The following reflection is from Sam Janson, a 2016 participant in the Franciscan At-One-Ment Mission Project—an eight-week summer discernment internship which includes living with the Friars while engaging in the Friars’ ministries. Sam lived at and ministered to the men of St. Christopher’s Inn. He is pictured next to St. Christopher’s Inn bell.
Just a few summers ago, I had the unique opportunity to live in community with the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. During my stay I volunteered at St. Christopher’s Inn where I participated in a ministry of presence, working and praying alongside the men of the Inn. It was through this experience that I began to learn the value of continuous, intentional discernment. On a series of reflection days at Graymoor, I was challenged to wrestle with the enduring question of “how is God calling me to live my life?” I was encouraged to, as Frederick Buechner stated, find in my soul where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” While these are questions that I still revisit frequently, the discernment I learned at Graymoor has put me on a path I almost never could have imagined.
In late September, I will begin orientation in Ossining, NY as a member of the 2019 class of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. After two months of spiritual formation, learning, and community living, I will move to Mwanza, Tanzania to join a small community of Maryknoll missioners. Over the course of three and a half years, I will work at a public health clinic run out of a Maryknoll parish, helping meet the medical needs of some of the most vulnerable among us. I truly feel a sense of joy and honor to join a group that takes seriously the essential calls of the Gospel. Through meeting fellow missioners and the incredibly dedicated staff of the Lay Missioners organization, I am confident that I will be amongst people who are intent on working towards actualizing Christ’s vision for the world.
While the thought of leaving behind my life in the United States is daunting, I take comfort in drawing on some of the wisdom I gleaned from the Friars of the Atonement. One of the Friars once told me that “God is relationship.” As a young man in college, this notion both excited and confounded me. I have used this idea as a catalyst in my prayers of discernment, and have been able to bring some of its relevance into my own journey. It is evident to me that we all rely on relationships: with God, with our environments, and with one another to find our place in the world and fulfill our vocations. At times I will be the consoler, and other times the consoled. Sometimes, I will be the teacher and other times the student. Regardless of where I find myself nominally in relation to others, God is present in that connection. In fact, that connection is God. As such, I could not feel more grateful for the opportunity to forge new relationships with missioners, Tanzanians, and a beautiful natural landscape; all in the service of bringing me into a deeper connection with God. It will be a great adventure for me, and I welcome your prayers as I prepare for my mission to Tanzania!