An Oblate scholastic from Guatemala, Abraham HERNÁNDEZ REYES, wrote to the members of his delegation about his experience of missionary life in Canada.
Three months ago, I arrived in Winnipeg, Canada. During this time, I have had pleasant experiences as well as challenges in my life, mainly in living in a culture totally different from mine, different from Latin American culture and above all, trying to learn English every day. To do this, I had to study English full-time for two months at the University of Winnipeg. Now I continue to study English, but twice a week: Tuesday and Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., so that I have the opportunity to do pastoral work during the week.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, I go to a jail, the “Headingley Correctional Center”, with Rusty GARDINER, an Oblate Brother who works as a chaplain there. Also on Wednesday evening, I participate at our Oblate parish, St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We meet with parishioners and Oblate associates to study the Bible; also on weekends I participate in this parish, teaching a little catechism. Furthermore, I accompany my mentor, Brother Thomas NOVAK, to his various ministries, especially visiting Mexican workers on the farms of the Province of Manitoba. We organize Masses in Spanish, sports and above all, many of the workers speak with us about the various sad circumstances at their work and in their families.
I live in community with three Oblates: Father Bernard PINET, 83 years old; Fr. Dominique KERBRAT, 90 years old; and my companion, Brother Thomas Novak, 61 years old; and I am Abraham, 26 years old; an interesting community with much difference of age, but joyful, with community spirit as we have our Masses , prayers, community meals and various pastoral activities.
I also want to tell you that I am grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to have this experience in Canada, specifically in the OMI Lacombe Canada Province, and grateful to you for supporting me in my Oblate missionary formation, since I am deepening in my vocation through experiences of God and sharing with the Canadian people and at the same time growing in the charism of our Congregation since Canada has a great Oblate history. Here the Oblates often tell me how the first Oblates came to Canada. This for me is interesting because I see with my own eyes the Oblate past in the great churches built by them and in streets and avenues with Oblate names. However, Canada is now a secularized society; young people are not feeling an attraction to continue the missionary journey and most of the Oblates are of advanced age. For this reason, they have to hand over missions with great Oblate traditions because there is no personnel to continue mission.
My experience continues with great joy and I hope I will be able to share with you everything I am living and thus, enrich our Delegation.