Christ Meets Us with Open Arms

Patrick Hyland, SJ served a Rostro de Cristo volunteer in 2011-2012 in Monte Sinai. In 2013 Patrick entered the Jesuits and today he is studying at St. Louis University. As part of his training he ministers at the county jail and supports a social outreach program for the formerly incarcerated at a local parish. We talked with Patrick about how Rostro de Cristo influenced his discernment to become a Jesuit. This article is from our Annual Report.

How did serving with Rostro shape your understanding of pastoral ministry?

As a volunteer I served at Hogar de Cristo and they allowed me to participate in their social ministry- helping people get their IDs and birth certificates. I found myself getting frustrated because the process was so slow. Something was always coming up, progress was never being made, and selfishly I wanted to get involved in the project to see things through.

Ecuador taught me that that’s not always going to happen and sometimes you have to be satisfied with what you’re offered. I always felt that the Ecuadoreans had more cause to be more frustrated than me but it seemed like they never were- they had this sort of tolerance. I have learned it is isn’t about efficiency- it’s not about getting the voucher or getting what the client needs. Often I am finding that people are sitting down and they just want to tell me their story. I realized that I wasn’t on the clock in this ministry.

Patrick at the parish in Monte Sinai.

In what way did your experience as Rostro de Cristo volunteer foster your vocation to the priesthood?

I cannot separate my year with where I am now. I lived with people who I looked up to so much spiritually- those who had strong relationships with God, were exploring their faith or understood it a little differently than myself. It became a challenge and an invitation for me to understand their faith more. The thirst began in Ecuador, inspired by my volunteer community, to be closer to Christ. In the Monte Sinai community, I found my hour or so of catechisms with the parents as one of the most rewarding hours of my week. And I never really went in with a plan, but we just let the conversation go and allowed their questions to dictate it. I always felt that that was a powerful hour, and I felt that that was an hour where my skills and interests were being used. That hour a week was helping me meet that desire.

This year Pope Francis has invited us to reflect on God’s mercy in our lives. How has you understanding of God’s mercy been shaped by your experiences? What could you share with us that you think might be helpful as we contemplate how we receive and offer God’s mercy in our lives?

Mercy is what I see my vocation as- bringing God’s mercy to people. Because in spiritual conversations, I find that more often people need to be reminded of the Jesus in the gospels and of God’s mercy more than anything else. I find that people are often their biggest critic- people beat themselves up about their flaws, their temptations, their short comings. I point people in the direction of the Christ in the Gospel, and invite them to put themselves in those stories. Cause neither to the woman at the well or the hemorrhaging woman did Christ say “you’re not good enough”. What he actually says is the exact opposite. My vision and what I hope to share with other people is that Christ meets us with open arms.

Patrick with his community mates at his first vows.