‘Walk Good’ from Chicago to Australia!
Compassion interviews World Youth Day (WYD) participants, Jamaican Passionist seminarians Ian Gayle and Michael Rowe, students at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago Illinois.
Q: ‘Walk good’ sounds like a distinctive Jamaican farewell wish, something in the spirit of ‘bon voyage.’ Could you help me understand what it means to ‘walk good’ from Chicago to Australia when there’s thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean to cross?
Ian: ‘Walk good’ is an expression that was often used by the Jamaican Icon, the late Louise Bennett, who with Robert Nesta Marley, Edna Manley and many others expressed Jamaican culture in ways that sometimes astound us. They did it through their songs, plus the visual and performing arts. With their many gifts, they could extract the hope, joys and sorrows out of each day, and provoke an entire nation to mirth.
As someone born in the tropics, I learned to ‘walk good’ in the sunlight. But, for me, walking from Chicago to Australia means not just walking in the sun, but also in the light of Christ. I will take with me Pacem in Terris (John XXIII) and Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) to read as I travel. I think these documents will keep me totally open to the World Youth Day message from our Holy Father. They will also help me to experience the peace and light that can be found in the wonderful people of Australia.
Michael: An air of anticipation fills your whole being as you prepare spiritually, mentally and physically to undertake this awesome journey. It may be likened to the first day of school because there is so much to learn, to enjoy and to interact with.
Ian Gayle, C.P., Bishop-elect of Mandeville in Jamaica Neil Tiedemann, C.P., Michael Rowe, C.P.
Q: Pope John Paul II celebrated the first World Youth Day on Palm Sunday 1986. Others have followed in Europe, North America and the Philippines. Pope Benedict XVI selected the theme for World Youth Day 2008 from Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.” What elements of your World Youth Day journey to Australia stir up particular interest in you as you prepare for the trip?
Michael: I am anxious to see what differences and similarities we share. What commonalities join two “worlds” so far apart? Young people gathered together in one place usually provide some sort of indication as to their hopes and concerns. I hope to be able to glean some of those opinions in an effort to begin to ponder responses, as they may well be the same issues I have to contend with when I begin my ministry in the near future.
Ian: I still remember when I went to the World Youth Day in July 2002 in Canada. What stood out the most for me was that we had to walk about sixteen kilometers to the sacred place where the seventeenth century North American Jesuit Martyrs, Isaac Jogues and John De Brebeuf were martyred. I was selected to carry their relics to the site of the shrine at Midland, and did it with great pride. Little did I know that privilege would be a blessing in disguise. Later that same year in October, I was accepted into the novitiate of the Congregation of the Passion. Welcomed into the community, I began to pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Soon the sublime awakening that I had when I was in Canada took on a different shape and a deeper meaning.
On the morning of October 19, 2002, I discovered that the feast of our holy founder, St Paul of the Cross, was also the feast of Sts. Isaac Jogues and John De Brebeuf. An alarm went off in my head as my thoughts joyfully went back to Canada. I said to myself, I know these Jesuits! From that moment on, prayer started to take on a new shape, I desired to learn more about the lives of holy men and women. Pilgrimages have a way of shaping our spiritual lives. They remind us of our true identity as a pilgrim people.
The more we make that gigantic leap out of ourselves to embrace the All Holy, the Divine, and Our Highest Good, the more that identity becomes less and less obscured. When we go on pilgrimages, we are extending a VIP invitation to the God who always wants to tabernacle within us and fill us with wonder and praise.
Q: What opportunities will you have to meet other Passionist religious who are recently professed members of the Congregation?
Michael: The meeting of young Passionists will take place in Melbourne July 5-7. At this meeting I am hoping for an opportunity to interact with the other younger (recently) professed members in an effort to ascertain what vision we share with respect to the future of the Congregation. There may also be an opportunity to initiate a relationship with that side of the globe.
Ian: I was told by Australian Fr. Anthony, who recently visited us at our student residence at Catholic Theological Union, that he expects to have a novice in his community by July. The new novice comes from the continent of Africa and I look forward to meeting him. As two people new to religious life, we will have much to share on the weekend that is designated for young religious in the collegial atmosphere of our Passionist brothers.
Q: Australia on a world map looks just like a big island to me. Since you both call the island-nation of Jamaica “home,” do you think you might discover that you have something very much in common with Australian people for that reason?
Michael: We already do! In international sports, we share cricket and netball. But it is always good to uncover, or discover, hidden similarities that characterize ‘islands.’ I will also be interested in their liturgical celebrations. I travel in expectation to gain some insights into a different church, one that is in the East. I may be able to assimilate those experiences with my own religious journey.
Ian: There is unity in diversity, and pilgrimages help us to see that. Social location and political maps do not rob us of our identity. We cannot divorce ourselves from who makes us one and what makes us one. We will learn that the Lord who we are journeying to meet is not only in Australia, or by the Sea of Galilee. He is already walking on the sea of our hearts and is ever ready to reach out to us if we only keep our eyes fixed on him.
Q: What lasting effect do you think this special journey of grace and fellowship will have for your life and ministry in the future?
Ian: It is quite a journey from Chicago to Australia and back, that in itself is something to recall. But apart from the travel, there will be a lot of activity taking place that will leave an indelible imprint on my memory: the days of encounter, catechesis and youth festival, stations of the cross, pilgrimage and sleep out. All of this and more I considered to be grace fill moments which I can always recall and share in my witness to the Gospel of Christ.
Michael: I look forward to the meeting with fellow Passionists from so many different countries not only to get a handle on their view of the future of the Congregation, but also to see in what tangible way we can begin cooperation in affecting the preservation of that future.
Compassion and all our readers bid both of you a safe journey, and a pilgrimage enlivened by the power of the Holy Spirit who calls all of us to be witnesses of the risen Lord!