After the Aussie Camino my South Australia experience continued from Penola onto Adelaide. This blog post is a wrap up of my immersion experience in South Australia. I hope to share some of my experiences, gleanings and a touch of malarkey from my journey over the past 2 months.
Because I’m now in my second year of the Emmaus Journey (Novitiate), I am going out on immersion experiences (while continuing to study theology via distance). I am being immersed in various ministries to learn about what Sisters are doing in working environments, in their communities and how this contributes to society. This facilitates my discernment regarding what I feel called to, and what area I might work in or study further.
Pastoral care is something that I feel strongly called to, and this is lived out in many forms. Examples include; care for the elderly in nursing homes, chaplaincy in schools or prisons, social work, parish work. I was able to have some immersion with care for the elderly, spending time with sisters who contribute to community, social justice (anti nuclear dump), deaf community, and an experience within a parish environment.
Reverence for dignity in all forms of life is crucial. Spending time in our Flora MacDonald Aged Care Centre brought home my belief that viewing life from the eyes of another is essential. I find it easy to bounce at pace from one thing to another. But, when surrounded by walkers, wheelchairs and slow moving shuffling of feet (often in very comfy looking slippers), I was reminded that not everyone moves as fast as me. Being surrounded by slowness reminded me to put on the eyes of the other.
One of the experiences that really stayed with me was an interaction with a lovely man called Brian. After doing a simple reading at mass Brian came up to me and took my hand; with his bushy grey eyebrows and slow gentle movement I was drawn into his kind eyes. He took a slow breath, squeezed my hand gently and said “thank you, you just don’t know what that did for me.” We continued to talk, and I’m pretty sure I slowly feel in love with his tenderness… there is love, smacking you in the face when you least expect it. My eyes were opened again to the surprising view of the other through love.
The love that sisters give out also struck me through social justice causes such as passionate action against the proposed Nuclear Dump in the Flinders Ranges (it’s purely ludicrous). Sisters are also active for other minorities such as Aboriginal communities and the Deaf community. I was able to attend a Mass for the Deaf community (with sign language through the entire Mass), and there was also a book launch for a fantastic new book called The Silent Book written by Sr Bernadette Wallis. And attending an Aboriginal community Mass was a highlight.
Vinnies also operates a van service that prepares and gives food to people that happen to be homeless. I was able to help out with 'Fred's Van'. Being able to give a bit of dignity to those in need was many things. It didn't feel good because I wish they were not homeless, it wasn't self serving because I wasn't there for me; but it did feel like I was there for God, as the hands for God, and that gives me a sense of peace.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” ~ St Teresa of Avila
The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart were founded in the rural town of Penola. Rural ministry has been a core focus of the Congregation since it was founded in 1866. So, it was very fitting for me to have a parish ministry experience in a small country town (Bordertown). This experience was more energising and life-giving than I could have imagined. There certainly were a few surprises such as receiving a bear hug from a large and lovely pink shirted local man. The doors that opened up in Bordertown were ineffable and surprising, the energy that increased in my spirit and the sense of ‘home’ I felt there is a sure sign that rural parish work is something that requires more discernment time.
While in Bordertown I was interviewed for the 5TCB FM Christian Half Hour with our wonderful Sr Elizabeth. Please listen to the recording by clicking on the Play arrow below (note; it may take a minute or two to load).
I'm now back in Sydney for the next 2 months and am transitioning gently into life here. Transition is certainly part of Consecrated Life, and not an easy part. Letting go of my own ideals for the mission of God, and the 'big picture' of this journey is front and center of my soul. Even though I do miss my new South Australian connections, there is gratitude through sadness. I have many happy memories to carry with me, plus the hugs, smiles, and "O, I really missed you" comments received from some beautiful souls in Sydney have given me a lift over past week. Gratitude certainly bubbles up from all directions when I open my eyes to see it. Wisdom also says "It's not goodbye, it's only see you later."
Upon reflection, I can see that I had one thing (openness) at the forefront of my mind for this South Australian leg of my Emmaus Journey. Sometimes it's scary entering into these new situations; it can be confusing and requires a kind of letting go that can only come through not relying on your own understanding, but your heartfelt trust in God. Remaining open requires a leap of faith. Letting go of the past, of fears, and of what my ideals might be has opened the door for the spirit of God to blow through my soul. The surprising spirit gifts love in many forms. Letting go and letting God is the Ruah of my life.
As it is written in John 15:16 "You did not choose me but I chose you." I guess my challenge remains in remembering that, remembering to remain open, to have courage, to kick fear out the back door and let love blow through the front door. One day, one act of love, one breeze at a time...