Bryan Melcher received a Mev Puleo Scholarship to study and work in Nicaragua this past summer. We met up this week at Café Ventana and he shared some of his stories. He mentioned he and his SLU companions got to visit with Jesuit priest Fernando Cardenal. Bryan typed up the following from his notes and said I could share it wherever I want.
The following is a less than perfect transcript of our time with Fernando Cardenal S.J. It was written later that day from my memory. — B.M.
I know that this time in Nicaragua will be very important. You must make time to be close to the poor. In my own formation as a Jesuit I never had an opportunity to speak with an indigenous or poor person. I knew from the news that there was serious poverty in Latin America, but it was always head knowledge-not personal.
Then as the final stage of my formation (my tertianship) approached, I realized that of course I would not be doing it in Latin America. We had no location for such a thing. I would have to go to Spain. And that was just fine with me. I had dreamt of Spain-fondly.
I dreamt of seeing the places of St. Ignatius, going to Rome, seeing Paul VI. I studied classics, so it was exciting to think of going to the places of ancient Roman history, politics, culture. And, I dreamt of returning home through Paris. It sounded wonderful.
Then, I heard that the Jesuits in Colombia at Medellin had opened up a tertianship program. Not in the beautiful mountains, but in a very poor neighborhood. I knew that this was my chance. My chance to know the poor.
I went. Leaving behind dreams of Europe, I joined a community of ten Colombians, three Mexicans, one Nicaraguan (me) and a Spaniard- the superior.
We divided up the tasks of community life, and mine was to fetch the bread. There was no bakery in the neighborhood; I had to walk a long way to find one. When I did, I bought the bread. Walking home, a child with a very malnourished face approached me. He asked for bread. I did what any of you would do. And again. And again. And when I returned home with no bread I said, “I did what I had to do. We either need to find someone else to get the bread or go without bread, because I will not refuse hungry children.” We went without bread. That was my first real contact with the poor. There were many more. Read the rest of this entry »