Wednesday, 29 June 2016 15:19

A Mission of Accompaniment

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Kris Neufeld – NSFA Staff Editor

As Affiliates, many of us have found ways to answer the call of Maryknoll—“to welcome the stranger and to walk with the people.” Members of the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers, and Lay Missioners often answer this call in the “field afar,” whereas most of us find the stranger, the deprived, the needy and lonely right here among us. Sometimes our answer to the call is short-term, like teaching English to new immigrants who then move on to self-sufficiency. Sometimes it’s visiting the incarcerated or working in a food pantry or offering rides to those without transportation.

Kitty Madden visits with a new mother and her baby at Casa Materna.

Whatever form our answer to this call takes, it is a special way of accompaniment. Kitty Madden, whom many of us know and support, calls accompaniment a “bridging work.” For the past 30 years, she has been a bridge between Nicaraguan women who need care in their pregnancies and friends in the North who help her in this work by financially supporting Casa Materna or, as some Affiliates have done, by going to Nicaragua on short-term mission. Imagine the power of the accompaniment that has been given to over 17,000 mothers since the beginnings of this outreach.

 

We live in a society that, unquestionably, values abundance. Slowly we are realizing that material possessions are not the answer to happiness. Only recently have we learned that human relationships are what will sustain us—not the 500+ “friends” we have on Facebook who don’t hold a candle to those long-time friends with whom we can reminisce—who have accompanied us, walked with us through life’s joys and sorrows.

The theology of accompaniment doesn’t require any grandiosity. Jesus walked with the disciples on their way to Emmaus. He performed no miracles, offered no advice, barely spoke. He just listened to them and walked with them.

What are our stories of accompaniment? Who has accompanied us, and how has that changed us, sustained us, shown us the way to “pay-it-forward”? We would do well to pray daily for new eyesight to recognize the “others” and for new ears to listen to their sorrows, their loneliness, their needs and hopes of carrying on with ever-changing lives. That is our real call to being Maryknoll Affiliates.

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