By Isaac Doucette
In late February, I was fortunate to participate in a week-long mission trip with six of my classmates in the San Solano Missions in Topawa, Ariz. It was a welcome reprieve from the cold Midwest winter. I felt the warmth in the weather and in the charity of others. I was excited to see what God had in store for me in Arizona.
Most of the days, when we entered the chapel, we saw people who appeared to be migrants. One morning as I was praying before Mass, I saw two people sleeping on pews. When they woke up, in my best Spanish I let them know that I am a seminarian, that Mass would start in a little bit, and that they were welcome to join us. I discovered that they knew English, which made the conversation a lot easier for me.
One of migrants decided to stay for Mass. At the sign of peace, my classmates and I each exchanged the sign of peace with this individual. A big smile grew on his face and a connection grew among all of us. It seemed to me that the universal aspect of the church was on display. I did not know where this person was headed. Back to his family or trying to find work to help his family have a better life?
This encounter served as a reminder that we are not defined by our limitations and sufferings, thanks to the cross of Jesus Christ. We need to be open to Jesus, to attach ourselves to him. That may require us to detach from other things that keep us away from Jesus. That’s something to integrate into our lives as we progress through Lent.
This experience made me think of how we could put Vision 20/20 into action. Love of God leads to love of neighbor. We have to pray and love God, relishing our identity as a child of God first, and then go to the peripheries. Evangelization is the work of God through us. We can only be fruitful evangelizers if we have a deep relationship with God.
We can go to the peripheries in the Diocese of Davenport and bear much fruit! Sometimes the peripheries are closer than we think. They may be as close as the café or soup kitchen where food is served to people living in poverty or a hospital or nursing home where people who are ill would benefit from our company. Even bicycling across the state can be a way to go to the peripheries, to bring the joy of the Gospel to others through our actions, as Bishop Thomas Zinkula did last summer.
The journey toward the peripheries begins with living the faith daily and not being afraid of our identity as a child of God. Especially at work. The largest growing segment of religious affiliation in America is defined as the “nones,” people who do not identify with a specific religion. Some of them are fallen-away Christians, namely Catholics, and they are prevalent in the workforce. The opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to others presents itself to us daily. Are we aware of these opportunities? As Lent progresses, I invite you to join me in praying for the grace of a deeper awareness of where the peripheries are and the courage to go there. Go, make disciples of all nations.
(Isaac Doucette is a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport studying at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, in Mundelein, Ill.)