The following are the excerpts of my word of thanks to the Studentate of the Dominican Province of the Queen of Martyrs (Vietnam): Some people say that when you enjoy and love what you are doing, time passes by very fast. Our stay here in Vietnam has been very fast. We did not notice that we are on our last days here. Some brothers even ask us if we miss our family and the Philippines. I honestly can say “no”. Why? It is because you have made us feel at home. We have become a family.
These words of gratitude are still fresh in my mind up to this time of writing. I did not expect that I had a heavy heart as I bid goodbye to their community. It was my first time to feel that way. I got emotional. I asked myself why I suddenly felt that way. I remember my first week of stay in Vietnam was my adjustment period. I need to adapt with their food and culture. Other than adjusting, I together with two other brothers need to do what is expected from us. We were asked to facilitate an avenue where they could practice their facility in the use of the English language. I prepared and followed my lesson plan but then I felt that they could not understand me. I almost got discouraged but I then realized that I was talking fast and my accent was different.
This exposure has placed me in an actual situation where my teaching ability was tested. My teaching experience led me also to the understanding that the ministry of preaching is not about you being understood but it is about you understanding your listener/student. Preaching is about you reaching out to others. This is only made possible if you make an effort to know others. It is through knowing them that you can deliver properly what you will preach.
Knowing will eventually lead to loving as proposed by our brother, St. Thomas Aquinas. I believe that love is a universal experience. We may have different languages; it is the language of love that connects people even with different cultures. If we know how to express this language of love, a good and lasting relationship will be built. This is the primary reason why it is hard to say goodbye to people whom you have considered as family. I then realized that it is not actually saying goodbye but until we see each other again. A chapter has ended but a new chapter is about to begin as the journey continues. This experience should fuel me to be true to our charism: to be sent and to be itinerant. We should be ready to reach out to other people. We do not leave people we encounter but we actually bring them with us. How? We carry the lessons we have learned from and with them, and apply it in our next journey. In this way, we continue to preach, to learn and most of all, to spread love. This is a great lesson I have learned that I will forever be grateful.
By Br. Jayson R. Gonzales, OP