Top ten reasons for becoming a Missionary Servant? I’ll hold off on listing all ten right now. But high on my personal list, back when I was discerning my vocation, was Adventure! The idea of experiencing many different cultures and missions holds great appeal to me.
But now, after many years in vows, some of the glamor of it has rubbed off. Reality check: being an MSBT means packing and moving every so often. When I was on the Vocation/Formation team, we moved our cenacle (home) three times, and our offices four times in seven years! Some of my moves have been hard, emotionally or physically, and some have been easy, even exciting. But as I prepare to move this month from one building to another on our Motherhouse property on Solly Avenue in Philadelphia, I am recognizing that all of my moves have some things in common. I always pack a mixed bag of emotions.
Exciting or depressing? Moving to a new location means new possibilities, new experiences. That part of moving is the exciting part. But going through my stuff as I pack can lead to a review of what I never got around to in my old location: the unfinished or never-begun projects, the possibilities I started out with that never came to light. These reminders can be a bit depressing.
Breaking free of old routines or anxiously learning new ones? Moving forces me to get out of whatever ruts I have dug for myself. But there is comfort in having routines! Knowing what to expect and when to expect it is not all bad. And knowing where things are can become almost irrationally important. How many drawers and cabinets do I have to open before I find the steak knives? Again?
Getting liberated from my stuff or getting ground down by tedium? Going through everything I own every few years means deciding what to get rid of. It’s a huge, boring chore to pack everything I own, which motivates me to throw or give away as much as I can bear to part with. And ultimately, there is a true feeling of lightness and freedom that comes with pitching my stuff in the dumpster.
I am only moving to another building here at our Motherhouse. I don’t have to find a new doctor, new dentist, new church, new circle of friends. But it is still an opportunity to reflect on my missionary vocation. Our founder called us to a spirit of holy detachment. “Don’t even get attached to a sunny corner!” That is an ideal I can only aspire to. But I accept all my moving days, the hard ones and the easy ones, as part of my MSBT life. Somehow it all works to make me less attached to stuff and routines, and more open to new life and new possibilities.