As busy as ever, each day and week in the novitiate merges into one! There is such variety to what we are doing, it feels like I sent the last update report yesterday. It’s unfortunate that both Leinster’s and Liverpool’s seasons seem to be over but I look forward to Joe Schmidt mastering the world cup next autumn.
First up was the REC Congress from the 12th to 15th of March. Its a pretty big event and it began with the Youth Day and us novices went with the students from Don Bosco Tech. There were thousands of young people there and it was a really well prepared day. There were talks given and some amazing entertainment. The liturgy was really well organised, it was aimed at it’s audience but it’s significance wasn’t compromised. One of the speakers that day, Fr Greg Boyle, was for me one of the best of the whole congress. He has been working with gangs in Los Angeles for over ten years and has revolutionised the reform of gang members with ‘Homeboy Industries’ a brand that has world recognition. He was very engaging, with the times and like Pope Francis, wants to help those on the margins. It was also great that day to spend lunch with Fr John and Sr Jennifer who attended the Congress. A familiar face is always great to see out here!
The rest of the weekend went off in the same fashion, beautiful liturgies and inspiring talks. One of the highlights was Cardinal Maradiaga homily on ‘seeing with the eyes of your heart’. He’s an old friend from the Eucharistic Congress in 2012! The best talk has to be Fr Ron Rolheiser’s who is truly a great speaker and man of wisdom. I attended the Celtic mass on Saturday evening presided by Fr David Loftus who gave a great explanation of Celtic Spirituality. The music for the mass was organised by Fr Liam Lawton, who I got to spend some time with later that evening and get some updates on Kildare and Leighlin diocese. I was also very proud to find out the person behind the congress from its beginning is Sr Edith Prendergast, a Presentation Sister from Ireland. She has been running the congress for over twenty years and this congress was her last, it was great to get the opportunity to speak with her. A final highlight from the congress was getting to spend time with Fr John to catch up, as well as Sr Jennifer and Gerry O’ Shaughnessy.
St. Patrick’s day brought up many happy memories of celebrations in Maynooth and we had a double celebration here in Rosemead. As well as the feast day it was Fr Derek’s birthday so we had a great celebration with my homemade ‘shamrock shakes’ and of course Irish coffee’s – all those years of Michael training me have paid off! We had a series of Lenten soup and thought nights every Wednesday night with the local parish and it was a great way of keeping focused on Lent in solidarity as well as trying out some great soups!
Even though it was Lent, the retreat schedule did not calm down and there were many retreats every week similar to February. From communion to confirmation, from sixth grade ‘Saints’ to eighth grade graduations as well as high school retreats the centre in Rosemead is pretty busy!
With our busy class schedule we can’t get into the retreat schedule they have going on here, but there are odd occasions that we find ourselves free and even if we only have ten minutes the retreat leader, Chris is more than happy to let us say hello. I think at this stage I have mastered the ‘chapel tour’ but I really am sick of hearing about One Direction, Niall Horan and snakes in reference to Ireland! From the time I have spent on retreats here in the States I have been truly blessed in that the kids are a lot more open and a lot more catechised and enthusiastic about their faith, this has helped me on my faith journey and in my discernment process like many other experiences I have had this year.
One of my many highlights of novitiate has to be the opportunity to take part in the video production for for the Boys and Girl’s Club’ here in Los Angeles. It is a professional production that will be shown on a major network come June. Its part of a campaign by the Clubs to raise awareness and funds.
To be sure I cannot wait to see the finished videos, heaven for a media geek like me! Another learning in the media area was one that was on the go; my Tijuana diary. It was a spur of the moment thing and turned out really well. Tijuana, you have probably heard enough about it at this stage and I’ll never be able to tell you enough! It was great to smell hard work again, meet some inspirational people and to turn all the praying I have been doing this year into action! It’s interesting to note that it’s nine years now since I went on mission in Zambia and that changed my life more than I could have ever imagined so I’m keeping in mind to remain open to that this time around. It was pretty difficult to settle back into novitiate afterwards but I’m back in the swing now.
Arriving back from Tijuana on Easter Sunday there was a great celebration when the local provinces joined for the day. It was good to be back to reality, even if a little too soon! Two weeks ago we also met someone that some of you may be familiar with, Fr Miguel from Spain. He travelled to L.A. for a weekend a conference on accompaniment. Unfortunately, us novices were otherwise occupied but he gave us a short run over on it.
Lent was a challenging time in many different ways, it was busy but there was also time for reflection and going forward my relationship with the Lord is stronger than ever, at the end of the day its only the Boss getting me through novitiate! We are going to be just as busy from now until the end of novitiate and I’, going to do my best to make the best of it! Thank you all for the continued support and prayers, they are invaluable! I continue to pray for you all at home and that you get more sunshine like you have recently and not more snow!