Although I am now back in Montreal, the memory of Wiki still remains quite strongly with me. Especially in my dream life. Not only do my kids feature in many of my dreams, but I’m also getting less pleasant dreams that involves the suicide of teenagers that keep me up at night sometimes. Perhaps this is an expression of the grip that Wiki will always have on me. Even if there are people who suffer more on this big planet than the people in Wiki, there are few places that I feel more called to live than in Wiki these days!! But now, I have to go back and continue the story that I left off with from the previous blog:
Going back to the depression I felt after the Services on First Communion Sunday…it’s funny how my stay here both started and ended with this feeling of depression. They were very two very different levels of it of course.
The one I felt after a few days here was quite powerful, and borderline frightening:One morning in particular was especially frightful… I woke up in the morning, and was unable to get out of bed.There was this rather loud voice in my head proclaiming how I was being useless here and was wasting my time not just in Wiki, but in religious life in general. I mean, obviously, much of that had to do with the fact that I was ‘settling in’, not working on any projects, but also being overwhelmed of having to walk in the shoes/shadows of other great novices before me (more on that later)
It was through prayer, and a lot of it too, that I would get over this phase, and with time, would learn to be confident, and comfortable of the things I could contribute here in Wiki on my own term, without feeling pressured to imitate what any of the other guys had done when they were here. That would take a while, but it was one of the most liberating feelings in the world once it did come!!
But the depression I felt on 1st Communion Sunday was a different kind. Not as aggressive maybe. It was almost like quiet sadness over the fact that I would be leaving soon….as I had mentioned, there was also this feeling of being excluded from the other celebrations of the day, but that was not a big deal in retrospect and I already explained why in the previous blog, though for a few days, I just assumed I was sad at being excluded yet again here in Wiki.
After a day of binging with movies and junk food -which I did during the rest of that Sunday- I slowly emerged with a different perspective on the issue: I wasn’t depressed for any other reason that I felt that I was leaving these kids behind. When I tried to express this to the community at our meeting on Monday, I wept pretty intensely for the first time since I had been in Wiki. The one thing that sticks out for me in Wiki is that these kids aren’t all well surrounded by loving families, and for some of them, I feel like I was the closest thing they had to someone who cared about them with all his heart (I’m sure that isn’t totally true..but it’s what it felt like, and at the same time, with all the broken families here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the lack of a warm loving environment is one of the things that leads some of these kids on such a bad path after a while).
I guess, you may say this is me having a Messiah complex…wanting to save these kids from their hardships. But as one wise man reminded me, that’s not my vocation as a Jesuit. I’m called to love unconditionally, but not to be attached, because one never knows where the spirit will lead me. Well, that’s going to be hard for me. I get attached easily, especially to kids. that’s what I keep telling people about my experience: If I had gotten attached to the kids, but had not felt that the attachment was mutual, then I would have moved on somehow. but everywhere I went, if some of the kids saw me, they’d wave frantically or call after me. One even gasped with excitement when she bumped into me at the market one day! I guess it’s safe to say that all this attention got to my head..completely. Maybe that’s part of the danger with this vocation to Wiki I feel I have. I like it here because I feel more loved than say…at the novitiate, or any other Jesuit community for that matter.
Despite this, I can’t forget one basic thing that draws me back to Wiki: No one (no Jesuit) wants to be sent here (with a few exceptions!) and rightfully so. This is a difficult environment. Lonely, isolated and at times, very cold -both in terms of weather, and in terms of the reception we get from the community- . For we Jesuits who are trained to live in community and to dedicate ourselves for the well being of all who are in it,this kind of life is almost contrary to our vocation that is focused on helping all souls, and serving a large number of people. .But our vocation also has another aspect: We basically go where no one else will. Historically, this has been true with Jesuits going to many far off places to spread the love of God. And it was true in Manitoulin as well…the first men sent here were indeed sacrificing their lives for the well being of this small community. I personally feel that it would not be much of a sacrifice. I’d be far from my friends and family, true, but I would be with others that I love as much as my friends and family back home. Others who perhaps need to be reminded what it’s like to be loved unconditionally.
I was reminded of this on one of my last days in Wiki. Not long after Kristen Jackson committed suicide, another woman, Julie Trudeau also ended her life. She was a bit older (25), but her death was no less tragic. those of you who have been reading this blog will remember that I spoke of a Jordan trudeau who had been murdered while in prison, leaving his wife and 2 kids behind. Julia was his wife. Those kids were now without mother or father. And yet, as sad as all this was, what grieved me was this little boy that I met during the wake. Everyone I spoke to -kids and adults- told me he was like a little devil child that would probably end up in prison some day (how one can say that about an 8 year old in grade 2 is beyond me). And I could see he was a feisty one..but somehow, I also inspired some gentleness in him. He (along with two other girls) joined me for evening mass and was so well behaved. Later that evening, during the wake, I saw him walking around and looking sad…I was in the Church during the wake, and I beckoned him to come sit with me. He came, cuddled against me, and started sharing that he was sad because the other -bigger- kids were always picking on him. At that moment, this boy was not a trouble maker or a future criminal for me..he was a little boy with a lot of pain around growing up. He was a little boy that needed some attention and love. there seems to be a lot of kids like that in Wiki.
Maybe that is why I was so quick to point out to our provincial that even though not many Jesuits want to be sent here, I felt that this was about to change, both with me, and with others. We understand the need here…and it’s not a need that is greater than starving children in Africa or homeless ones in Haiti…but it’s our country’s need rather than some other one. I don’t feel at all called to doing missionary work abroad when there is so much work
to be done in our own country..but I guess, as usual, it’s hard for me to pronounce myself confidently on the matter. Things could change.
However, if things do change, I do hope that I remember that little boy in Wiki who touched me so much; That I remember the members of the community – even if they were few in numbers- who welcomed me as if I were a son (one of the DOS said she saw me as a son on my last day in Wiki, and I pretty much lost it!!) and who have so much to teach me. That I lovingly remember all these kids that I was so dedicated to during these 4 months, and that I would love to see grow old. I’m not allowed to limit my vocation to just one place, and I will not do so. However, nor can I allow myself to forget that place, and whatever the Good Lord has in store for me in the future, I hope I will always have time for this community and all it has to offer!
God bless Wiki