Brother Ryan Thibert, M.M.

Brotherhood in Mission

picture6I have been with Maryknoll now over six years. I currently reside in Cochabamba Bolivia, in active mission, working with the Missionaries of Charity, assisting Men with HIV and Aids. I cannot believe how the past six years have passed ever so quickly. I have had my ups and downs, and it has been very challenging at times, especially health wise. I have discovered how much I enjoy working in foreign cultures, and to have the opportunity to work with the poor and the marginalized and serve God and his people as best I can as a missioner. I feel very strongly that I am doing what I am meant to do, and that by the grace of God I will continue to do my very best with the skills I have been given to help my brothers and sisters in the developing world, always keeping in mind the words of Jesus, “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me”.

Although I have had the opportunity to get a good education; I studied theology at Saint Xavier University in Chicago and I attended Harold Washington College.  I attended to my academic studies in art, and, I have discovered that the real education is out there in the developing world. I have learned so much from the people that I have worked with and have also discovered that it is through entering into relationships with them, accompanying them and listening to them and most importantly being present to them on a daily basis that I have learned so much and in turn have also learned so much about myself. All of this is enhancing my spiritual journey, and each day I offer it all up to God in prayer.

I am a Maryknoll brother candidate and have been overseas in mission here in Bolivia for the past two years. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, but it has a very rich culture, and despite the poverty of the people they are very welcoming and kind. The great challenge for a newcomer of course is learning Spanish, and I continue to take lessons by means of a private tutor to try and improve my skills. Everyday I try to engage people in conversation.

During my time here, I have worked with children at an after-school program, assisting and teaching elementary school students art and academic studies. I have also worked at a Franciscan Senior Center, assisting the elderly with their meals and their daily exercises, and simply being “present” to them and “accompanying” them on a daily basis. picture1After working with them for awhile, I soon discovered that loneliness and depression was a daily challenge for these people, and how they appreciated company and just someone to talk with so much. I prayed for them daily and for the strength and patience to be of assistance to them..

Presently I am working with Mother Teresa’s, (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) missionaries of charity from Calcutta, India. They are running a home for people afflicted with Hiv/Aids, here in the city of Cochabamba. At the center we also have people suffering from various respiratory problems, addictions such as alcohol addiction and drug addiction, and others who are mentally challenged. A number of men have suffered terrible accidents such as broken limbs and need someone to help them recover. For the most part, many of these men are abandoned.

I talk with these men daily and listen to them very carefully, and try to be a part of their lives and just “be there for them”. It is through this “accompaniment” that I feel I am part of their lives, especially since they have no one else to visit them. I also know from speaking with the sisters how the patients all suffer from depression from time to time, and how important it is to spend time with them. I am grateful for the skills I have learned, and am able to share with the patients my skills in art, music, and cooking.

From my time here in Bolivia I have learned that I have been called to be a missioner of hope
  to these men,picture5 encouraging and supporting  and caring for them were they are at.  This has been a humbling experience for me. It also has been an honor to enter and be a part of their lives and to share in their joys and sorrows.  

I have one more year to serve here in Bolivia, and then I return to Chicago to complete my academic studies at Saint Xavier University. There I will take courses in adult psychology, social justice and theology. I feel that I am truly blessed to be a missioner, and look forward to finishing my studies, and then returning to the developing world as a Maryknoll brother, to help the poor and the marginalized, and respond with all my heart to my call to mission.