So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything substantial - and there are reasons for that. But now, even though I should be preparing for the GRE, I feel like I have to say something.
While in Venice on Thursday night, Alexis and I had a chance to talk about some troubles we’ve been facing since coming abroad, specifically our faith lives and finding friendships, and then what it’s going to be like when we finally go home, that is, to St. Norbert.
One of the things that both of us mentioned is struggling to keep a quotidian faith practice (see, I’m constantly preparing for this test). One issue I keep running into is the Italian; I am a person of the Post-Vatican II Church, meaning that I want to be able to easily follow everything word-for-word, even though I know exactly where we are in the Mass at all times. This is one of those petty things that is actually quite important for my story. Keep it in mind.
Anyway, I’ve realized that my semester here is not just a cultural experience, but a time to learn who I am religiously and in faith and then develop my own methods of fitting into a new parochial setting. I thought I knew who I was in these things, but then I discovered that my self-definition did was not universal, that I somehow subscribed myself to a faith that could not extend past my own little St. Norbert College. In other words, SNC defined my faith for me - it is easy back home, but not so easy while away. I even get the same feeling when I’m in Cambria, that it is so difficult to keep up a faith life when I don’t have the bubble of SNC keeping me close. This is not good when it comes time to venture away from St. Norbert College, and I’ve realized this.
It’s not easy to be placed in a new parish, in a place where you think that no one knows who you are and you don’t know anyone. St. Norbert gives us all these things - they give us similar people and they (somehow) make sure we know that we are similar. We have the same interests, though different backgrounds, and we are clumped together. Good and bad. What’s good about it is that it is very easy to become acquainted, especially in my case, with the life of a parish - taking care of parishioners and their concerns; taking care of the church and fostering a balance of challenge and comfort among people in the community. Basically, we learn to live in a community at St. Norbert College. GOOD. But, because we are placed in circumstances where there are similar people with similar interests (even if we have different backgrounds), we tend to think that this is the only Church - that there are these same interests, same people, throughout the entire Church, no matter where we go. Participating as much as I do back home in parish life has alleviated some of this, trust me; however, coming to an area of the world where I honestly have near nothing in common (or so it seems) with the people of these parishes, and almost no way to develop relationships with them makes it increasingly difficult to desire to be part of the community. Bad.
I miss being involved with the parish. Being as involved as I have been over the past few years back home has really given me a great sense of belonging to SNCP. I feel like I am contributing in a positive way and I have truly grown to care about the students and year-round parishioners at St. Norbert College. I take time back home to listen to their concerns, and I know where to go when those concerns need to be addressed. I’ve really grown up, so to say, at SNCP and it will always be my home. I take time to get to know students at the parish and allow them to know me; I feel like I am really part of the community when I attend Mass or participate in any way at St. Norbert.
Rome has prepared me to be ready to move into a new parish setting after graduation by placing me in the most extreme circumstance - not knowing anyone, and having no way of knowing anyone because of a language barrier. One regret that I have is that I did not take steps to try becoming more involved, but hopefully when I move on to new things and when I am a new member of a parish (anywhere), I will be able, because of this experience, to move toward greater involvement more quickly. I know the inner workings of a parish setting because of SNCP and now I know what it feels like to have no clue what’s happening. I have my polar opposites, now’s time to find a balance.
I give my talents to the parish and the favor is returned when I look on the faces of the people gathered and see how joyful they are that they can attend a parish such as SNCP and be with friends who over time have become family to them; the greatest part of this is knowing that I helped foster that reality.
We are a true family at St. Norbert College and I miss my family. I am happy to finally go back home in January and I hope they’re happy to receive me one last time. I have only a few short months left, Old St. Joe’s, so let’s make them something to remember!