A Workshop Reflection: Sr. Kathleen Nealon

When I think of my recent experience of participating in the 10-day From Mission to Mission re-entry workshop, the image of an oasis comes to mind.  Having left my ministry in Haiti just a couple of months before and having not yet discerned with any sense of certainty what my next ministry would be, the workshop was a refreshing life-giving place on the journey through a difficult time.  It has provided me with the nourishment to continue life’s pilgrimage with a sense of renewed hope and positive energy.

Because I had participated in a weekend re-entry workshop with From Mission to Mission many years before, as I was packing up to leave Haiti I was aware that there were factors that would complicate my transition.   The unexpectedness with which my work in Haiti ended created rushed and unsaid good-byes. There was not much time to anticipate or even process the reality that after four years and four months of living in Haiti, I was returning to the US, where I would have to face changes that had occurred in the life of my religious congregation among the other more typical challenges of re-entry.  I knew my journey ahead would not be easy. It was consoling to know that From Mission to Mission might offer possibilities for support.

The workshop allowed the difficulties to seem a little less difficult and the grief to feel less painful.   All of the information, prayer services, facilitated discussions and the formal aspects of the workshop were very helpful.  When I think about it though, what really made the workshop for me were the other participants and the facilitators. Being with people who understand, who are or have gone through similar experiences made such a big difference in my re-entry process.  I was with a group of people who understood, and while the specific details of their stories were different, their stories were familiar and inspiring. My life was enriched from hearing about their journeys and being in their presence. Laughing and crying together was healing.  The compassion they provided helped me to expand the compassion I had for myself and to quiet the thoughts telling me to “hurry up, get through grief.”

During the re-entry process, as is common, I had the sense of not feeling quite at home anywhere, yet for those few days there was a sense of belonging and feeling at home. I am so grateful that I experienced this oasis that refreshed me and provided the energy needed to continue my journey from mission to mission.