Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Pilgrims and Monks

Katie Ivancic with her host sister Miriam
The 28 students of Spring 2019 have been here just shy of one month. In the process of adjusting to life in Uganda, they have been challenged and rewarded by diving headfirst into new relationships with people that will shape their time here and continue to shape them far beyond this semester. UCU roommates, students of the Honor's College, host families, practicum supervisors, and many others eagerly invite students to enter the space of their daily lives. 

A framework that we continuously use here at USP is one of a pilgrimage. We borrow language from two theologians, William Cavanaugh and Emmanuel Katongole, as we encourage students to view themselves as pilgrims on a journey in search of significance and authenticity; seeking to move toward a center in communion with others and with God. The pilgrim looks inward to discover that home is often not stationary, but a road that runs straight through the heart. The pilgrim recognizes that it is in communing with others made in the image of God, that the character of God is revealed. Another key aspect of this pilgrimage journey is that a pilgrim must be dependent on their monks; the individuals that welcome them in as strangers, freely offering unwavering love and support. 
Sophie Olmstead with her family
Rev. Frefrick and Mirica Kisitu

For our 28 students, as they continue their search for significance, many will be looking to their new host families to be their monks. Our USP host families are an exhibit of Ugandan hospitality when they generously receive their new sons and daughters for the next four months. These families welcome our students into one the most vulnerable spaces of their lives, their homes. Our students depend on their families to provide for them and to teach them about the significance of culture.

The following is a poem we share with students before they meet some of the most pivotal monks in their journeys.

Tourist or Pilgrim?
"I stand at the edge of myself and wonder
Where is home? Oh! Where is the place
Where beauty will last? When will I be safe? And where?
My tourist heart is wearing me out. I am so tired of seeking

For treasures that tarnish. How much longer, Lord?Oh! Which is the way home?
My luggage is heavy. It is weighing me down
I am hungry for the Holy Ground of home.
Then suddenly, overpowering me with the truth,
A voice within me gently says:‘There is a power in you, a truth in youThat has not yet been tapped.
You are blinded with a blindness that is deep,
For you have not loved the pilgrim in you yet
There is a road that runs straight through your heart.
Walk on it.’
To be a pilgrim means to be on the move, slowly,
To notice your luggage becoming lighter,
To seek for treasures that do not rust
To be comfortable with your heart’s questions,
To be moving toward the Holy Ground of home with empty hands and bare feet.
And yet, you cannot reach that home until you have loved the pilgrim in you.
One must be comfortable as a pilgrim before one’s feet can touch the homeland.
Do you want to go home?
There’s a road that runs straight through your heart
Walk on it."
~Macrina Wiederkehr

For the 28 students of spring 2019, they have began walking the road that runs through their heart, leading them home. In the great communion created by their new families, our students often begin to find their center; discovering that God is living within the monk and the spaces that they create. 

Annie Green with her host mom Monica Wanzala 

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