Maryknoll Vocation Ministries is a service to the Maryknoll Society.
This blog aims to keep Maryknoll Formation Candidates and
Vocation Prospects abreast of discernment and Church issues.

September 27, 2011

My summer in East Africa

Sem. Daniel Kim, M.M.
There’s an African Proverb that says, “There is no better guidance than lessons learned from experience”.  Having visited East Africa this past summer, my experiences there have definitely guided me to a deeper appreciation for the African people as well as my missionary vocation with Maryknoll.

Every summer, Maryknoll seminarians and brother candidates who have completed at least a year of theological studies have an opportunity to go on an immersion trip to East Africa.  The trip consists of visiting the various countries in East Africa where Maryknoll is present.  During my trip, I had the chance to visit three countries: Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan.  With each visit to the different places, I had the privilege to see and experience the wide varieties of ministries Maryknoll undertakes; ranging from parish ministry, chaplaincy for medical students, AIDS work, directing varies institutes and programs.  The list goes on and on. 

The immersion experience also includes taking a three week-long accredited course on African culture and religion at the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies (MIAS) in Nairobi, Kenya. The founder and director of the program is Fr. Michael Kirwen, a Maryknoll Priest who is trained in Linguistics and Anthropology.  The course is designed in a way that students not only attend classroom lectures, but go out to the field (along with a field assistant) to conduct interviews relevant to their research topics.  It is a way to combine and integrate material from the classroom with the experiences from the field—which I found to be very enriching.  After about half-way through the program, I began to realize what the true purpose of the course was about.  It was a way to become immersed into the African culture, and to  understand and appreciate in a deeper way the values and unique gifts the African culture offers.  During such realizations, I was particularly touched by what one of the African students said to me: “We really appreciate you [Maryknoll], because you truly listen to us and appreciate us and our culture; we need more people who can do that”.

Although the types of work Maryknoll does overseas are vast and widespread, there’s a common thread that is sown throughout the different fabrics of ministry that holds together the greater quilt that is Maryknoll: adaptability and the ability to listen and respond to the needs of the people.  The charism of Maryknoll is spreading the Good News around the world through overseas mission.  What I witnessed during my visit showed me the thing that is truly wonderful and unique about Maryknoll: that there are so many ways to go about spreading the Good News.  Whether it is working with the poor and marginalized, teaching at universities, ministering as pastors at parishes… whatever it takes to build genuine and caring relationships with the people of God and walk with them in partnership towards experiencing the Reign of God here on earth.  If this is indeed what awaits me as a Maryknoll missioner, then I am in the right place.

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