Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Flying" South

Sr. Maria Elizabeth Borobia is seated at right.
In September and October, Pauline Faithways ran a series of articles on what we’ve taken to calling the “redesigning of America.” (See Sept. 28, Oct. 5, and Oct. 12.) This is a new project of the Daughters of St. Paul answering Pope John Paul’s summons to the Church in the American Hemisphere to begin thinking of ourselves, North and South, as a single continent, so as to facilitate the Church’s new evangelization in a more collaborative way. Our superior general, Sr. Antonieta Bruscato, has led the entire congregation in all 54 nations and territories where we’re located “to renew ourselves and reconfigure our communities as necessary, so as to respond to the evangelization and media needs” of those we’re called to serve, as the blog post of Oct. 5 put it.

That article also introduced readers to the four sisters from Latin America who have generously committed three years of their lives to outreach among Spanish and Portuguese speaking Hispanics here—over 43% of U.S. Catholics and growing. I thought you might like to know what the Spanish speaking contingent’s been up to.

L to R: Sr. Lily, Sr. Marta Yolanda,
Sr. Horencia, and Sr. Elizabeth Marie
In September Sr. Hortencia (Mexico) and Sr. Marta Yolanda (Argentina) left Boston with Sr. Maria Elizabeth Borobia to take up residence in Miami for further study and the first steps in this mission. Sr. Elizabeth told me this morning that they all spent the first six weeks in Miami getting acclimated and concluding their initial planning. This process included an intensive course on the cultural, political, and ecclesial ambiente in which U.S. Hispanics live, a theological survey of those models of the Church that correspond best to their reality in relation to the rest of the Church, and a study of the Church in the southeast region of the U.S. Our two newcomers are continuing to study English via the Internet. The process is “challenging but progressing,” Sr. Elizabeth said.

Sr. Marta Yolanda explains. “For me everything is a great challenge—going out, leaving behind, beginning anew, and facing a different culture. It’s not a matter of learning for the sake of learning ‘things,’ but rather of [acquiring] a great personal wealth where charity is in the midst of it all.” 
Sr. Marta Yolanda on the air with Fr. Mike Harrington,
a Pauline in the Institute of Jesus the Priest and director
of Boston's office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity

A missionary dynamo, she describes the balancing act that this love requires: “I—we—need the exercise of emptying ourselves in order to be filled. I need to make a space interiorly in order to learn; that is, to make a space without losing what I am. Only my prayer and my relationship with Jesus can sustain me and give light in order to open me up to others and discover the beauty that this country has.”

In addition to what she gathers from her formal studies, Sr. Hortencia hopes to “learn the values of the culture of the USA, for example, openness to the multicultural reality, an ability to work hard, and solidarity [expressed through] generosity.”

Sr. Hortencia serves at a book
and media display.

Sr. Elizabeth commented that they’re already implementing those studies by plunging into the Pauline mission. Their twofold aim: first, to become known and make the outreach project known and second, to provide initial formation in faith and spirituality to people through workshops and conferences and through the distribution of Pauline media materials. This weekend they’re driving to the diocese of Venice, four hours from Miami, to hold a book and media display at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church after the Sunday Masses, plus a similar one on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many people who don’t attend weekly Mass wouldn’t miss “Mama’s” feast day to save their lives! It’s a great opportunity to reach those who are, practically speaking, “unchurched.” Since the end of October, the sisters have held nine such displays. While they’re at St. Maximilian’s, the sisters will meet with the pastoral staff to plan a Bible mission in Spanish and English for next year. Depending on the module adopted by the staff, the mission will provide a longer or shorter opportunity for parishioners to become more familiar with Scripture as well as with lectio divina, a time-honored way of praying with Scripture.

They’ve made a point of approaching Catholic and interdenominational book stores in the Miami area and beyond. They’ve dropped in on more than a dozen shops in the past six weeks, including parish book stores, to show Pauline titles and to take managers’ orders. They’ve shown our titles to personnel in 25 Latino parishes, as well as in predominantly English speaking parishes that also minister to Hispanic. Finally they’ve already participated in three large-scale vocational events, sponsored by various groups. All in all, tens of thousands have already been reached through their efforts of the past six weeks. Our Sunday Visitor published an article last Friday highlighting some of the Church’s initiatives with Latinos, including those of the Daughters both in Miami and in Boston.

Besides bursting with energy, motivation, and creativity, these are women in love. Sr. Hortencia wants “the Word who becomes image, song, and reach many people and give them reason to hope in their dreams and struggles.”  Sr. Marta Yolanda’s Christmas wish list includes her desires that “St. Paul, that great saint who is little known, may be loved and liked, that people may come to love the Word more, that youth may discover the beauty of our life as consecrated [women], and that our books become bridges between them and us.” If Santa’s smart, he won’t tackle this one alone.

In the midst of their activity, the sisters are well aware of the goal held out by paragraph 13 in the Lineamenta, the workbook preparing for next year’s international synod of bishops on the new evangelization: “Migrants must not simply be evangelized but be trained themselves to be evangelizing agents.” Because their initiatives are oriented toward educating people both by selling media products and offering formative experiences, the sisters are laying the groundwork for future “train the trainer”  programs that they intend to design as they become more familiar with the needs and interests of parishes. Their current methodology allows people to absorb the word now with a view to sharing it with others. Pastors, councils, and Hispanic ministers have already indicated to the sisters individuals who could intern with what they learn once a program is in place to do this. 

A generous grant from the Raskob Foundation for Catholic
Activities supplied a new van for those trips. It wasn't
going anywhere, though, until it was blessed--inside and out!
One organization is opening the door to this future for them through collaboration on the diocesan level. SEPI is the Southeast Pastoral Institute, a certificate program in leadership and faith formation for adults in Hispanic ministries, sponsored by the bishops of the southeastern United States. After SEPI’s October Regional Encounter for Hispanic Ministry in St. Augustine, directors invited the sisters to join their on-the-road team of facilitators in spirituality. SEPI pays for transportation, and hospitality is provided by the host diocese. The three sisters already have sessions scheduled in Tampa and Colombia, SC, for February 2012.

Given the collaborative nature of the mission, it was therefore natural that our Miami community of eight wanted to bring their archbishop, Thomas Wenski, up-to-date with their projects and to hear whatever ideas he might have. They invited him for dinner, but he surprised them last week by inviting them over to his place instead. What was intriguing to the community was how, in the course of the conversation, he was able to integrate the Latino project with his interest in Pauline as a whole, especially with our digital publishing, with its e-books and apps. Yet another not-too-distant innovation for outreach among Latinos.

This kind of integration with Pauline Books & Media is already evident in the way they’re working with the PBM Center on 107th Ave. Last Saturday, literally hundreds of people of every ethnic background in Miami gathered for the annual, kids’ “Birthday Party for Jesus.” Sr. Emmanuel took 300 photos for families who wanted to dress up like the figures in the Christmas story. Now the sisters are organizing a Christmas novena for every evening between Dec. 16 and 24. They’re personally knocking on neighborhood doors to invite everyone to this prayerful, social event.

Sr. Hortencia is a person who watches, listens and thinks. She describes herself as “uncomplicated, generous, and willing to serve,” and offers us a glimpse of what she hopes to give and receive through her experience. It’s almost a prayer—one we can all make for her and for ourselves:
“I hope to have an attitude of interior freedom, and total self-giving, in order to welcome everyone without distinction and in order to be inserted in a culture and live through the same experience as other immigrants; in other words, to live in solidarity. In one way or another, we are all ‘pilgrims,’ because as believers, we are all on the journey. We have another permanent home in God.”

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