Today in the Bronx, New York is overcast. There is a slight wind that picks up the leftover leaves as fall is starting to become a faded memory. The air asks us to embrace the winter that is starting to arrive. The sun barely shows its face reminding us it is still daytime. The wind is strong. I entered into 371, with f a familiar greeting of warmth and smiles from Isabel. I catch right away the giggles from the stairwell as students are running up and down in preparation for the visit today from His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
The songs have been prepared, the booklets printed. The students are dressed in their Sunday best, the girls help each other with their hair, the boys hold their nerves in making sure their dictation is correct. “Your Eminence, YOOUR EMMM-A-nANNCC-Ee, welcome. Do I sound ok?” They are rehearsing over and over. The speeches are prepared, the tweaking of words are being inked on cheat sheets. The house is in excitement for the doors to open and we will be blessed with his presence.
The guests, the Fathers of Saints John and Paul in Larchmont all arrive. The Sisters of Charity arrive hugging students as they walk through the entryway in gratitude for the compassion work given to them. Joy is stirring in the air.
The last-minute details are touched. We all stand in the hallway in small side conversations. “I am so nervous!” One student says to me. “Don’t be, his presence will make you feel calm. Don’t freight.” The nerves are still there, the students do their best not let it show.
There is warmth and ease among the hallway. Your Eminence has arrived! He shakes familiar hands and gives out hugs to each student and guest. He gives a firm handshake repeating each name. I smile feeling good that he wants to commit myself and the others to memory.
Once everyone is properly greeted, Cardinal Dolan eagerly searches out for the leader of the household Fr. Charles. In the American spirit he brings a gift, it is a Presepio. Fr. Charles is elated with the thoughtful gift and finds its proper home in the Chapel. His Eminence is taken to the sacristy for dressing prior to the mass. We are left in the hallway soaking in the moment of the spirit we have received. The nerves are now gone, we are blessed to be given this gift.
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan reminds us from the old testament a longing for Emmanuel. “God is the Son, Jesus is Emmanuel, Jesus is with us.” His passion is present and true.
He speaks of the Emmanuel Community and the Emmanuel School of Mission coming to New York as part of God’s strategy. “Patience, hope, and the confidence that hopes are fulfilled during the Advent season. Thank you to the ESM the Inspiration and light to the world.”
After mass we move to the upstairs living room for a meet and greet, a chance for him to get to know the ESM students and members of the community. Students give testimonies of gratitude for their mission here in the Bronx. The quick stories of how they found themselves here. God is always present.
Teresa, from Australia (father originally from Chicago, Il) found the ESM through a former manager, a prior missionary from ESM Rome. She took the faith in God that he had a plan for her. She gave blessing to grow deeper in her faith that the ESM and community have given her. The relationships formed among her classmates. Vianney, a student from France spoke of his gratitude for the ESM. When performing his compassion work in the Bronx, he feels the joy of working with the Missionaries of Charity, Father Pablo, visiting the poor, etc.. Teaching people to laugh and sing. He also has inspired someone to become a catholic. What a blessing to be had!
Fr. Thomas from Saints John and Paul in Larchmont, NY gives a heartfelt speech with a question. “What would have happened if he said no?” The faith that he has been drawn too, remembering coming in front of Cardinal Dolan asking to make Saints John and Paul an Emmanuel parish. “What would have happened if he said no?” The time he stood in front of His Eminence again with Emmanuel board members proposing the Emmanuel School of Mission to open in New York City. “What would have happened if he said no?”
Where we are standing right now would be an empty building in the Bronx. No students. No visit from the Cardinal. No giggling up and down the stairs. No fun at the dining table with afternoon games and tea. No Adoration within these walls. No evangelization past these walls. There would be no Emmanuel present. “What would have happened if he said no.”
In Advent we ask for hope, patience and confidence. We pray during this time for The Emmanuel to come once again. To guide us again in faith and hope. We awake on Christmas day with the joy in our hearts that Jesus, the Emmanuel has arrived.
So, we are here confident that Jesus is among us. We are here as the Emmanuel School of Mission in the Bronx, New York, praising his good name working in unity as a Mission to renew the faith and love God gives us each day. We are so grateful for the visit from His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan. The spirit he has brought here. The confidence and faith he instilled in us. We are excited to work further with His Eminence and the Archdiocese of New York spreading the word of Emmanuel!