You know, one of the first warnings I was given by a Jesuit when I entered the novitiate was that very few times in your Jesuit life, you get missioned to the place you actually want to go to. Now, as a first-year novice about to begin his life as a Jesuit, that was the last thing I wanted to hear coming from a veteran Jesuit. He did say it jokingly, but nevertheless, I took the warning seriously. So when it was time to discern with my Novice Master about where to mission me for my high school experience (or experiment, as we so cleverly call it), I was naturally a little nervous. Thanks to the influence of my classmate and Eric Couto, nSJ, a proud alumnus of Belen Jesuit´s class of 2013, as he frequently reminds us, I asked to be sent to Belen. Eric holds the title for loudest and most intense novice in the novitiate, with no real competition, and thanks to him, almost everyone in Cajun country Louisiana knows about the school. Eric´s advertising made Belen the most coveted Jesuit high school for novices to be sent on experiment. I really wanted to come but I wasn't very optimistic about my chances given what that Jesuit had said to me, so when I received the news that I was coming to Belen, I was very surprised and excited.
I remember my first day here back in October, which had its fair share of chaos after the power was accidentally cut off. I asked Deacon Prieto if that was a typical day at Belen to which he responded: Welcome to Belen! Now, as my time here comes to an end and look back at my experience, I cannot help but be overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude and joy for the gift of this wonderful Belen community. Gratitude is the fundamental virtue of Ignatian spirituality. St. Ignatius teaches us to recognize that everything we have is a gift, a gift that the Lord freely gives us, and in response, we are to be grateful. So I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude, to thank each and every one of you, the students, teachers, administration, staff, and the Jesuits for so warmly welcoming me into the Belen family. There was never a moment where I felt like a stranger or out of place. Thank you for all the great memories that you´ve given me: participating at the all-school Masses, sitting in on Mandarin and History class, playing ultimate frisbee in P.E. with the 7th graders, surviving the stampede on the central stairs in between classes, chaperoning students at a Special Olympics Unified tournament in Orlando, helping out with school retreats, being mistaken for a student skipping line at lunch, listening to Mr. Sanchez´epic pre-homeroom Mass pep talk, Father Willie´s awesome golf club homily, laughing at Mr. Lund´s and Father Cartaya´s legendary jokes, having lunch with Coach Arrieta and the crew, and so on. For these, thank you.
If you ask me what the hardest thing about being a Jesuit is, I would say it's precisely this: leaving, moving on; being missioned to a place for some time, building relationships with the people you are asked to minister to, and then being asked to leave everything behind, to move somewhere else and start all over again. In these moments of transition and uncertainty in our life, we easily fall into fear and despair. But my short time as a Jesuit has taught me that indeed the Lord is present with us always, and that He eagerly awaits us with great things in the new reality that Divine Providence has prepared for us. But we have to learn to let go, and trust that God will be there.
And so, as I get ready for my next assignment in Guatemala and for my First Vows next year, I ask that you keep me, and my brother Jesuits, in your prayers that we may always remain faithful to Him whose name we bear, Jesus Christ, and that we may do everything for His greater glory.
I promise to keep you in my prayers. Thank you and God bless!