On January 14, after enjoying a clear flight over Lake Michigan (covered with ice floes) and the snow-covered mountains of Pennsylvania, my heart sank as we flew in over Queens (the New York City borough where LaGuardia Airport is located). As I saw the miles and miles of houses, houses, and more houses–and miles and miles of concrete, brick, and cement, I imagined all those people squashed down there in that little space. And as we rode through the congested streets of the city, noisy with honking horns and piled high with uncollected garbage–I reflected that this is what humans know how to do really well: generate waste and ugliness. Can I survive in a city for four months? This is a real “missionary” experience for me!
But then I allowed myself to be swept up into the cultural diversity of this most diverse of cities, and to feel underneath the ugliness and grime the throbbing heart of this place that is beloved home for so many. In the first two hours I was here I was driven home by a cab driver from Africa, saw a group of women crossing a street clad head to foot in burkas, met the sisters’ Guatemalan cook and the sisters themselves: one from Lebanon, two from China, one from Spain, one from Ireland, and two from Brooklyn (and understand that I just missed one from the Philippines, one from Canada, plus three Japanese guests)!
As I met Sister Jan, my fellow intern from Australia, and Sister Catherine Ferguson, the director of the UNANIMA program, and all these warm, funny and hospitable Fransciscans I will be living with, I reflected that no matter the SIZE of the city or the number of people who live there, we still really meet each other one soul at a time, and it is on that level where you come to love each other. In Spanish there are two verbs for “know:” saber is the verb used about knowing things and facts, but conocer is the form used to describe how you know people or cities. “Conocer” has more of a feeling of “become acquainted with,” the idea being that you can never fully know a person–or a city. I am looking forward to becoming acquainted with New York and its people…


  1. Anonymous

    Oh, I just SABER that you will fall in love with New York once you CONOCER it better.

    Your Roman connection

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