It’s Friday in Wexford, and it’s late, or early, depending on your view of things. It’s also lashing rain. I’m in the house alone, as the community’s term of service officially ended on June 30 and the cast of Teach Bhríde Season 2 has parted ways. Clarisa is in Uganda, visiting her boyfriend for the first time in 10 months; Patrick is back home in Alabama with his family (I’ll spare you any Lynyrd Skynyrd allusions); Jessica has just returned home to Oregon for a brief respite before returning here in about a month; and I am preparing to leave early Saturday morning on a 10-day pilgrimage through Finland, Sweden, and Russia, serving as liturgical musician for the journey, after which I will make the big move to the Windy City.
The four of us really wanted to sit down and write the final blog post together–something funny and poignant that would sum up our communal experience. Unfortunately, with the packing, the staggered departures, and the many good-byes that needed to be said, time just got away from us, which, in point of fact, is an apt phrase to sum up the past 10 months: time just got away from us. In many ways, it feels like we just arrived here, and now, well, it just feels like I’ve watched almost an entire year speed by over the span of about a day, like something shot in time-lapse photography. It just doesn’t seem possible that our time here is already over.
Mere words couldn’t possibly do justice to the outpouring of love and well wishes that we experienced in the days leading up to the first departure. In the midst of handshakes, embraces, and tear-filled eyes, there was also a lot of laughter as we reminisced with our friends from the parish and with one another on some of the year’s memorable moments, many of which we’ve shared here. There were promises all around to stay in touch, to visit as soon as humanly possible, to hold one another in thought and prayer from now on.
Looking back over the past two years, I am awestruck at the plethora of ways in which Divine Providence has manifested itself in the nascent and fledgling stages of this community. I think about the implicit trust Fr. Denis and the people of Clonard displayed in saying, “Yes. We will bring these complete strangers into our midst. We will welcome them, and house them, and hope that they will be people who can be gracious learners as well as able teachers. We don’t even know them yet, but we already welcome them.” I think about the purpose-filled ingenuity the members of our Board displayed in saying, “Yes. We will make the necessary arrangements and secure the financial support for an initiative that has yet to be proven, and we will be present to the members of community should they need further assistance in their ministry.” Most of all, I think about Jessica, Clarisa, and Patrick, as well as Chris and Martha–I think about their utter unselfishness in giving a year of their lives to this (ad)venture by saying, “Yes. We will leave home and family and loved ones for an unfamiliar place and culture. We will place our gifts and talents at the service of the Church in the hope that, by doing what we can, we may become witnesses to others of the presence of God. We will trust that seeds of faith are being planted in the people we serve, although we may not always see the immediate fruits of our efforts. We will undertake the lifestyle of a lay community, celebrating the strengths and forgiving the weaknesses of one another–living together, working together, praying together.”
It’s a lot to think about.
In the grand scheme of things, a year really isn’t that much time. Even two years, which seemed like a sizable commitment at the outset, now seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket. Yet, for all its brevity, the time spent serving in Teach Bhríde will, no doubt, continue to shape and form the community’s members and alumni for the rest of their (our) lives. In addition, with every year, Teach Bhríde itself grows from strength to strength in terms of the relationships formed here in Ireland as well as a heightened clarity of vision regarding the community’s mission, and it is my fervent prayer that this growth will continue. It is with a wistful sense of sadness that I take my leave as House Director, especially since I was just starting to feel like I was getting the hang of things. Nevertheless, it is with a brimming sense of anticipation that I look forward to hearing about the work of next year’s community under Jessica’s gifted leadership. Please keep Jess, Molly, Kurt, and Dan in prayer as they begin making preparations for their year of service, and please remember Clarisa, Patrick, and me as well, as we leave Wexford for all that lies ahead.
To all who have had a hand in making Teach Bhríde a reality, I can only say a simple, humble, heartfelt thank you, “and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”