Mission in Mexico as DVI Volunteer

Renessa Tang Pack shares her experience
Reness in Cuernavaca, Mexico

On Concluding My Mission: After a reflective Easter week with CCIDD and the Lethbridge and Mission Mexico groups from Canada, I had the opportunity to end my mission in a special way at the end of April at the 16th Justice and Peace Encounter of the Dominican Family in Mexico. The theme of the Encounter was, ‘Campaigns for Peace and Justice’, and it featured well-informed speakers on the social reality of Mexico, a panel discussion on the positioning and setting of priorities for the Dominican Family in the context of the Mexican reality, and interactive workshops on the use of new technologies and social networks in preaching.

A memorable end to the Encounter on Sunday 29th April, the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena, was the special blessing and send forth I received at the closing Mass from Fr. Miguel Concha O.P. and representatives of the Dominican Family in Mexico. I was given the opportunity after the Mass to say goodbye and personally thank most of the members of the Dominican Justice and Peace Commission and the Dominican Family with whom I worked during the year and who contributed to and supported me in my year of mission.

Thanks to all of the members of the Dominican Family who helped to facilitate my mission year in Mexico, including Sr. Lucia and the DVI team in Rome, the community of the nuns of Holy Rosary Monastery in Trinidad, and in Mexico - Sr. Kathy Long O.P (Sinsinawa) and her staff at CCIDD, (the Dominican Sisters of the Incarnate Word – Srs. Aline, Rosa, Alicia, Rocio, Paul and Brigitte), Fr. Miguel Concha O.P. and the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Centre, the Dominican Justice and Peace Commission and the Dominican Province of Santiago in Mexico. You all will always remain in my memory and prayers.

It was wonderful for me to experience here in Mexico the interaction that takes place between the different branches of the Dominican Family tree in the mission work for justice and peace, from the clergy – nuns, sisters and friars, to laypersons including the Dominican Youth Movement and Dominican Volunteers International. One analogy on the Dominican Family that I appreciated was that given by a young Commission member who, during the Encounter panel discussion quoted a Dominican nun who had described the nuns as being the roots since they were founded first, the friars as the trunk, the sisters as the branches, lay persons as stems and the youths as the leaves.

The analogy of laity and youths being like stems and leaves seems appropriate not only in terms of their increased vulnerability in the midst of the secular activities in the world, but their willingness especially given their comparatively lesser family and community commitments, to be blown about with by the Holy Spirit as described in John 3:8:- “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I reflect on what an invaluable opportunity DVI was for me as a layperson to fly away on mission to another country and culture, yet remain in the secure precincts of the international family of the Dominican Order. In the space of a year I have come a long way. No longer do I feel like a lost sheep as I did about a year ago, on missing my connecting airport flight before arriving at my place of mission in Mexico, but I now feel more a part of a large fruitful family tree with Christ as the main life source, which this Fifth Sunday of Easter’s Gospel of John 15:5 refers to: - “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”

Amongst other preparations, I plan to spend a few months with my family – in my home country and abroad before I move on to the next stage of my journey within the Dominican Order. I plan from October to become a postulant within my DVI sending community – the Dominican nuns of Holy Rosary Monastery in Trinidad. I definitively discerned my attraction to the contemplative life about three months before embarking on my DVI mission after having interacted with the nuns for about four years. The leap to shedding my court robes with a view to donning monastic ones will implicate the adoption of a more austere lifestyle than that of the young career driven lawyer I was before my DVI year. In that vein, not only has my DVI year been about being able to share in and gain a greater appreciation and knowledge of the missionary work of the Dominican Family in justice and peace, but it has certainly been useful preparation for my future vocation in giving me practical experience in living in community, in being more community oriented and less individualistic and in living a simpler lifestyle.

This year while learning more about, and reflecting with my sending community, on the vocation to contemplative life, I was pleased to discover that contemplative life does not mean exclusion from work for the missions; it just means working in a well-informed way behind the scenes collaborating in prayer for the flourishing of the Church’s apostolic activity. Former Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe O.P. in a lecture given at S. Sabina for the Feast of St. Catherine 2001 titled, “A city set on a hilltop cannot be hidden”, comments on the importance of contemplation in justice and peace work.

“Contemplative compassion is learning to look selflessly at others. As such it is deeply linked to the hunger for a just world. The Order’s commitment to justice easily becomes ideological if it is not born of contemplative compassion. A society that doesn’t understand contemplation won’t understand justice, because it will have forgotten how to looks selflessly at what is other. It will take refuge in generalities, prejudices, self -serving clichés.”

He also comments on the charism of the nuns in mission work

“You are missionaries just as much as the brethren, not by going anywhere but by living your lives from God and for God. As Jordan said to Diana, ‘you remaining in the quietness of your convent and my many wanderings in the world are equally done for the love of him. ´You are a preached Word in your being.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, contemplative Carmelite nun, whose intercession I sought at the start of own DVI mission year in finding a suitable place of mission, was in fact named by the church as co-patroness of all Mission and Missionaries with St. Francis Xavier. While she unlike St. Francis Xavier, never set foot on missionary lands, she nonetheless contributed and still contributes in a more hidden way through prayer to the life of the missions.