One of the programs that Mundelein Seminary offers for seminarians in second year of Pre-theology (a year before first theology) is called Mission Trip. This year there were three options: one of them was to go to Piura, Peru to a Church that is called Santisimo Sacramento: the second one was to go to Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago; and the third one was San Solano Mission run by the Franciscan Order located in the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona on the Tohona O’odham Nation. I went to the third mission; this is the one on which I will focus my commentary.
This trip took place in January of this year, and it was for a little more than a week. The main purpose of this trip for us as seminarians was for us to come to appreciate the people and their history, and their values. Once we arrived at San Solano Mission, we had the opportunity to visit different places such as their Cultural Center, Museum, Community College, Nursing home and Baboquivari Peak (that is a sacred place for the nation). We got involved also in a day of recollection for those who were preparing to receive their confirmation. We also helped with jail ministry one day.
Something that struck me was their way of seeing life; they see the land and all of nature as a gift coming from God for the good of all. My time with them and our experiences as seminarians have led me to meditate on their way of life and their philosophy. One day a seminarian asked an elderly woman that helped at the mission if she was paid for helping. She replied, “Money? Why? I don’t need money. God and the people care for me.” If we see her way of life as a simple, humble life, I must ask myself what I really need. Another afternoon we were sharing about our day and somebody asked, “Why do people here walk long distances to harvest when they could just plant next to their houses?” We tend to think in terms of convenience, but they think in terms of nature and the integrity of the land. Where we look at land as something to take advantage of, they think of it as part of their world that they need to care for. These experiences gave me the opportunity to try to see through the eyes of others.
Now meditating on my own experience of this mission trip, I see a lot of value in the sense that I saw a different way of life, a different situation that involved different kind of needs but at the end I experienced God’s work though this great people and the missions that took me to a different dimension in time.