Why mission matters - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2022 newsletter


Deirdre Griffin, SSJ, U.S.-Mexico Border

Mount Cristo Rey overlooking the border fence in El Paso.

As I turn toward Lent during this transition into my time as a Maryknoll lay missioner, I take heart in the second reading of the liturgy for Ash Wednesday (2 Cor 5:20-6:2): “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. … Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Of course, now is always the acceptable time to try to be faithful to the graces of God in each of our lives. So what is it about this time, this day, this season of my little life? Of your life?

I am aware of living into a grace I have experienced only once before: saying “yes” to being “all in” in responding to God’s invitation. The first time was when I entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 2002. Twenty years later, that “yes” continues to be the primary grounding of my relationship with God and my life choices.

This time, saying “yes” to God’s invitation through Maryknoll Lay Missioners is even more full than before — because I am bringing the fruits of two decades of journeying in religious life with me. These include the blessing and support of my religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts; the care and encouragement of myriad friends, family, and colleagues whose lives of faithfulness and generosity both humble and encourage me; and most importantly, an unwavering trust in the mystery of God unfolding in all circumstances in every instant.

For me, this leads me to the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where I pray that the seeds of my legal training, immigration expertise and desire to accompany Christ in these dear neighbors will bloom in the desert.

During these two months of language study and cultural immersion in Guadalajara, Mexico, I am keenly aware of how being in mission teaches me to “show up” in the midst of complex social realities with a heart deeply centered in love.

Instituto Cultural de Cabañas in Guadalajara

As I walk to language school, I wrangle with the irony of being surrounded by beautiful colonial Spanish architecture amidst throngs of people working ardently simply to survive. My general understanding of this violent history and its ongoing consequences is essential to showing up responsibly. At the same time, I know that my experiences of confusion, ineffectiveness, and vulnerability in the midst of it all are precisely the places where mission happens. When I am disarmed of my presuppositions and plans, God can enter in through an experience, a person or an insight.

For instance, I love to walk, and I don’t mind wandering unexpectedly (which others may refer to as “getting lost”). I found myself wandering home from class last week behind a local woman who appeared to be in her 80s. She was walking a bit more slowly than I, which I took as an invitation from God to slow down from my usual U.S. East Coast fast pace. As I was reflecting on this, the woman seemed to lose her footing ahead of me. For a split second I thought she was falling and I started to reach out to her. Then I realized that she was jumping quite spryly through a hopscotch that was drawn on the sidewalk! It was a delight to behold, and a gift to me — a reminder from God for me to be alert for the simple delights and joys that are always present along the way.

From the crest of Mount Christo Rey overlooking the border wall in El Paso to the ironic beauty of the colonial Spanish architecture of Guadalajara, I know that mission matters because showing up in this way refines me, teaching me to be more loving, more humble, more zealous for justice, and more fully human. My continuing transformation — and yours — are part of the communal Lenten call to be reconciled to God.

How might you be invited to say “yes” to God at this time? For “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”


Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!

Deirdre Griffin, SSJ
Deirdre Griffin, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts, is based in El Paso, Texas, where she works as an immigration lawyer with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, assisting migrants at Annunciation House shelters.