A Reflection by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH
I recently visited one of our Sisters, Sr. Rosa Sofia Toledo, in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Sr. Rosa, a native of Venezuela, is ministering at St. James Parish this year. The pastor, Rev. John Murray, has supported our Venezuelan mission in Manzanita and Cabudare for many years.
Haverhill is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and borders New Hampshire. It is close to Lowell and Lawrence. All of these towns were vital manufacturing hubs during the industrial revolution in the 1800s. The rivers teemed with logs, the factories produced cloth and shoes, and the population was largely French Canadian, Irish and German.
In the January 21st issue of America Magazine (the theme is “Who is my Neighbor?”) noted that in 1860 Lowell “had more cotton spindles than all 11 states of the future Confederacy combined.” Now, Lowell is home to the second largest Cambodian community in the US and immigrants from Mexico, and Central and South America make up large segments of the population. Like immigrants of former generations, all are looking for an opportunity to work and to provide for their families.
I was surprised to learn that currently the fastest growing ethnic group in Sr. Rosa’s parish is Brazilian. In fact, Fr. Murray is learning to speak Portuguese. And in addition to English, Mass is offered in Spanish and Vietnamese.
On my way home to Brockton—another town that was bustling in the 1800s—I remembered that the largest ethnic group at my local parish is from Cape Verde. In the building where I live I hear Creole, Portuguese and Spanish as often as I hear English. I remembered the story of my own family—my father grew up in a French Canadian family and my mother’s parents were born in Ireland— and the journeys my ancestors had made from Europe to North America to the US. No different than the current generation of so many from South America, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, Korea, China, Africa, the Middle East and so many other places around the globe. What a marvelous and diverse world we inhabit.
Questions for reflection:
- How has your ancestry formed you and influenced your worldview?
- What signs of ethnic diversity do you notice in your neighborhood?
- How might you help out through parish-based or community-based efforts to welcome a family that is struggling economically and/or has difficulty with language?
- How have your multi-cultural friends and coworkers enriched your worldview?
- Do you glean any wisdom for your own life from the Bible stories of the Visit of the Three Kings and the Holy Family’s journey into Egypt?
- Have you reflected on the richness of your own inheritance that includes the journeys of your ancestors (and perhaps your own)?
- How might reflection on these questions invite you to imagine yourself as a world citizen?