I first came to SMA in 1993 with the intention of
returning to Africa, where I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer. This time I was going to Africa as a
missionary, which would be giving a different motivation to my presence,
freeing me in some ways, and focusing me more in other ways. I never planned to one day end up in Rome,
working in “Administration” for the Generalate.
Every 6 years the SMA Fathers have a General
Assembly (GA) when they elect the General Council of SMA (the 4 leaders of the
Society) and make decisions about the direction and focus SMA will have for the
following 6 years. In 2013, I was invited to attend the General Assembly in
Rome to represent the lay missionaries.
SMA has lay groups in several countries – USA, Argentina, France, Italy,
Holland, Benin, Nigeria, Ireland, Philippines and Spain – each with varying
forms of attachment to the SMA fathers.
One of the decisions made at the GA 2013 was for
the fathers to make efforts to have lay missionaries involved at a variety of
levels within the Society’s structure. A
few weeks after the meeting, I received a call from the newly elected General
Superior, Fr. Fachtna O’Driscoll, asking me to come to Rome to be the Assistant
General Secretary for the General Council for the next 3 years. My initial thoughts were, “YES!! I want to
live in Rome for three years!!” But,
realistically I knew I had no training in this area – I’m an occupational
therapist with almost all of my experience having been working with people in
Africa who have a range of disabilities.
I love working with people in the field, and if this turned out to be a
bad fit, it could be a long three years for all involved. For these reasons, I told Fachtna “no.” He then suggested we try it for a year and
see how it goes.
Who knows why God takes us in different directions
at different times, but it’s about trusting that we aren’t being taken where we
shouldn’t be, and remembering that we won’t be alone wherever we end up. Now, 3½ years later, I’m still here in Rome
as one of the assistant secretaries to the General Council. Last year I was asked to stay for the time
remaining in the General Council’s current term, so until 2019.
|me renewing my agreement in November, with Fachtna (L) and Antonio (Vice-Superior)|
I still know my passion is working one-on-one with
people, in the field. Yet, it’s
eye-opening to see this side of the picture – to get a fuller view of the
entire process, to see the decision-making going on and the level of
administration, of which I’m now a part, that is needed so that things can
continue in the field – for example what I did over the years and what Joe is
doing now, as well as what other lay missionaries and priests have done and are
currently doing. I’ve been very
fortunate to still have close contact with Joe, and even to have seen him in
the field a couple of times since I’ve been here. When I see him and his passion and dedication
to the people he is working with and for, I am motivated even more strongly to
continue what I am doing. It’s like that
Bible passage, where we are many parts, all of us needed to make the whole
possible. Without the Administration,
what all of the “Joes” are doing would not be possible. Without all of the “Joes”, there would be no
|the meal after my renewal, with Fachtna and a couple of others in the house|