Companionship in a time of uncertainty

At the end of February, Jesuit Novices Dunstan Rodrigues and Sam Dixon were sent on an 'experiment': a six-week experience of ministry. Here they tell their story of what happened and what they are learning. 

We started the Zoom meeting with baited breath. We were doing something new: an online retreat during the Easter Triduum from St Beuno’s. We felt nervous and apprehensive, reaching out to people across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. What would we say? How would they react to us?

As soon as we saw the smiling faces of people appearing on our screen, we began to relax and enjoy ourselves. Dunstan gave a brief introduction and facilitated some group sharing, Sam led a reflection on ‘Finding God during the Covid-19 pandemic’, and we ended in prayer. Our initial Zoom meeting now finished; we gave each other a virtual high five.

Life in the novitiate is a time of being thrown into new situations, of experiencing the kindness and friendship of others, and of working closely together as companions. We had started our journey in Dublin, our time split between a project for homeless people (the Peter McVerry Trust) and St Francis Xavier’s parish. Fr Peter’s drop-in centre provides a place of welcome for people who are experiencing homelessness, addiction, or anyone at all in fact. There’s coffee, computers, showers, toasties, access to a range of services, and continual 1980s hits on the TV.

Fr Peter told us on our first day that there was nothing for us to ‘do’ there – we simply had to ‘be’: drink tea and listen and allow ourselves to be touched by the stories of those we encountered. Dunstan describes a challenging moment: ‘On the first day, I was chatting to a couple of visitors. Another man approached… and suddenly a fight broke out…

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