Food for the Soul by Nora (Rev. Jason Weber, Pastor, Parish of Bánica)
“God bless you, sweetie!” You can say that again! Well, that’s not exactly how I responded to the cashier at Giant as I was leaving. I wanted to! I had already explained to her why I was restocking my fridge at home. Once I told her I was away on a mission trip she was so moved and asked me a few questions about the work we did. Believe me, I wanted to tell her all the ways that the mission trip was a blessing for me, but there were other people in line and I had a small suitcase full of laundry waiting for me at home. Also, I was hungry, so I just said “you too!”
On the short drive home, I began to think about what just happened in the supermarket. It was similar to the conversation I had with the Romanian woman sitting next to me on our flight from Santo Domingo to Miami. What the heck was my problem? Well, I just couldn’t help myself. It’s as if it was bursting out of me. I had to share all about my new friends in Manyaya…my Bánica family…mi gente!
Commissioned By Christ teamed up with the Diocese of Arlington Young Adult Office to plan a mission trip to Bánica, Dominican Republic. Nine of us went there with few details on what we would be doing exactly but with enough openness to allow God to work in and through us. Surely, this was a fruit of the prayers and sacrifices of many as we prepared for this mission trip, including one of us who had to stay behind due to illness. It’s a tough job, trying to narrow down all the blessings; but I know David, who said “You, yes you, O LORD, my God, have done many wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount” (Psalm 40:6), totally gets it! How about I share three of them?
The Priesthood – How many times have you walked into a quiet, dimly lit church, made your way over to the small red candle, dropped to your knees and poured out your heart and soul? (If the answer is zero, I highly recommend giving it a try). How about the number of times you walked out of a confessional feeling light as feather and perhaps, so happy, you want to break into song and dance? I can’t quite remember the number for either instances; nor can I quite say I haven’t rejoiced after absolution of my sins by singing and dancing. These are all possible through the great gift Our Lord left us on Holy Thursday, the gift of the priesthood. I feel I’ve always been grateful for this gift and often pray for my priests, AKA my friends, my co-workers or bosses, my spiritual fathers; but I now have a greater appreciation for the gift of just one vocation.
In the hallway of our dorms in Bánica, dedicated to St. Therese, there hung a map of the territory covered by the mission. I stared at it every day, as I filled my water bottle, and wondered how two priests could minister to the inhabitants of all those towns and villages. Then, I saw it in action. The components involve a pick-up truck, Mass kits to-go and a mix of being firm and direct while having a sense of humor. Fr. Weber or Padre Jasón was constantly planning, foreseeing the needs of his flock, meeting them where they were at and appropriately challenging them. He was forming leaders in each community so that their needs could be met even if he couldn’t be with the community for more than one day a month. He was endlessly counseling them, whether their needs were physical, financial, spiritual or emotional. One of my favorite images was seeing these elderly women cling to him or Fr. Creedon (the first priest from the Arlington Diocese to have served in Bánica who happened to have been there during his annual visit), as a child clings to her father in his arms. Stay tuned for part two……
by Nora, CBC Missionary to Bánica, Dominican Republic, Feb. 2017