“Journey” seems an apt metaphor for my life. All of my life has been a journey, an immersion experience in many cultures.
Recent years have found me teaching English in Tanzania, talking about our worldwide Salvatorian missions at parishes in such places as Perth Amboy NJ, Erie PA, and Indianapolis, participating in at our General Chapter in Rome, and visiting our Sisters in Vienna and Budapest. While these recent destinations represent longer, picturesque external journeys, perhaps the more significant journeys have been inward – into my heart, “coming home” to myself.
One thing that has been remarkable to me has been the ease with which I have called several of these new places “home.” I have found myself at home at our Motherhouse in Rome, at St. Joseph Krankenhaus in Vienna, and in the simple apartment where our Sisters live in Budapest even if I’ve been there for just a short time. Each time I return to our mission in Masasi, Tanzania, I feel that I am coming home again. This ability to be quickly at home in such disparate locations reflects my growing sense of being at home within myself. Here is where I am for a few days, a week, a month … and I am quickly at home.
This is a gift. It has not always been this way for me. There were many years when I stood slightly outside, on the edge of the group, outside myself actually, sizing up a new situation before committing to it. Taking time to decide whether I could make this new place home, or not.
Leaving my parents’ home and going away to college was more difficult than I let myself know at the time. My parents’ home, wherever we were, had been home for me as a child. When I was young, my father’s work required nearly annual moves. Whenever we moved, a few familiar things and our strong family relationships quickly made the new house our home. But we rarely acknowledged the frequent losses we experienced in leaving friends behind at the former houses. As a child, I didn’t have the tools or the skills to maintain friendships once we moved. My skills were for moving into new places, being the new kid in class, and letting the former places and friends fall into distant memories.
Once I went to college, I never felt any real permanence in the residence halls. Students move in, students moved out. The environment was too fluid to develop a sense of permanence, or a real sense of home. As an 18-year-old young adult, I needed to create my own new sense of home apart from my parents. But I never did.
In 1967 I moved away from my parents’ home, and I moved out of myself for the next 25 years.
I met the Salvatorian Sisters in 1975, and began visiting them in Milwaukee regularly the following year. I think I quickly recognized Salvatorian community as home, but I didn’t name it that way. I visited regularly, several times a year for the next three years, and entered Salvatorian community as a candidate in 1979. My formation was a long slow journey – a journey toward myself, in a sense, gradually allowing myself to feel at home among Salvatorians … and finally, deeply at home within myself.
Yet, I approached the Salvatorians warily in the beginning. As a result, I took the maximum possible time in formation – plus two years. It took leaving Salvatorian community and living on my own for two years – while doing some deep inner-soul work – to recognize that Salvatorian community was the home I had been searching for all along. Returning to Salvatorian community in 1992 was an experience of homecoming that was affirmed when I made my profession of perpetual vows in 1994. Entering Salvatorian community helped me to come home to myself, and now I find that I can be at home with our Sisters nearly anywhere in the world.
By Sr. Barbara Reynolds , SDS