Fr. Timothy Shea

Blog #13: My Second Sabbatical

August 18, 2020

When I had been a priest for 27 years and was 53 years old, I went to San Antonio, Texas for 5 months to a sabbatical program called “Ministry to Ministers.” It was for priests and nuns who had been in ministry for at least 20 years and were at least 50 years old. Basically, this sabbatical taught an older minister the strategies of how to have a quality ministry even into your senior citizen years. The other participants were priests from Ireland, England, Tanzania, Canada and the U.S.A., and nuns from Spain, India, Zambia and the U.S.A. There were 15 of us.

From my first sabbatical I had learned how valuable it was to have your own vehicle there. So, I drove to Texas. As a consequence of this I became the unofficial chauffeur for the priest from Tanzania and the nuns from Zambia. We became great friends. One day about halfway through our sabbatical course we were stuck in a traffic jam, so there was more time than usual to talk – so I asked them what their impression was of the United States.

All three of them had been born in Africa, were dark black and this was their first visit to the U.S.A. They replied that 2 things surprised them: First, how friendly Texans were. This surprised them because they had heard about American prejudice against black people. Second, they were surprised because they expected Americans to be happier since the U.S.A. is the richest country in the world. They also remarked that back home in Africa people are poor but they are very happy. Then Sister Miriam said that African people are happy because they have everything they need, and Sister Bella said the impression they had was that people in the United States were not happy because they did not have everything they wanted.

Their comments made me think. There is a lot of truth there. In my life the happiest people I have known were not rich, but they had everything they needed.

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