On Friday, the student community at Sacred Heart Monastery welcomed Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ, to speak about what it means to be a missionary, to have a missionary spirit. Originally from the US Province, Fr. Steve is now vicar general of the Priests of the Sacred Heart based at our Generalate in Rome. After a year-long delay due to the pandemic, he is finally enjoying a return to North America, taking the opportunity to visit SCJ communities and ministries, as well as his family.
What does it mean to have a missionary spirit? For Fr. Steve, the idea of “encounter” is key. “We learn from others, we see God in others,” he said.
Fr. Steve cited three scripture passages when speaking specifically to what it means to be a Dehonian missionary.
“The first is from Luke 9:3,” he said. “It basically says, ‘Just go.’ Take nothing for the journey. Fr. Dehon’s first missionaries weren’t always well prepared, but Fr. Dehon told them to ‘just go,’ adding that if they listened to the people, they would learn what they needed to serve them.”
The next passage Fr. Steve cited was Matthew 10:19: “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.”
“God will give you the words,” said Fr. Steve, adding that while it is important to prepare as much as one can, it is also important to be flexible and not be overly worried about how one will be received. Prepare, but trust in God.
And finally, Fr. Steve said that to have a missionary spirit is to be willing – at times – to feel like a “little child.” (Matthew 18:3). He spoke of his own experience in Rome, feeling like a frustrated child, struggling to learn a new language (Italian). “It is important to not just do what we are good at, or what we are comfortable with,” he said. “We have to be open to going where we are not comfortable so that we can learn and be supportive of others, and respect those who are different than ourselves.”
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