Mission is About Presence by Chuck Kennedy

I was on my first mission immersion trip with Maryknoll Missionaries, experiencing the life and culture of the people of Guate- mala in the small pilgrimage town of Esquipulas. I had always thought that being on mission meant going to a foreign country to do things such as building houses, digging wells, and bringing people whatever material things they needed. 

On the sixth day of our journey we visited El Hogar de mi Hermano - The Home of my Brother and Sister. This is a retirement home for the very old and those unable to care for themselves. The people that live in this home have no source of in- come, have no means to take care of themselves and have no family. Most of them never have visitors - they are truly alone in the world. Upon our arrival we found everyone sitting outside in the afternoon sun. We went around and spoke a few words to everyone the best that we could - many of us did not speak any Spanish. We came to one elderly woman who was sitting alone. When John, who was one of the members of our group and a friend of mine, approached her, he quickly realized that she was completely blind and couldbarely speak. As I watched the two of them, I saw her take John’s hands into hers and began to stroke his fingersand hand - expressing gentle human touch and affection. She would bring his hand to her face and rub it againsther skin. After John left her to visit someone else, I went to her and she did the same thing to me. Then Irealized that all she wanted and needed from us was to be with her. She didn’t need us to give her anything, but simply to bring her ourselves.

It was at that moment that I profoundly realized what we had been hearing all week, that mission is more about “being with” than about “doing for.” Without speaking a word, this wonderful woman of God taught me the meaning of mission and changed my life.

Chuck Kennedy 

All Saints Catholic Church, Pastoral Staff / RCIA Coordinator

Hayward, California