The importance of being present

“It’s not only about ‘getting out of the sacristy’ but also getting out of my comfort zone, to learn to be available and present.”

-Novice Henry Nguyen

Novice Henry Nguyen shares the following reflection:

Many have asked, “Where do the novices spend their time during the week?”

A day in the life of a novice includes many things, such as personal prayer, Mass, Adoration, Dehonian classes, and the inter-community novitiate program.

A wonderful opportunity that I appreciate is when we accompany our Novice Master, Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ, to the various places that he celebrates Mass, including St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. I often ask myself, “How do I best prepare myself to be a Dehonian if I am unable to put myself out there with the people?” Being at St. Ann’s allows me to do just that, as it’s not only about “getting out of the sacristy” but also about getting out of my comfort zone, to learn to be available and present.

Henry, entering novitiate in August

St. Ann Center is an intergenerational daycare for infants and preschool kids as well as elders and adults with disabilities. St. Ann has over 200 employees and just as many volunteers. However, the real story of St Ann is of service and a sense of community. Even with the large number of people there, it seems like everyone knows everyone. When Phong [“Paul,” Henry’s classmate in novitiate] and I are there, they remember us by name.

I once talked to a friend who said that she didn’t think she could work with people with autism because she wasn’t creative enough, she didn’t know how to interact with them. She felt that it wasn’t a good use of  time since she didn’t know what to do.

But I realize that what is important isn’t WHAT I do but HOW I become present to others. Being at St. Ann, I see the goodness and innocence of others. It has also allowed me to be a “prophet of love” to those I accompany. By allowing myself to be open and to be present to others, I receive their joy. The clients with whom I interact like to talk, socialize, and joke around.

At almost every Mass at St. Ann’s, one of the clients starts out by singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Fr Byron reminds us all that God loves us and that God has given everything for us. Most importantly, Jesus taught us to love.

For much of our novitiate Fr. Byron talked about the Good Friday service at St. Ann and that it was an experience of individuals really embracing and putting themselves in the Passion of Christ. I made a conscious decision to attend the Good Friday service at St. Ann to witness just that. I am glad that I was able to spend Holy Thursday and Good Friday at St. Ann where Fr. Byron was celebrant, as the services were so moving. Some of the employees, volunteers, and us novices washed the hands of others during the service and everyone understood the representation of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The way that the clients participated was in such a loving manner. During the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, they adored the cross as it was being carried around the atrium.

You came to show all people the way to God.
With compassion
You received the blind, the deaf, the lame;
through your healing touch,
You gave them access to the mercy of God.

Blessed Savior,
mindful of your compassion,
we rededicate ourselves to following your way.
May we join you in welcoming
those who are burdened in body or in mind.
Help us to fight the stigma and indifference
that too often surround human disability.

So may the social barriers
which hinder God’s love on earth
yield to your open heart
and grant access to the never ending riches
of God’s life in our world.

This Day of God (Dehonian prayer book) – Reparation: Week IV: Monday

As I reflect on our prayer of reparation I understand that when we give ourselves to be with another, it is exactly what Jesus did. In this way, others may feel God’s love through our actions. So how do I transfer what I know to what I can do at St. Ann’s? It’s not necessarily what I do, but instead, allowing myself to be moved by the Spirit.

Coming to St. Ann’s with an open mind and heart can be challenging, and I knew it would be. But being there helps me to be moved by the Spirit every time I’m there as I am learning to be patient and to be more readily available and to listen to others.