By Seton Teaching Fellow, MJ Plote
We arrived. We went on our first Manhattan exploration adventures. We have settled into our homes, our communities, and our neighborhood. The fellows have been here 3 weeks and already some things seem natural and second nature. The walk home is on auto-pilot, we can navigate the subway (reasonably) well, and we know how to order food from Reems II the bodega at the corner of 144th and Willis right down the block from school. But with all of this, it still seems impossible that we are here. My community met for our weekly meeting, Tania with the finance update, Erin with the check-in about anything we have heard from the head people, my with my meal planned for the next meal which is my responsibility, and then to gather in prayer. We spent time quietly reflecting, and then it turned into a discussion. We have set aside this time of prayer and fellowship to grow closer, stronger, and ultimately holier-- and we use it to talk about highs and lows from the day, as well as anything else we want to share. After discussing our thoughts on the day (the first with ALL of Brilla School staff) and the past weeks leading up to it. We ended up on a very special topic. “How did we end up here?” Through our Seton Teaching Fellow orientation we each answered our individual “hows” by looking at our Fiat. Inspired by Mary Most Holy and her selfless reply of “YES” to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would conceive a child, the Son of Man, we each laid out how we said yes to a year of service through teaching, and teaching here: in Mott Haven, in the South Bronx, in New York City. But our conversations last night about how were less about us-- our choices, and our yes-- and more about His. It was about how truly awesome the power of the Holy Spirit is. We reflected in a truly organic and seamless way about how what we are doing is starkly different from other teaching service programs for one simple reason: we get to talk about Him. It was the Holy Spirit which brought us to New York and to this community of fellows. We can name that. We are able to sit down at the end of every day and talk about God, about how much we love Him, and most of all how much He loves us. As I listened to my community members share they all seemed to be saying the same thing: that we have hit the service year jackpot. First we thought it was so because of the amenities, then because of how truly awesome Brilla is, and then because we can see the impact it is having on Mott Haven and these families. But now, we see it as the jackpot because at the end of day, (the ones when everything goes well at Brilla or El Camino, the ones where nothing does, and the days where the distance from home and friends and family takes its toll) we can come home and share with one another those struggles and joys, and truly see the Face of God. Our community will help us recognize Him. He will be in the student that didn’t behave at all, the student that drew us a beautiful picture, and in the facetime conversations with our siblings-- but only if we look, and often only if someone can show us. This jackpot doesn’t mean that other teaching or service programs aren’t good- of course they are! ANY time a person is willing to leave their homes and teach children who need and deserve good teachers is fantastic. But in my (trying-to-get-better-but-maybe-still-not-so-good-at-it) humble opinion this is where it’s at for me, and the 11 of us on this journey. So here’s to us, as we continue to discover why we are here, and how we are being called to serve.