KITCHEN MISSIONARIES

We had just arrived in New Orleans. We were sitting at our community table eating something before we went to bed, when Father Kevin, who was also visiting this community, joined us. The conversation began to unfold freely about how and why each one of us winded up there.

In no time we were sharing the reasons for being Redemptorist and referring to the pillars of our charism that, at the beginning of our stories, had awakened our wish to be part of this family. It was at his point that Kevin told us how Redemptorists are known in the US. The expression people use to call them. We were somewhat puzzled… Was it a pleasant one or a bad one?

– Kitchen missionaries or kitchen-table priests, he said.
– Why? – We asked, still trying to understand the meaning of his words.
– Because we are home missionaries. We are table missionaries.

He told us that it is a US tradition for families to have two dining tables at home. One in the dining room where they only sit on special occasions, such as when there are important guests and one needs to wear formal clothes and find the right words to serve. On these occasions, the table is set with dishes that are used only once a year, including fancy napkins too. People on those days behave in a polite but formal manner. Then there is the kitchen table. The day-to-day one, used by people who live at this home and where they eat the common meals, where they talk about the matters of that particular day and also about the worries, the hardships and joys of life.

The good news is that it is at this table where Redemptorists sit! At this one, where conversations either carry pain or celebration. Where people are dressed casually and where the words come straight from the heart. Our missionaries in this country are as if they were family. People with whom there is no need to stand on ceremony. They are people one can say: “Oh, you know where the cups and coffee are, grab them!” And with whom one can talk fraternally. With tears and laughter.

And we’ve experienced it in New Orleans. Either at the table or in the way they participate and preside over parish celebrations or, for instance, the way they share the living room to watch a football match. There is only one rule, though. We all have to cheer for the Saints!

And we’ve experienced it in New Orleans. One of the missions of this community is to care for and welcome pilgrims who visit and seek the shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. A large team of volunteers offer their time to be available to welcome those who arrive. They make themselves available to tell the story of this Redemptorist missionary and to show them around the center and museum premises. But what is more beautiful is that they are available to pray together. With those who go there in person and with those who call by phone. There is a team available to visit those who are ill and cannot leave home and need company to pray.

And we’ve experienced it in New Orleans. There are small gestures that give away this proximity. Such is the example of Father Richard, who has just arrived at the community and told us that he is considering moving his office from the second floor of the pilgrim center to the first floor, which is where the main entrance is.

– Why? – we asked.
– So that I can be closer to those who visit us. I´ll risk being bothered all the time, I know, but if pilgrims have to go up a floor to meet me, it might be too far a distance.

We couldn’t agree more. To go up a floor might be too far a distance.

We’ll see you around,

Zé ku Teresa
LMMHR

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1 Comment

  1. So very touching and beautiful. God bless you all. I always think of the Redemptorists priests as the people’s priest. From my first meeting with them as a young girl in1964, I am always touched by the care and concern shown by the Redemptorists priests. Their flock is their first priority. I have been blessed to have known the many devoted priests at the Seelos Center and St. Mary’s Church. What a difference they have made in so many lives. And will continue to be a great prescense in years to come. As a Seelos volunteer I have seen so many people who are touched by the Redemptorists ministry and blessed Seelos. Well done good and faithful Redemptorists priests.

    Like

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