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Jubilee: A joyful celebration of the Lord

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In the Old Testament, the Jubilee Year was a time of great joy and celebration of all that God had given his people. It celebrated emancipation and equality among the Israelites, and it was a time to provide for everyone all the goods of the earth. All that the people possessed was to become common property. No one was to be in need. Jubilees were year-long celebrations throughout the whole community. They began with the 49th year and ended with joyous celebration of the 50th year, a time of rest. There is something very attractive about the whole idea of jubilee, "a year of favor from the Lord," and a time to celebrate God’s sovereignty. It sounds pretty good to me, and I am sure that many who like to party would look upon the whole idea as something great. As I celebrate my own 50th jubilee in 2012, I am not too sure how much partying I could endure, but I know I could give it a good try. For I love the idea of a whole year to celebrate and reflect on all God has given me.Looking back over these 50 years of religious life, I can honestly say there have been so many blessings in my life, and years filled with blessings have been many, though I have to admit that sometimes there has been sadness. But out of that sadness has come even more for which I am deeply grateful. Born in Los Angeles and having never been assigned to any other diocese, I am thankful to have served here. In my wildest imagination 50 years ago I could never have guessed how these years would turn out. Always, it has been the people for, and with whom, I have worked in ministry that have made all the difference. For the last 39 years, I have taught students at every level, from second graders to college seniors (I have enjoyed teaching high school the most). I have taught religion, English, the fine arts and photography — some of the most exciting subjects I can think of. Could be boring for some, but not for me. But while I have been assigned to Los Angeles, I have also had the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. to see and participate in ministry that my fellow CSJ Sisters have established — experiences that profoundly impacted me in my own ministry.Mexico During the 1970s I enjoyed a wonderful opportunity: teaching summer school in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, learning Spanish, and making some lifelong friends among the Teresianas, the religious community founded in Spain, who operate schools around the world.In their schools, the children who could afford tuition attended school during the day (until 3 p.m.), and then in the afternoon and evening they ran a "vespertina" so that children who worked in factories and businesses could go to school, earn a diploma and with perseverance go on to college. The Teresiana community includes their employees in many of their activities. They help their workmen build their first houses and send the children of their poorer employees to school. For three summers I had the wonderful opportunity to live with these wonderful women.I was also able to go to Mexico and live with the Social Service Sisters in Zacapu, Michoacan, for three years. We helped with activities for the elderly who have no families, taught first Communion classes and worked with young adults home from college as they learned how to teach religious education classes. One day I went with a Divine Word seminarian to the home of a wonderful woman, Constancia, who never married nor had children. She always wore the same dress, beautifully clean, when she came to eat at the center in Zacapu. She had once been a school teacher. Her home was a former pig sty that a poor family next door had given to her. She had a cot for a bed and a small brazier on which she warmed her tortillas. When we came to visit, she wanted to share her one tortilla with us; we declined, saying we had just eaten our “comida.” I learned a great deal that day about what it means to be a generous gift for another. El SalvadorIn the 1980s, I signed up to go on a trip sponsored by the National Catholic Education Association and Catholic Relief Services to El Salvador to witness the damage from Hurricane Mitch the previous year, especially in its San Miguel region. We were to bring back firsthand information to our students in the U.S. from a country still trying to recuperate from a devastating civil war and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. And indeed, the visit was something I will never forget. A CRS security guard was shot and wounded at a local office while we were there. At night we were locked into the small hotel where we stayed. We met a man whose wife and daughter were slain at the Jesuit University in San Salvador. The man built a rose garden where his family and four Jesuits had been murdered. We also met the president of the university, saw the chapel where Archbishop Romero was assassinated and toured his simple home across the street. We met poor women in another province who, with CRS training, were setting up cooperatives and learning how to manage the beginnings of small businesses and establishing savings accounts. The women divided themselves into teams and learned to depend on each other to create small businesses making masa and corundas, a native dish somewhat similar to the tamale. One woman raised chickens to be able to sell eggs, another grew the corn to make masa, and another would make the corundas. They sold their end product and each was able to deposit the earnings into a bank account. Each week they met to report their progress and what they learned with CRS help. With so many deaths of the men in the civil war, the women were the sole heads of households. We saw the women empowered to learn basic remedies and ways to treat illnesses, or set broken bones — all taught by CRS workers.PeruI served 14 years as principal of my alma mater, St. Mary's Academy in Inglewood, before it was time for me to move on. I was given a sabbatical and during that time I visited our CSJ missions in Peru. Two friends of mine in community had been working there for several years, so I made arrangements to go there for a month. I visited Tacna in southern Peru, where a CSJ Sister ran a center for working children that provided a safe sleeping area for boys who otherwise would have been living on the streets and sniffing glue to stave off the cold and hunger. The facility provided a safe place to study so the boys could finish school. Part of each day the boys also would shine shoes on the streets and save the money they earned for the time when they would be on their own. My friend also provided a center for children living with their parents, who also needed a quiet place to study, a hot meal and their parents could see a pharmacist for reduced cost medications. Another CSJ Sister I visited in Peru worked in the archdiocesan clinic in Arequipa. Before I arrived, a small child from the hillsides had been hit by a taxi and her foot had to be amputated. The CSJ was able to get funding for a prosthesis; without it, the child’s life in the mountains would have been very difficult. Back homeSince 2000, I have worked in Catholic high schools of the archdiocese, and also written for The Tidings, covering a wonderful variety of events. And in doing 123 installments of “The Faces of God” (since October 2001), I have met some of the most outstanding people in our parishes. They are Church, and I am amazed at all they have done. All of the people I have met over the years have been great witnesses to the love of God. They bear Good News wherever they go, as do so many in our parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They have all made a difference in my life. The people I have taught with in schools, ministered with, and lived with in religious life — as well as my experiences in El Salvador, Mexico and Peru — have been fabulous, wonderful blessings in my life and constantly call me to recognize God’s many gifts during these past 50 years. These people have expanded my life, made me a better person, and have been what I call true jubilee people. For this I am extremely grateful.St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Nancy Munro has contributed articles and photography to The Tidings since 2001. She was among more than 100 religious jubilarians honored earlier this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0720/jubnancy/{/gallery}

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