Each summer during my time preparing to become a Holy Cross religious, each person in formation would visit an apostolate to live and work with the priests and brothers currently there. During these summers, some of us would lead bible studies in parishes in Portland, Ore., or Austin, Texas, or assist with serving food and other immediate needs of the poor in downtown Phoenix through Andre House to name a few.
However, each seminarian and brother in formation also goes to an international site to learn the active life of public ministry in another culture. After my second of four years in theology, I had the privilege of living with and learning from our Holy Cross community in Lima, Peru.
In the neighborhood of Canto Grande, one of the poorer sectors of Lima where Holy Cross lives and works, I assisted with a special needs class at the local Catholic school, Fe y Alegría 25, and with giving parish missions through a branch of Holy Cross Family Ministries.
Ultimately, what the Holy Cross priests and brothers showed me that summer was a deeper sense of my vocation as a religious in the Congregation of Holy Cross through the daily time spent in prayer and lingering at meals while actively spending themselves in the apostolates where they worked. Stopping into the church built on the site of St. Rose of Lima’s house in downtown Lima on my way to Family Ministries, chatting with Frs. Elmer, Anibal, and Jorge after breakfast, and seeing the special ed. teachers at Fe y Alegría and the parish mission team from Family Ministries throw themselves into their ministry complemented what I received in theology class. Through the routine of daily living the vowed life in Holy Cross and spending themselves in their ministry, they showed me how to actively live the Gospel in their context of ministry in Canto Grande.
Balancing daily time in prayer, conversation with my Holy Cross brothers in community, and a genuine desire to give of myself in active ministry carried over to my life as a finally professed and now a priest at Stonehill College, thousands of miles away in Massachusetts.
What I learned during my time in Peru from the Holy Cross religious, our lay collaborators, and those whom we served, continues to help me to be a faithful religious in Holy Cross. “Wherever we work we assist others not only to recognize and develop their own gifts but also to discover the deepest longing in their lives. And, as in every work of our mission, we find that we ourselves stand to learn much from those whom we are called to teach.” (Constitutions 2.16)
Rev. Bryan A. Williams, C.S.C., is the Campus Minister for Faith Formation in Campus Ministry at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass. He has served at Stonehill College since his diaconate year. Before his diaconate year, he served as assistant director at Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. Bryan earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2013, and earned his M.Div. from the University in 2018. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 27, 2019.