The End of Something Beautiful Signals a Beginning of New Life
In our life we are bound to experience the different stages of life, “from the cradle to the grave.” Whether we accept it or not, there is always an end to everything. The good news is that “endings usually signal new beginnings.”
In August 2019, Aideen, Daryl and I (three founding members of the team of LIFETEEN) had a meeting to finalize our first LifeNight after the summer break. LIFETEEN was the youth ministry in Ballymum organized by Columban Fr. Eamon Sheridan with the help of a core team including three Sisters of the Infant Jesus, three local lay people, and Aideen, Daryl and myself (Columban lay missionaries
At the meeting, all three of us were enthusiastic about our plans for the coming year. Unfortunately, some sad news changed everything. The priests in the parish had decided that LIFETEEN should come to an end. Aideen, our coordinator, shared this news with us when we least expected it. After all the preparations in ensuring that LIFETEEN was up and running, it suddenly had to be stopped. It was like receiving a death notice. Disbelief and outrage were the dominant reactions when we heard this news. How could anyone stop a group like LIFETEEN that offers young people the space to be themselves with their peers and to grow in their faith journey? I don’t know how the others felt, but one thing was for sure, I was upset! I was more upset knowing that Aideen was very hurt and disappointed.
It didn’t make sense that the parish priests made the decision to end LIFETEEN, but God did not let our spirits be quelled! Surely God had a plan!
A month later, the Dublin diocese began advertising a program called TEENHOPE, a new diocesan initiative for young people in all parishes. Those involved in youth ministry were invited to join the training program to pilot TEENHOPE in their parishes. Aideen and I were the first to take the leap of hope for our youth and went to the training.
Perhaps this was God’s plan all along. Just as the Gospel says, unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground, it will remain a grain of wheat. If it falls and dies, it will bear much fruit. I am hopeful that even though LIFETEEN ended, the TEENHOPE program will bring a new beginning for our young people.
When I finished my sabbatical course, I was ready to return to my ministry. Although I wasn’t expecting to be asked to continue with my work in mission promotion, when my new appointment came, I felt a sense of loss and became aware of facing a new beginning, a new phase in life. I had been doing mission promotion for over ten years in Ireland, and I had come to love my ministry and commitment throughout the years.
I vividly remember how I was pulled out of my pastoral ministry in Navan parish. I was happy and delighted to practice my profession as a religion teacher and catechist preparing children for Communion and Confirmation in seven primary schools. Then came the change. Our regional director requested that I help the mission promotion team. I was honored to be asked, but at the same time, I was sad to leave my parish and my ministry. Sad or not, I needed to go where I was asked to go.
And so that began my love affair with mission promotion, a ministry I came to understand as an important aspect of Columban mission as it is an avenue to invite the local church communities to partake in the mission of Christ through the work of Columban missionaries. For over a decade, I was on the road, visiting parishes and schools and talking at Mass. It became my life on mission, but once again, my mission came to an end.
My new assignment is working at the Columban Center in Dublin with Columban Sisters Monica and Lucia and coworkers Michael and Claire. This work is a new beginning and a renewed commitment as a Columban missionary after my sabbatical. As my new mission unfolds, I will open my heart to this new phase in life and embrace what this journey may bring.
Columban lay missionary Angie Escarsa lives and works in Dublin, Irleand.