Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sri Lanka 2 - "First Class!"

First Class!  This is always an exciting time on my service trips and in my teaching career in general.  The very first time I meet a new group of students is simply awesome. There is just the right balance of nervousness, expectation and energy. The mystery involved in the art of teaching is palpable in the first class. How will God reveal Himself here?  I wonder...

This is a photo of one of the two groups of students I am teaching here. [Note my coffee cup, breviary and computer on the table.  I am so American, drinking coffee in class.] These are my eight English students.  The six women are studying as Good Shepherd Sisters; three are postulants, the others are candidates.  The two gentlemen are sitting in to polish up their English in between their university studies and fledgling careers.  They are all between 19 and 23 yrs old. Their names are: Lurthumary Johnikalsan, Cathereen Croos, Julin Anita Pakianathar, Umesh Eranga, Isuru Fernando, Lasika Rukmanthi, Muditha Waruni, and J. Dhanusha.

They are daughters and sons of farmers and fishermen.  Many have only one parent alive.  Their English is already quite good. I just put in a suggestion now and again as they write essays for me and give speaking presentations in class.  They laugh easily and get all my jokes. They work very hard.  I have to listen very carefully when they speak, however, because of the accent.  But, I am already getting accustomed to it after three days in Sri Lanka.  I'm sure my accent is even more strange to them!

We have Tea Time mid-way through class of course - got to love the British influence all over the world!  That's when we have fun discussions about their lives and aspirations. It is clear that they all have a deep love for Jesus.  They simply want to serve Christ and His Church with their whole lives. I see the aspiring Sisters at the 6 am Mass in the Brothers' Chapel too. They wear beautiful and colorful dresses or salvars and veils in chapel.

I am truly honored to have a small role in their formation as future Church leaders. Having done this type of work for a number of years now, I know that at the end of my stay, they will have taught me much more than I taught them.  

Below are photos of the Christian Brother novices I am teaching. Their names are: Gabriel, Kanistopher, Lakmal, Tharshan and Kanistan.  It is customary at this point in their formation to use just one name.  I am teaching Sacraments and the Letters of St. Paul to them. We just finished our second class on Baptism this afternoon. They too are hard working students. I like asking them questions to probe the depths of their faith and theological understanding.  Here they are preparing their assigned reading for our seminar on the biblical roots of baptism.  They did a great job!

Of course, we have tea together after class. It's time to turn the tables!  They teach me now.  This is when I learn about their lives, their view of the Church, their joys and sorrows, and the process of becoming a Brother. I learn a great deal about their cultures. They are a blessing to me and to the Church!

Keep us all in your prayers back in Buffalo (I hear that it is hotter there than in Sri Lanka this week!)

Peace and blessings from Colombo,
deacon bill+