Los Últimos

By Nico Angerosa, FC 19 Costa RicaIMG_1342

Rain, sunshine, and more rain. For Costa Ricans, this means “winter” is rolling in. For us volunteers, this means our summer is here, marking the closing of our year of service. What a year it has been of adventures in our community, getting to know Costa Rica and local culture, the Friars, the people we serve and equally as important, getting to know ourselves a little better.

This year has been important for many reasons.  It has helped us grow and mature. It has shown us the dependency and support we as human beings yearn for in each other.  We experienced this support within our various communities through our daily interactions, intentional discussions and communal activities. We also learned about this need through our work sites and interactions with the people we serve and serve with. For me personally, the most important thing I have taken away from this year is the amount of joy and pride the people of Costa Rica exhibit every day, even when they had little they offered everything.  We committed to this year of service with a Franciscan heart; to live and work in solidarity with poor and less fortunate communities. Leaving a bit of the materialistic lifestyle on hold for these 11 months has been truly inspiring and has allowed me to immerse myself into a different lifestyle than I am used to at home. Sure, I try to do what I can at home to live simply and humbly, but being in contact with poverty on a daily basis has a huge impact on you and your mentality. The phrase “come as you are” comes to mind every day. Don’t pass judgment, be authentic, and recognize the needs these people yearn for everyday – emotional, physical, and mental support – the same needs I, my community and everyone strives for everyday with the people you love.

As we finish up the year, we are also processing the knowledge that FC 19 Costa Rica, will be the last FrancisCorps group to bring service to this great nation, at least for now. It has been a truly humbling experience getting to know all of the amazing friars and locals, as well as each other, and simply doing what Jesus and Saint Francis ask us to do each and every day: to live in community, love thy neighbor, and love one another as brothers and sisters. After all, at the end of the day, that is who we are – global citizens, regardless of religion, of this incredible world, here to be in support of one another and to aid in times of need and rejoice in times of peace. The Catholic Church doesn’t wear the label “universal” for no reason. Get out there and show it; this is who we are, a loving and welcoming community.

I don’t know about you, but it seems there’s a lot of need that ALL of our brothers and sisters could use a little help with right now. So, I ask of you, please be present for those who need it most and have a part in making this place, our global community, our home, feel like home. “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”

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Good Ol’ Stretch

By Beruchya Dao-Bai,  FC 19 Syracuse Photo Jun 03, 11 18 52 AM

I had just finished a busy day of work at 4:30PM and went to the gym. As usual, I took 15 minutes to walk to the gym and change into my gym clothes, spent 30 minutes on the elliptical, followed by a few weight training exercises. By 5:29 PM I was done and had exactly seven minutes to grab my gym bag and run to the bus stop that is near my favorite coffee place, “Cafe Kubal.” As always, I debated whether I had to stretch or not, and ended up racing to the bus stop. As I rode the bus which is a significant part of my daily pilgrimage to my service site, a thought came to me, as I briefly evaluated my workout that day. “Stretching hurts before it feels good.” Yes, stretching produces stress on your muscles until your muscles embrace the comfort of a pose that was once uncomfortable to yield benefits such as good posture, flexibility, injury prevention and stress relief. Indeed, I realized that this was what this experience was about, stretching mind, heart, and strength.

During FrancisCorps, I realized that the struggles I had deemed unnecessary and frustrating during my undergraduate experience, had prepared and enabled me to tackle discomforting situations in my sometimes turbulent work site. At work, I was bombarded with information that I had to process quickly and accurately to address issues that impacted the future, stability, and health of individuals and families vulnerable to homelessness. Additionally, I dealt with individuals whose moods, and behaviors challenged the Christian in me. As a novice at work, the information overload was such that the restroom became the sweet escape where I rested my mind. At home and at work, I was called to stretch my forgiveness muscles to forgive every day, multiple times a day, neighbor, client and self. As for plans, I am still learning that God wants me to be more flexible with his ways and to let him deal with the details of the life that he gave me. It is no longer about “my” plans for my life, but about the good plans He has for the life that he gave to me. I learned to do more of “trust in the Lord with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him  and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5), for He adds, “ I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)”

Although God knows I love planning my life down to the minute, much like my daily schedule; He showed me that my program was inefficient until I thoroughly embraced stretching exercises. These are the times when plans changed or failed, uncertainty reigned, people hurt me, and I had to sit with the sentiments my experiences evoked. Through those times, He taught me to be more “still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), to learn from how He spoke through events and people, to accept situations for what they were, and draw strength from Him in order to move forward invigorated. In struggling with God and allowing Him to stretch me, I felt inevitable tension and discomfort before feeling the effects of a “good ol’ stretch.” Indeed, He taught me that life is not just about running incessantly like I used to, or lifting heavier and heavier weights, but also about sitting in an uncomfortable pose to stretch the muscles that allow you to run farther and lift heavier loads.