When then Bishop Sean O’Malley, asked me to study for the priesthood in Rome, I was humbled but scared like you wouldn’t believe for various reasons but for one in particular. Yes, I was scared that I would not be able to return to these shores for two whole years; yes, I was scared that I would not be seeing my family with any regularity; yes, I was scared that I would be leaving behind all of my friends but the real source of my fear was knowing that I would be living in a foreign country where I did not speak the language. I also was overwhelmed that I would be studying theology/for the priesthood in Italian. (As an aside, this might explain any major theological snafus I might be guilty of having made!) For some odd reason, the prospect of not speaking the language was something that brought such intense fear and made me extremely uneasy. I had studied Italian the summer prior to my departure at Brown University and although it was an intense course, I was fear-filled. When I first arrived in Rome, the seminary sent all of the first year seminarians to a local language school where we studied at various levels. By the end of yet another course, I was still scared with the academic year quickly approaching. On the first day, despite my poor Italian, I found that I shared many things in common with my classmates from around the world. My fears were quickly dispelled as I realized that all of us were at the Gregorian University with the same purpose: to study for the priesthood. It was a bond that quickly united all of us – despite apparent language barriers that were ever so slowly put aside as the years passed and as I improved my Italian. Some of those relationships exist to this day!
As we hear recounted in the Acts of the Apostles this great day we call Pentecost, the community of believers, despite language barriers, clearly understand each other. The Holy Spirit unites them and makes them one: a united Body of Christ ready to be the fiercest of Missionaries the world has ever seen or known.
The same can be said of every parish community. Sometimes, there are apparent differences that might first seem like a stumbling block but when we are willing to focus on what unites us and not on what separates us, we are a stronger community and we continue the work of building up God’s Kingdom here and Dartmouth in the 21st century. So my friends, we pray: Come, Holy Spirit, come!