Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 16, 2008
A weary missionary finally returns home
Four years of intense work takes its toll
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
After more than three years of intense missionary work in Guatemala, my body and my doctor told me the time had come for me to take a break and a good rest, as in his words, I was going through burnout.
In any event, I was due for a trip to Canada. I reflected and prayed and it became clear to me that I should go home and rest a bit, closing this powerful and rich missionary experience for awhile and wait to hear the Spirit's voice as to what I should do next.
The response was clear and direct and it came through my superior's voice: I should take six months of rest. I needed that time to recuperate.
I did not fight his advice. In fact, I embraced it with a sense of deep relief. The previous three months had been hard on me and I felt a constant fatigue wearing me down.
I will be forever grateful for the four most rewarding years of my life and for the deep companionship I experienced with my pastor, Father Sergio of Mexico. Both of our lives took a radical turn when he was called by the Mexican Oblate authorities to take over the leadership of the Oblates' Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The reason for this abrupt decision was because one morning the Oblate superior of the Marian shrine did not show up for morning prayers or for breakfast. One of the priests went to the superior's quarters to check on him and quickly returned to tell his colleagues the superior had been strangled to death while sleeping.
I can't imagine the shock this gave to the community.
I did not experience that kind of distress, but I went through another setback: Father Sergio, my superior and fellow missionary, was chosen by his colleagues in Mexico to become the superior and leader of Mexico's shrine where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a peasant telling him to tell the priest to build a shrine there in honour of the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
A young and inexperienced Oblate was sent to replace Sergio as the new pastor in Chicaman.
Soon I realized that a younger generation was ready to take on this great work and perhaps it was time for me to leave.
So one morning I picked up my computer and a small bag and drove to Guatemala City. There I met Father Gerry LeStrat, the superior of the Guatemala Oblates and a good friend since my novitiate days.
On the jet plane
I told him of my decision. He understood my situation well and supported my plan.
I gave him the keys to my Toyota truck and got on the next plane to Edmonton.
My brother Andy was waiting at the airport and a deep sigh of relief came over me. Home at last. Rest at last! Praise God!
It was a hard decision to make, but when a person celebrates his 71st birthday, a life change may be in the offing.
I thanked God for the blessings I've received in the mission field and I await with peace the next part of my missionary life.
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