Twenty years of direct, day to day service to the Congolese people, the church and our order there, came to an end for me when I arrived back in the United States on May 28. The decision to leave was my own, and was made, of course, in collaboration with my superiors. Sometimes I think that it seems to have been a bit early both to me and to others. On the other hand, taking into account the stresses as I experienced them, I felt it best to leave while I was still healthy, rather than to take a more hasty departure later, or even to become a cause of concern to others.
My leaving was experienced by me as a celebration. I have never lived through anything like this before. The expressions of gratitutde and affection, as demonstrated by special gatherings and speeches, poems, songs and even dances, as well as beautiful gifts, I found very moving. I have to say that I enjoyed it all. Later of course, the doubts came and the realization of loss, of separation, along with the understanding that life would never be the same again. But deep down, my predominant feeling is one of great gratitutde to God and to my confreres and the Congolese people for my life there these 20 some years.
On the way home I was able to visit some confreres and friends in Belgium. I had worked in the Congo with some of these men who were my mentors and collaborators. Others had become friends while I was studying to go to the Congo. So it was a kind of celebration and farewell. I am very grateful for the "home" which I have always found among them.
In the meantime, since my leaving, the Congolese people have experienced the miracle of a first ever democratic presidential election. Let us pray that the new government will be able to establish reforms to help the people have a more truly human and free way of life.
At the completion of the mission preaching which I did over the summer (16 weekends) I was able to follow a month's renewal program at the Mercy Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, thanks to my superiors who encouraged me to do this and who provided the funds. It was a busy time with some courses, counseling and spiritual direction. It was a kind of taking stock of where I'd been and where I would like to go in a personal spiritual sense.
Now I am assigned to our our priory at Onamia where I live with some 30 to 40 other Crosier Fathers and Brothers. One of my special tasks will be to continue to try to find funds for the works of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers in the Congo. A definite end to one part of my life and the beginning of another. May God bless this time of transition.