“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31)

Brad Rozairo, OMI – Does your day unfold from your priorities or are you chasing a to-do list? This question caught my attention as I reflected on my life in Japan.

We live in a busy world where every day we look at our schedule and keep ourselves busy attending to things for the day. As the day comes to a close we may feel happy for completing the tasks, but as we retire to sleep our bodies will tell us the weight of the day. Staying busy is not all bad. It can sometimes be a good thing, but when it becomes a routine, we get exhausted. Thus, we may need a good break to heal our tired minds and bodies and renew our spirits.

Having completed almost thirty years in Japan as a missionary, and six years as the Delegation Superior of Japan-Korea, I decided to take a sabbatical break. The primary purpose of the sabbatical was for the physical, emotional, spiritual and renewal of myself. When I was looking for a good program, an Oblate introduced me to the Ministry to Ministers (MtM) sabbatical program at the Pat Guidon Center in San Antonio, Texas. Having gone through the brochure of the MtM, I decided to apply for the program and was accepted for the spring session (January 9 ~ May 10, 2024).

MtM provides an experience for priests and religious and lay ministers who have been engaged in pastoral ministry for several years. The four key aspects of the Biblical Sabbath – ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting – constitute the MtM framework to facilitate the encounter with God and one’s deepest self. Spiritual direction, faith sharing and community life are essential elements for creating a conducive atmosphere for personal growth and renewal. Conferences and mini-courses on various topics such as, naming the present moment, the sacred universe, dreams, spirituality of the second half of life, stress and anxiety, journal workshop etc. help reflect on the inner journey of life. Plenty of free time is given for prayer, reflection, reading and physical wellness. Excursions and outings provide an opportunity to learn about the rich history and diverse culture of San Antonio.

The time I spent with my companions at the Pat Guidon Center was an important moment in my life to experience the gift of renewal I longed for. The number of participants for the spring session was twenty-one. We were an international group. Vocations: eight religious priests, four diocesan priests, two brothers and seven sisters. Citizenship: Seven from the USA; two each from the Philippines, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; one each from Cameroon, Canada, India, Ireland, Kenya, Singapore, Zambia and Sri Lanka. There was a rich diversity of nationalities and cultures. This opened up possibilities of getting to know each other and one’s culture, which was helpful in building a community. We tried to learn from one another by sharing our stories, joys and sorrows. It was fun to live with people of different backgrounds speaking the common language (English) with different accents.

Other than community life, the natural beauty of the surroundings and the quiet atmosphere of the place, socials and outings helped me feel relaxed and gave new energy and strength to my weary soul. I feel rested and rejuvenated. I was happy to have attended the MtM program fitting for me at this stage in life. A word of thanks to the Oblates as well as the staff of the MtM for such a refreshing experience which I hope to take with me to the next stage of my sabbatical journey.

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