coming to her for advice about when to wrap up my FMS commitment. My 2 year term would end in December. I was given the option to extend 6 more months, making up for time lost due to COVID-19. Toward the end of our conversation, she asked, “Well, what if I offered you a job? Would you stay in Jamaica? You have a job here as soon as I can hire you. I don’t want to think about what this school would be like without your presence here.”
Right then, I realized that my dream of staying on this island could become a reality. I never looked back. We are still sorting out details, but everything seems to be falling into place quite nicely.
For the 2021-2022 school year, I will be employed at Alvernia Preparatory School as the Guidance Counselor and IT consultant. I have loved, lived, and served in this school for the last two years. I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue to work with the families, students, and staff at this institution. I have been adopted into the Alvernia family as “Auntie Hannah” and I don’t want to be anywhere else.
The sisters have graciously agreed to continue allowing me to “cotch” on the second floor of Immaculate Conception Convent until I have more fully established myself as a Jamaican resident. The FMS missioners will continue to live here when they are placed in Jamaica. This will allow me to stay connected to the FMS community. I am excited to show the new missioners around, share my connections, show them the ropes to public transportation, introduce ministry sites, and be a resource for them in a big, new, foreign city.
I do not know how long I will be here in Jamaica. I do know that for now, it feels right. I want to bloom here. I am so blessed. I know in my heart I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, and it is absolutely the best feeling in the world. I will continue living out a Franciscan lifestyle of presence, accompaniment, and love surrounded by my Jamaican family. One love.