By Br. Ryan Thibert
Hello, my name is Ryan Thibert I have been with Maryknoll now over 6 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 6 years in Maryknoll has passed ever so quickly. My time spent in Bolivia has taught me many things about myself, most importantly what God is asking of me in my Vocation; namely to be present and vulnerable as a brother missioner. In my missionary experience I have learned about the importance of being present through listening, living and being connected through friendships. I am being called to bring hope and love to the marginalized and suffering. And I have discovered how much I enjoy working in foreign cultures, having the opportunity to be 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 have discovered that the real education is out there in real life Mission. 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 learn so much especially 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 three years. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America but 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 the language, and I continue to take lessons by means of a private tutor.
During my time here, I have worked with children at an after-school program, assisting and teaching elementary school students in art and academic studies. I have also worked at a Franciscan Senior Center, assisting the elderly with their meals and their daily exercises. By simply being “present” to them and “accompanying” them on a daily basis I soon discovered that loneliness and depression was a daily challenge for these people. They so appreciated the companionship and just having someone there who would talk with them. I prayed for them daily and for the strength and patience to be of assistance to these my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Presently I am working with Mother Teresa’s, Missionaries of Charity. 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, alcohol addiction and drug addiction. Others are mentally challenged and a number of the men have suffered terrible accidents with broken limbs and need someone to help them recover. For the most part, the majority of these men are abandoned, and for those who suffer from HIV/AIDS, there is a terrible stigma here in Bolivia against the disease, and it makes things all the more difficult.
I talk with these men daily and listen to them very carefully trying to be a part of their lives and just “Be Present”. 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 encouraging, supporting and caring for them were they are at. It has been a humbling experience for me. And it has been an honor to enter and be a part of their lives and to share in their joys and sorrows.
As I finish this cross-cultural mission experience in Bolivia, I have made many close friendships and I will remember them through the time shared together. I am looking forward to finishing my studies, and then returning to Mission as a Maryknoll brother, to help the poor and marginalized and respond with all my heart to the call of mission.
Student Br. Ryan Thibert hails from Strathroy, Ontario. He is presently participating in our Overseas Training Program in Cochabamba, Bolivia.