Called to Serve

March 23, 2010

Spain: Blessing of a Lifetime

To begin, I will write a little something of our situation in Spain.  Why go to Spain, you might ask? Well here’s what happened.  In our organization, we always send out missionaries in at least groups of two… sometimes more, but never less.  Over the past two year, we have had four girls (Sheila, Maria, Bridget, and Kristen) living in Spain.  Just this March, they ended over two years of missions in Cordoba.  Having just come out of formation… a number of us new missionaries were still looking to see where God was calling us to serve Him.  The girls felt as though it would be an incredible opportunity for us to go to Spain, not only to see what first world missions look like and to live with experiences missionaries, but also to see if we were being called to continue the mission in Cordoba once they left.  Arriving there, all seven of the girls were going to stay together in the apartment that the four original “Spain Girls” had been living in.  The three of us guys would be staying across the city with a priest friend, Padre Jose, who generously opened his home to us for the duration of our stay in Cordoba.  Let me first introduce you to the rest of our tenacious team of ten… John Paul and the Girls from Spain.

John Paul – Constant Joy. Contagious Smile. Optimism that could shine through any storm.

Sheila – Fearless leader of ten crazy missionaries.  Voice of an angel.  Affirmer of all things good.

Maria – Our little Irish lass. Childlike joy and enthusiasm. Lover of sweets. Always always smiling 🙂

Bridget – Veteran missionary. Our much needed wisdom. Faithful through and through.

Kristen – Texas fireball. Bundle of joy. Real life example that good things come in little packages 😛

Even thinking about starting to blog about Spain is giving me a headache 😛  We did soooooooooooo much while we were there that I feel I could fill volumes upon volumes of books with all of our ministries, adventures, and outings.  Instead, I will do my best to post some captioned pictures, that will hopefully serve as a timeline of a majority of our ministries in Spain… ENJOY!!!

All ten of the missionaries greeting our mission post with a kiss at the altar.  Our missions is the Lord and our post is our home.  The people are our friends and we dedicate everything we are to Him and to the land we are serving in.

Sharing our testimonies with the seminarians and priests of the Diocese of Cordoba.  A night of encouraging… us encouraging them to live faithfully their vocation and them urging us to keep living at lay men and woman dedicated to building the Kingdom of God alongside them in our world today.

Missionaries being greeted at by the head of the Diocesan seminary.

Being given a tour of the cathedral in Cordoba by the Padre Fernando, Vicar General of the Diocese.

The original four… Maria, Sheila, Bridget and Kristen.  After two years of serving the people and Church of Cordoba, they were still living in the LOVE and JOY of the Lord day after day!

Padre Reyes and Padre Gama, two of the holiest (and funniest) priest I have ever met.  Amazing men of God who have given their lives to Jesus Christ and His Church.

Work Day: John Paul and I cleaning the patio of the apartment complex the girls lived in.

Christ calls all who are thirsty to come to the water… the river was dirty, so this was the best water we could find in Cordoba 😛

Oracionizate prayer group, made up of local youth who come together weekly to praise and worship the Lord.

Giving testimonies and sharings about missions at an early Saturday morning Catechesis of some of the youth of Cordoba.

Last Lord’s Day in the girl’s piso.  We squished in about 50 people into this tiny apartment of ours to break bread and fellowship, to thank the Lord for bringing us all together, for providing for us always, and for bringing us to the end of another joyful and blessed week!

Sharing personal testimonies in a number of classes in a school located in a local pueblo outside of the city of Cordoba. (with a translator… as always 😛 thanks maria!)

Picture with a classroom of the youngest students we spoke to that day… a group of students who loved singing for the Lord and kept asking for more!

On Wednesday’s we would celebrate Mass at La Residencia (a local nursing home).  This beautiful woman caught me off guard when she was supposed to be smiling for the camera 😛

On Thursday evenings, the local church would host ‘Adoremus’, a night fill with testimonies, teachings, Holy Mass, and adoration and benediction.  Sharing with the people my story of how the Lord called me into missions, to give my life to Him for the building of His Kingdom.

Padre Jesus Daniel, an incredibly priest and servant of God, beginning a beautiful night of adoration.

Padre Pedro, kind, smart, and intelligent young priest who works a lot with the youth of Cordoba, closes an evening of Adoremus with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

The entire gang appearing on the Diocesan TV channel to speak about missions and the New Evangelization, especially in regards to Europe and the first world.

Joyful missionaries walking through the streets of Cordoba, bringing with us the gifts of music and praise.  May our voices always rise like incense to the throne of God and may our praise be a fragrance pleasing to Him!!

An amazing mens and womens retreat dealing with true masculinity and femininity, addressing what it means to be a real man and a real woman in a world that is trying to eliminate gender altogether.

Team crazy getting ready to watch the Superbowl in Spain (which is yes a number of hours behind the states… we started at about midnight and ended at 5am or so :P) GO SAINTS!!!

Maria, Sarah Kate, and Bridget visiting a local pueblo and raising awareness for Manos Unidos, an organization dedicated to helping those in the third world especially through providing them with food, clothes, and housing.  Here they entertain a large and beautiful group of 3-5 year olds!

Radio promotion of Manos Unidos!

A weekend spent in Priego de Cordoba, another local pueblo, John Paul, Jonathan, and myself spoke at a number of schools sharing testimony and speaking about missions and having a living faith.

Another night of Adoremus, we were blessed with the opportunity to preach of the Word of God!  How it is living an effective and a powerful thing in our lives.  It is God’s love letter to us and can and will truly change us and our lives if we allow it to penetrate who we truly are!

Team fun day (minus Teresa and Maria) in the park 😛

Our team hanging out with the teens of Alcolea, a local pueblo, after having come to speak to their confirmation class and attend Mass with them and Padre Jesus Daniel.

On Ash Wednesday, the kids of Alcolea have a tradition to really get the idea of “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” across to one another… TALCUM POWDER FIGHT!!!  A beautiful mass followed by an incredible evening 🙂

Giving a teaching about Christianity and Society in a local University in Cordoba.  How we could change the world if we were all Christians in action!!!

Villa Nueva de Cordoba, one of the most incredible places in all of Spain.  Spending one of our last weekends there, we held a Festival of Praise!! A few hours of praise and worship (all in spanish!), giving testimonies, and a few brief teachings… followed by an incredible Eucharistic processions throughout the Church!

Padre Juan Vincente leading a Eucharistic procession around the Church, followed by adoration and benediction.

The gang hanging out at our dear friend Paz’s campo outside of Villa Nueva.

Group silliness in a field by Paz’s campo 😛

All of us spending a final evening with Maria Jose and Luis, a beautiful Spanish family with three incredible children.  They opened up their home to us for Spanish lessons three times a week.  Their love and generosity will never be forgotten!!

Bishop Juan Jose confirming a group of teens on our last night in Cordoba.

A final evening in Cordoba… it was only fitting to spend it in the chapel we began our mission in, with a final farewell and blessing from an amazing, holy, spirit-led, servant of God in Bishop Juan Jose.

A month of blessings.  A time in my life that will be forever treasured and never forgotten.  Even this short blog is such a shame compared to the greatness that was our mission in Spain.  His grace was abundant, His love was ever-flowing, and His joy was radiant in each of us.  Little did we know that this way of life is not one of passing, it is how our Lord wants us to live each and every day.  Moving on from Spain was full of emotions… sadness, exhaustion, anticipation, and the rest.  The Lord however was about to bring us to another incredible place to serve Him for a short time.

Next stop… IRELAND!!!

Roma: Jan 17th-20th

Touching down in Roma, early the morning of the 17th, I was full of emotions.  Knowing that I would soon be walking into St. Peter’s Square, coming home to mother Church, was an overwhelming thought.  Thinking about being in the city in which so many holy men and woman came to spread the Good News, to spread the glorious name of Jesus Christ, and to give their lives in the building of His Kingdom here on earth, I could barely bring myself to move, to put one foot in front of the other.

On top of all of these emotions, me and Jonathan still had no idea where we were going to be sleeping for the next few nights.  The night before, we had found out that a friend of a friend of a friend living in Rome, was going to open their house up for the three girls to stay in.  Little did we know, that a few hours later… all five of us would find ourselves with a warm invite to stay with a beautiful Italian woman, Lea Amato, in her home (on the road next to the Vatican!)  Walking into her lovely home, we find ourselves surrounded by a number of young adults… all speaking English!!!  We had stumbled across perhaps the most generous woman in all of Rome.  Later we found out that Lea now lives alone and is constantly opening up her home to anyone who is need of a place to stay, knowing that the Lord will bless her for her generosity.

This first act of God’s divine providence, giving us an incredible place to stay with these beautiful people, was just the first of what turned out to be blessing upon blessing while in Rome.  The next three days we spent in the city were a whirlwind, filled with the sacraments, prayer, meeting beautiful and holy people, and allowing the Lord to pour out his grace upon us, basking in his love and allowing Him to delight us with soooo many good things.

First we came to find out that Lea and Stephano (a young man who has been staying with her for the year), work at the Vatican in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Office.  We were extremely blessed with the opportunity to go into the Vatican to see there office and the amazing work that they are involved in.  Later that same day, our group took to the city and went to see and pray at some absolutely beautiful places, including the Pantheon, St. Mary Major (where I was blessed to receive confession in English :P) and St. Charles Borromeo. We also were able to see the pillar at which Christ was scourged during His passion, St. Theresa in Ecstasy, the Trevvi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Garden Bourghese. That evening we first met up with the rest of our team, bringing our number to ten missionaries!!! We met up with John Paul, Sheila, Maria, Bridget, and Kristen (more on them later!!!) who were accompanied by Padre Pablo, a good friend of the girls and a priest working in the Vatican.  That evening we were blessed to be led by him to the convent of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  Whilst there we were able not only to see there chapel and their convent, but to see the incorruptible remains of St. Rafaela, a saint from right outside of Cordoba, the city in which we would soon be spending the majority of our mission!!!  After a blessed and exhausting day, we arrived home, only to be surprised by a beautiful home cooked Italian meal which Lea had prepared for us 🙂

Our third day in Rome was a little more relaxed than the first two 😛  Because God just wanted to keep blessing us, we had the opportunity to spend the entirety of our morning alone in the Vatican Gardens.  We were able to walk around and enjoy ourselves, to see where Pope Benedict says his daily rosary and where his helicopter landing pad is! We were also blessed to visit the cloistered convent behind St. Peter’s, a convent currently occupied by sisters from Seville and Cordoba!! We had a blessed conversation with them about our faith and about missions and living for the Lord.  After having left the Gardens, we decided to go grab a quick bite to eat at a little bistro in front of St. Peter’s, when out of no where a priest, who was sitting across the room, began talking to us because he noticed we were speaking English.  Little did we know that this priest was none other than Cardinal Law, from Boston, MA!  He was such a great and holy man, he encouraged us to continue living our lives for Christ, to continue working towards the building of His Kingdom here on earth and to never tire of going to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Good News!! The rest of our day was spent touring the Vatican Museum, having Adoration and Mass in St. Peter’s, and spending the end of our night with Lea and Stephano with their Magnificat community, a Catholic Charismatic community centered in Rome, for an evening of praise and worship, prayer, and personal testimonies.

Our final day is Rome came all too quickly, but was great nonetheless.  We were able to see a few more places in the city, Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and the Holy Steps which Christ walked a number of times when being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. Our last night in the city was spent with Lea and her family.  We went to her sisters house, to meet them and to celebrate her nephew’s 18th birthday!!  Happy Birthday Daniel!!! 😛

All in all it was an incredible time in Rome.  The Lord provided for us again and again.  He used this time of holy pilgrimage to strengthen our faith, to allow us to see the grace that he poured out on so many holy men and women who lived for Him, the grace to give their entire lives to Him, the grace to die for Him.  He calls us each to this level of sanctity, this holiness.  He wants nothing less!!! We are all called to find our vocation in life… our vocation is our route to holiness.  My vocation as a missionary is, God-willing, how I will become holy, how I will become more like my heavenly Father, become more Christ-like.  Your vocation is how you will do the same.  Pray that the Lord reveals to you His will, how He would have you serve Him, live for Him, die for Him, and become holy for HIM!!!

Next stop… CORDOBA, ESPANA!!!

Germany, Netherlands, Belgium: Jan 12th-16th

Over twelve hours after having left New York, I found myself stepping off of an Aer Lingus flight, stepping onto the cold pavement, covered in snow, in the city of Dusseldorf, Germany.  Surrounded by others speaking this strange foreign language and seeing words on signs that seemed a mile long, we found comfort in seeing two lovely missionaries awaiting our arrival! Amanda and Danielle are two Life Teen Missionaries living in the northern German city of Susterseel.  Along with their mission partner Melanie, these three have been living and working in Germany as youth ministers and missionaries.  Working with the local priest and the surrounding parishes, they do whatever they can to help spread the Word of God, to share the Good News with all those they come in contact with.

Our first few days in Germany consisted of getting to know the girls and their mission, seeing how they have been living, how they have been serving the Lord in the building of His Kingdom.  Each morning, as a community, we would awake and begin our day with Morning Prayer.  We truly believe as missionaries and Christians, that beginning our day is not only important, but necessary.  We MUST give it all to Him! We must give Him everything… our joys, our sufferings, the works of our hands. They are all His!  With only a few days to spend in this beautiful place, we definitely made the most of our time.  Our ministries included having a number of youth nights, including bilingual praise and worship, Bible studies, and simply getting to know the teens and their families. We were also blessed with the opportunity to travel a bit while there. On our third day, our team made it up to the Netherlands (literally a mile away) and spent a good amount of our day there. We began the day with a beautiful communion service in Dutch, and spend the rest of our day as a team checking out the local market and meeting the people.  Later that night, upon returning home, our team had an incredible holy hour for the local youth. Following our holy hour we got to meet the teens we had been praying for and had a great night of fellowship followed by an incredible Bible study.

The next day, our team was able to have a day of pilgrimage to Banneaux, Belgium, a site of a Marian apparition.  An extensive day of prayer was such an incredible blessing to all of us. Spending time in this holy place drew us closer to our Lord and continued to prepare us for the final destination of our mission in Cordoba, Spain.  Our final full day in Germany was full of blessings.  A day of relaxation and prayer concluded by an incredible night of sharing testimonies and prayer with Fr. Roland, an amazing and incredible holy man of God.  Perhaps one of the most self-sacrificing men I have ever met, Fr. Roland shared an incredible testimony of how the Lord worked in His life, how He he captured His heart, and how He called Fr. Roland to, as he said, “be the seed of faith to return to Germany, to die in that place, so that the Lord could use the sacrifice of his life to build His Church”.

The Lord brought us to Germany to see His mission alive and on fire.  He wanted nothing more for us to step out of our comfort zone, in a language that none of us knew, and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.  After allowing us to be blessed time and time again, the Lord safely brought us to a small little airport, where our humble team once again boarded a tiny little plane and prepared ourselves for whatever the Lord had in store or us.

Next stop…. Roma, Italia.

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