Theology Students offer Memorable Mission in San Antonio, USA

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March 11 – 13, 2024 marked a significant event in our spiritual home, St. Gerard Parish in San Antonio, USA. It was an important and demanding event for our student community. Redemptorists are known for parish missions, so it is only appropriate that our theology student community offer a parish mission.

Preparation began a few months ago. We decided the overall theme of our mission would be the parish’s Lenten theme: “Go an Extra Mile with Jesus.” As a group, we discerned the topic for each evening and chose the presider and the preacher. As a group, we proposed that each night of the mission there should be an interactive symbol that would invite the congregation to participate. And so, the work of writing mission sermons and coordinating each evening began.

The weekend prior to the mission, Steven Urban spoke at every Mass to invite the parish to the mission and pique their curiosity. Steven informed parishioners that at the mission they would hear from Noel Oco, Scott Partin and Andrew Phillips, who would invite everyone to “Go an Extra Mile with Jesus.” Noel would invite us to reflect on our “encounter” with Jesus on the first night. On the second night, Scott would lead us in a reflection on nurturing our relationship with God. And finally, on Wednesday, Andrew would lead us in a reflection on what we do now; how we move forward in our relationship with God.

The first night began powerfully. The parish instantly knew they were in for a treat when they saw the procession. All eleven of our theology students processed in together, and everyone knew they were in for a powerful few days.

On the first night of the mission, Noel shared his own strong encounter with Christ. It was an ordinary day of personal prayer in his room. There were no fireworks, no earth earth-shattering sign. It was only Noel “praying from the heart” for the first time. This moment made him spiritually hungry for more. Noel referred to the scripture passage “Ask, and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). After this powerful encounter with Jesus, Noel kept asking for more and he received more. He asked for more opportunities to attend Mass and he received peace, the confidence that we can bring to Jesus all our hurts, all our confusion, all our frustration and all our desperation. At the end of the evening, we were invited to approach an image of Jesus and take this sacred time to pray from the heart to personally encounter Jesus.

On the second night, Scott invited us to reflect on nurturing our relationship with Christ. We heard the gospel story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:2-17). Scott reminded us that when we do what He did and “wash each other’s feet,” we nurture our relationship with Christ. Scott had us all repeat after him, “I am a feet washer!” The congregation repeated the phrase with enthusiasm. Scott reflected on the powerful symbol of water. Water is essential for life, and we use it to bathe. We can say “I am a feet washer” when we serve each other and when we reconcile with each other. Scott shared a heart-warming story about two brothers who reconciled after years of avoiding each other. Indeed, forgiveness can be challenging, but we are asked to do whatever needs to be done so that we can say “I am a feet washer!” At the end of the evening, we were invited to bless one another with water, a powerful symbol of nurturing our relationship with Christ.

On Wednesday night, Andrew reflected on the readings of the day because we celebrated Mass on this last day of the mission. Andrew linked the readings to St. Alphonsus’ teaching on how we should all speak to God as the dearest of friends. He also spoke about the Eucharist as nourishment for our lifelong spiritual journey, and how Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, is always with us, inviting us into a deeper relationship with Jesus while helping us along the way. After his reflection, Andrew invited the congregation to come forward and venerate the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to renew their dedication to Mary.

It was a wonderful experience for our entire community to work together and serve our parish as missionaries of hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer. We learned that the more we encouraged the parish community to “Go an Extra Mile with Jesus,” the more we too went an extra mile with Jesus.

(Courtesy: denverlink Vol.17 issue 7 of March 29, 2024)

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