This Sunday, May 31st will be Pentecost. It will be 50 days after Easter and we will be commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension. With this in mind, I decided to look through past Pentecost reflections and the following excerpt written by former Maryknoll lay missioner Barbara Fraser seemed the right choice:
“There are more than six thousand languages in the world, and they reflect the great diversity of people and cultures on one planet. Sometimes, though, we find that diversity overwhelming. […]Today’s feast of Pentecost invites us to give thanks for the differences among us. The different gifts, different opinions, different languages, different foods, different customs, different talents and beliefs and ways of looking at the world.

When the disciples began to speak in different languages, they were able to preach the Good News beyond their own community. But communication is a two-way street. With the ability to speak comes the responsibility to listen. Once we can communicate, once we can understand, we must stop and listen to what others have to say. We have much to learn from people who are different from us.”

This is so important to always remember. One must listen. It can help to bring us understanding and growth in what can begin as an unfamiliar setting or a moment of tension due to opposition. This act of learning through sharing, listening, experiencing and understanding differences has been expressed in so many accounts shared by Maryknollers from the very beginnings of Maryknoll. Here Sr. Bernice Rigney tells of her time in Africa:

“We came to Katerere hoping to give of ourselves as well as our gifts, talents, and professional abilities. We rather quickly learned how much we needed them! We learned from them about life as well as the reality of the gospel message in their village. As this process continued, our days fell into a pattern similar to the rest of the village.[..] We raised our own food and carried our own water. Like everyone else walking was our mode of transportation. It was important to us that we assume even these small details that made up the life of the villagers. Gradually people began to let us know that it was also important to them. In living with them we were doing more than talking about community or unity. Beyond that we were also honoring the sacredness of their life. I have had people stop, as I was working in our field, and thank me for what I was doing, for the care I was taking with the land!”

Bishop Francis X. Ford shared a similar outlook in his belief that “’[H]e wanted the Sisters to go out and preach.’ He [w]anted them to learn the language well and have an appreciation of the culture, and the quickest to do so was by living in people’s homes[…] He constantly extolled the virtues of the Chinese culture and people[.] Americans, he often said, could learn as much from the Chinese as they from the Americans.”

This attitude of learning from those they are working with in mission plays through the stories of Maryknollers in a myriad of ways. They are taking that moment to listen and learning so much. In this life, take that moment. Think of everything you might learn. You will not only expand your mind but also your heart.