Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fidesco - A Long Time Coming

All the volunteers
Go!  Make others happy!  You will know what joy is!
Today was the send-off Mass for the Fidesco volunteers and the end of training in Paray.  We have said most of our goodbyes to the other volunteers and now only a few of us remain in Paray-le-Monial for the night.  We will catch a train to Paris in the morning.

I was touched by the morning and I wanted to share it with you.  The send-off Mass was a bit like a graduation ceremony, complete with a procession to introduce ourselves to the congregation and the rituals of commissioning us for the mission.  And just like a graduation, there was also the rehearsal at the beginning of the day. 

The American volunteers
During the practice, the Fidesco staff passed out the prayer we would say during the commissioning and gave us five minutes to meditate on what we were about to pray.  Here is what we would pray: "Lord, in response to your call, I make myself available for the service of the poor and the universal mission of the Church, in the spirit of the Charter of Fidesco.  I ask you to make me, by the action of your Holy Spirit and the intercession of Mary, a witness of your love and your mercy."  

As I though about these words, I was amazed that I am finally here, about to depart for Fidesco.  I remembered when I first learned of Fidesco in 2005 while I was in the Emmanuel School of Mission and how I wanted to be a volunteer for the organization at some point in my life.  Then in mid-August 2009, I was in Paray for one of the big summer conferences the Emmanuel Community runs here and I watched the new Fidesco volunteers get commissioned at the same Mass I just participated in.  I listened to them introduce their mission countries and projects, sometimes being newly married or with small children who would go on mission too, and how I wanted to be one of them.  "Some day," I thought, "I will be in their shoes."  After eight years, I am finally in their shoes and I am amazed and grateful for the fulfillment of a dream I have had for a long time.  I am humbled to have the opportunity too.

The volunteers for Rwanda - Rita and I will be in Butare, Jeremie and Timothee will be in Kigali
All that was before the Mass.  The Mass was amazing too.  After the homily, we volunteers filed in front of the sanctuary/altar and introduced ourselves to the gathering of ~3000 people and ~42 priests.  We said our name, where we are from (if not French), where we will go, for how long, and what we will be doing.  Having sat in the congregation during this Mass before, I can tell you that it is very inspiring to see all these people who are spending 1-2 years of their lives in a developing country doing inspiring things.  It's very powerful.  Once we introduced ourselves, we knelt in front of the altar and everyone clapped for us for a long time.  It was great to hear their encouragement.  Hopefully some people in the crowd were inspired to do Fidesco themselves.  After that, we prayed the prayer I typed above, we sang a song to the Holy Spirit, and then the bishop prayed a prayer of sending over us.  The Mass continued as usual and once it was finished, we gathered outside for photos. 

Paray-le-Monial by night

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