Joseph Swaris is half a world away from his native Sri Lanka. After many twists and turns, he came to the Congregation and the internal seminary or novitiate via our Austrian-German province. During his recent experience in Brooklyn, Joseph experienced Pope Francis’ call to move out of his comfort zone.
While at the state university in Austria he was exposed to and studied the encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, Joy of the Gospel, written by Pope Francis. As he looks back on his studies now he sees this document as quite influential in his life… but in a theoretical way. He now sees this document through the eyes of his experiences during his “pastoral month” in our parish in Brooklyn.
“In my five weeks at the parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant, I got to experience the reality described in the Joy of the Gospel. In particular, I experienced the challenge to go to the peripheries and move out of my comfort zone.”
He went on to describe his work at the Bread and Life soup kitchen founded by a Daughter of Charity and its mobile unit. During his weeks there the truck needed much servicing but that did not stop him from learning much about the people he served. People so appreciated the daily distribution of food. As they went to various locations he discovered it was often their only meal of the day. The experience taught him to pray with the faces of those he served fresh in his mind.
Another insight that became real focused on discovering Christ in the poor rather than bringing Christ to them.
At the halfway point of the year-long formation program, he appreciates how the program itself has moved him out of his comfort zone. He, along with the others, sees how providential it has been to experience the wide variety of cultures they represent. It is preparing them with a sense of the internationality of the Congregation.