Never Forget Your Roots
Who am I?. I was born and grew up in “Les Cayes, Haiti.” I then moved to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to study Spanish at APEC school of languages. While in the Dominican Republic I worked briefly as a substitute French and Creole teacher, and volunteered at Our Lady of Rosary medical Center run by the Franciscan Friars. In 2013 I moved to Lakewood, CA. In 2014 I joined the Franciscan Friars, and was sent to Chicago, Illinois for a year of Postulancy. In 2015 I entered our Franciscan novitiate in Mishawaka, Indiana. After one year there, I moved San Antonio, TX, where I am still currently living in our Franciscan Friary and attending University of St. Mary’s a Catholic and Marianist Universities.
There are a few key facts that will always be true about where someone comes from. If you, like me, are not a U.S citizen, you might also be rethinking the reason of coming to America; I invite you to take a very deep breath: look deeper and recognize we are all the same inside, and in are some ways on pilgrimage. In 2014-15 when I was a postulant in Chicago and in 2015-15 when I was a novice in Mishawaka, Indiana: I would go to the chapel and ask myself, “ who am I?” After all my moves, I really needed to know the answer. Then I remembered that I am a child of God and he has called and sent me on a pilgrimage here to follow the Franciscan way of life. I felt confirmed that God was calling me to follow the footstep of St. Francis and to follow the teachings of Jesus. Each one of us has a choice to follow Jesus for our own personal good to live for him and others.
I imagine myself like St. Peter saying, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water" [Matthew 14:28]. Lord please show me a sign of your presence, lead me, guide me, walk beside me. At that time in my life I could not feel a thing. During this hard time as I was facing many struggles. It was as if there was a voice inside my head saying “you are just dreaming but you will never make it through”. I sensed that I had to believe and overcame my fear and have confidence in God and in myself. I closed my eyes at that time, and began to reflect on the words of Jesus to his disciples, “Take courage, It is I. don’t be afraid my little one” [Matthew 14:27]. I understood I would be just fine if I fixed my eyes and kept focused on the one who remains the same for eternity to eternity.
I could have fallen, but nevertheless, I had to stand firm. In Psalm 121:5, we read about God’s promise of protection: “The Lord of the heavens is my guard and shade, at my right side he stands. By day the sun shall not smite me nor the moon in the night”. He also promises that he will be always beside me, helping me with the strength I need to stand steadfast to accept joyfully whatever might come my way. In Isaiah 14:27 we read: “nothing can stop God’s plan for your life”. So I do believe because God’s promises cannot be broken.
Thus, I have begun to let go and trust in this process and God’s plan for me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11”). In His goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal Himself and make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (Eph 1:9). I know who I am. I also know I am in the right place, and at the right time surrounded by my Franciscan brothers who have been very supportive, tolerant, and patient with me. Like many who are not a US born, I have experienced prejudice, lows, and highs. Nevertheless, I kept on moving. “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).
On this journey through many states, I became comfortable with American culture as a new kind of adventure. I know that some of us who come from different countries sometimes feel embarrassed to talk about our home lands. This can be especially difficult today, but I think we are mistaken. In other words, we really are missing the point of being who we are. I remember heading to Chicago, my oldest brother Idor said: “Stay focused on what you called to do, “Sonson” (my family nickname.) Remember you speak very limited English and never forget who you are and where you come from”.
“The best way to deal with people who try to bring you down is to worry less about yourself in the first place” (Says, poet Mary Oliver). I can honestly say that all beginnings are hard, and hopefully, I will get through it. Being able to see and pass the restraints that were trying to define who and what I could become, was a better way to overcome it. Finally, I said to myself. Most of us tend to think that it what others think of us is what really matter. However, I am not solely defined by where I came from. I have grown to know that it does not matter what people say about me or how people see me, what is essential for me, knowing that as St. Francis of Assisi said “God gave me brothers”. Jesus loves me. This truth along with that fact is what most important for me. I put my faith, and hope in Him.