As a recently retired Art Teacher at a Catholic Elementary School, I find myself now in a familiar, yet very different work environment, and it has made me contemplate & question my role as an Adrian Dominican Associate. Is being an Associate still important to me, and does it make a difference in my life and the lives of others?
I am now pursuing my own art career, but (until I actually start making a steady income from my art) I am waitressing again at a local restaurant. It is, after all, called the “service/hospitality industry” and are we not all called to a life of service as Christians? The truth is, I actually enjoy the hospitality business, and I absolutely love my boss and co-workers! I enjoy taking care of our guests and being a part of their dining experience here on the Atlantic Ocean.
But here’s what I’ve noticed…. First, my co-workers (or, as we say “team members” because our philosophy is not “the Body of Christ” but “members of a team” which essentially works like a “body” anyway, right?), have recognized something joyful in me. Each shift for me begins with me greeting the kitchen staff with a hearty “Hello, Kitchen!!!” And they all respond, “Hello, Maria!” We laugh and smile at one another, and know that all is well. I’ve occasionally come into work grieving a loss, and they’ve noticed. I failed to greet them with joy, and they expressed concerned. It lifts my own spirits when I muster the energy to cry out “Hello, Kitchen!”
I’ve rediscovered that in the “secular world” Christ’s presence is needed even more than in our churches and Catholic Schools. THIS is part of my new ministry as an Adrian Dominican Associate: To be Christ’s presence in the everyday life of everyone I meet!
Recently I found myself a bit tongue-tied and at a loss for words (imagine that!). I was asked by another Associate from another Order, “What do you do to support and build up our Holy Mother Church?” Now, I am a woman of simplicity and a great admirer of St. Therese Lisieux (do little things with great love), so… I was caught off-guard by leading tone of this question.
My mediocre response was “I sing in my church’s Choir.” Argh!!!! Although I love this ministry, it isn’t ALL I do, and it certainly isn’t what I do on a daily basis.
After a few days of reflection and re-evaluation I’ve come to realize that how I reflect and live out the Body of Christ in the world is my ministry. I do that in my interactions with those I encounter every day. Once it was my students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators; now it is my co-workers, guests, chefs, dishwashers, and managers. This ministry makes me smile in new and unexpected ways. Guests have commented, “You’re so joyful!” Co-workers come to me for hugs when they are upset. Several co-workers are quite adamant that “Maria can’t work Sunday’s! She has to be in church praying for the rest of us!” [This one makes me laugh the most!]
It makes me wonder; if we are all God’s children, and Jesus calls us to love one another, how does the Spirit move us in spreading God’s love in the little things? “Holy Mother Church” doesn’t need my help, but I can certainly be Jesus’ hands and feet in serving the immediate spiritual and emotional needs of my brothers and sisters wherever they are.
So, is being an Associate still necessary and relevant in my life outside “traditional” ministries? Absolutely! And, I think, even more so.