Mission Through the Zealous and Anxious Eyes of a Novice!

Source: thinktheology.org

As novices, we often get to encounter God in new ways through the experiences as we strive to grow into our newfound Jesuit identity. Critical to this identity is the missionary spirit lived intensely by many Jesuits near and far.

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In the Montreal Novitiate, each second-year novice embarks on a 5 month long-experiment in an apostolic Jesuit community to get a taste of what our mission is all about. My long-experiment is to go to Belize to work with the Jesuits in a variety of ministries. How did that all work out? Well here we go…

First of all, it is important to mention that for each new adventure, the older Jesuits in the province counsel us, “Oh that big far-off mission or unexpected change is really nothing. You’ll get used to it. Stop being so anxious!” Well I guess we all got to begin somewhere…

Day of Reckoning:

“Well I would like to send you to hell so you can relive the First Week graces!!!” The novice master sits behind his desk and snickers out the side of his mouth.

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It’s the nightmare that every novice knows is very possible, but never actually happens in real life. What does happen in the discernment of a long experiment placement is a discernment with the novice master, the goal of the long experiment being an opportunity to challenge an individual to stretch further out of himself and become more open and realistic about what “the mission” actually involves.

Mission starts out with a realistic discussion between the superior and the one-being-missioned. Yet often it is a compromise that becomes the final decision.

The Mission:

Then comes the mission itself.

Regent Street, Belize City. Source: belize.com

Which in all honesty, is excitingly mundane. Nowadays rather than facing raging seas, we face the horrors of delayed flights and long layovers (with the occasional ice storms this year). Then I met a fellow Jesuit who picked me up and off we went.

“Don’t worry, just show up!” That has to be one of the greatest fears that we continually face on mission. The fear of the unknown. Most often we can trust others who have been or are there that all will turn out successfully.

It is a great lesson in learning to trust your Jesuit brothers that everything will work out and live in the moment. Perhaps that is a unifier in our missionary spirit – a missionary bond that separates us yet even more bonds us together.

Mission Plan B (or was it Plan C?):

Suddenly, it gets a little more real.

When I arrived at the airport in Belize City, got through customs without any problem, and found the Jesuit who had come to pick me up, I realized that this doesn’t look so bad (or feel so hot) as my imagination exaggerated it. It seems like God is in control (and perhaps I realized that things were going the way I had hoped).

As, we were waiting for another novice to arrive at the airport we found a bench and sat down. We started chatting.

“So I have some news, there are some issues in Punta Gorda, so you will actually be staying in the main community in Belize City. I don’t really know any other way to put this to you. Sound alright?”

St. John’s the Jesuit University in Belize. Source: pinterest.com

“I guess so (really not having any other response prepared!)”

“Great! There’s a lot of ministry that you can do in Belize City. You will have a great time”

And in an instant the mission was changed.

Life is full of change. Our mission in life is full of surprises.

Delivering books to the school. Source: Oliver Capko, NSJ

In my experience of the novitiate the key grace God seems to say is continually be open, be available, be mission-able to the present. Really, it’s all about developing an enduring missionary spirit in today’s world, rather than just being easily mission-able at any given point.

Source: bigworldsmallgirl.com

Thus, I am excited to find God in doing some campus ministry, prison ministry, and preparing students for confirmation in this beautiful country of Belize. Was it what I was expecting, no – but it probably was what God was hoping for!

Oliver Capko is in his second year as a Jesuit novice in Montreal.


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