"I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you so that you will do just what I have done for you."
- John 13: 12-15
I arrived in Boston International Airport at 10:37 pm. As I was walking to the baggage claim I was to look for a man with a Notre Dame hat. As I was looking around; I saw many different backgrounds, specifically, a lot of Hispanics. Home did not seem so far away anymore. Suddenly, I was greeted by a Caucasian family, Mr. Gorrie and three little girls. Two girls belong to Mr. Gorrie and one of the girls belonged to Bob Troiano (the house where I will be staying). I knew at that moment, I will be once again entering into another “world”. After making our way through back roads…
We finally arrived to Mr. Troiano's in Andover, Massachusetts.I had no clue that the neighborhood in which I would be living in would be far off from the city and into the woods.
As I looked down to check my phone, I noticed there was something that I have always dreaded, “No Service”, you have to keep in mind I have had my phone next to me since I was in 8th grade. So I was rather upset and regretted every moment being here, but after gathering my thoughts and disappointments in prayer, I was reassured that God was taking my phone away for a reason. It’s not like my service is totally neglected because I do receive service in the city but I do not receive service in the home I will be staying.
I also had the privilege of getting to know my math whiz roommate Kevin. Kevin is from San Antonio, Texas and is a junior and will be majoring in Math and Theology. Also I had the privilege to know Perrin the son of Mr. Trioiano who has Cerebral Palsy and soon realized that my patience will be tested dearly. The Images of God.
I travel every morning to Lawrence, Massachusetts , which is considered the 22nd poorest city in the country. Matter of fact, in 2007, only 47% of the students graduated from High School.
Lawrence is made up of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans immigrants who are desperately looking for work, food and a place to stay. I spend half of my day working at Lazarus House which is a shelter that has 31 emergency beds for families who are looking for homes. They are provided with three meals, a place to sleep, showers and laundry services, as well as counseling and referrals for community support.
Also I work side by side with the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance, at a thrift store or the food pantry which supplies emergency food for as many as 300-500 families each week. Every Wednesday afternoon men, women and children line up outside the front gate of Lazarus House to receive enough food to last them up to four days.
But wait what are so special about these Franciscans? They are one of the strictest religious orders in the Catholic Church. For example, they wear a rough wool habit and live in simple wooden cells with only a desk and table. Heat is provided by coal and wood fired stoves. They are serious about obedience (you need to ask permission to use the bathroom when outside the monastery) and contemplation. They own no radios, televisions or other worldly possessions. Meat, sweetsand snack foods are not in their diets. They sleep on the floor and rise in the middle of night to pray at 2am. They have no mode of transportation other than their feet. And they operate with no budget; there's little to account for besides spiritual formation and growth.They are the most hardcore of the Franciscans. While other Franciscans are watching satellite TV on big screen TVs, they are doing penance. I asked him how do you get vocations? And they told me Mary was their vocation director and they don’t find people, people find them.hmmm…
Anyways, starting next week I will be spending my evening time volunteering at Corpus Christi AIDS Residence And Bethany House, which is a house that helps local HIV/AIDS patients to achieve a healthy and independent lifestyle.
After spending half of my day with Lazarus House Ministries, I head over to the Boys and Girls Club with about 500 screaming kids……….no comment. Jk it has been a true blessing, interacting with these lil hood kids while they make fun of me at my attempt to speak Spanish. They reassure me that I should be a shame of myself for not knowing the language (Thanks mom and dad). Don’t worry I get the kids back and tease by letting them know they just got schooled in basketball by a future priest.
After a long day of puzzles, games, and basketball, I head back to the Troiano’s to hang out with Perrin. I was nervous at first hanging out with Perrin because I never encountered a kid with Cerebral Palsy but after a couple of days, I could see myself growing in patience and…...losing in Monopoly.
I recall in the words of Bl Mary of Jesus Crucified, “Always remember to love your neighbor; always prefer the one who tries your patience, who test your virtue, because with her you can always merit: suffering is Love; the Law is Love.”Since I am going to be living here for 2 months I asked God, what role should I play in Perrin’s life and I think God is just asking that I be a shoulder for him to lean on….
Or climb on.
Ps. My e mail is Ryanayala504@yahoo.com if you are trying to contact me…no more cell phone!