Last night, around 1:00 a.m., I wheeled a large pink suitcase into my bedroom; I was finally home!
How good it was (is) to be back in my homeland…in the United States…in the Midwest…in Grand Forks, North Dakota! As beautiful as Germany is, and as kind as the people were, it was not home, and German is not my native language.
The nearly three weeks I spent abroad gave my a much-renewed sense of gratitude for our country and for all that is familiar to me.
This time of travelling, of celebrating our Congregation’s rich and lengthy history, has opened my heart in an unexpected way.
Ours is a community with German roots, founded in 1241, in a place I was recently privileged to visit. However, my German is very limited. I know some key words and phrases, but not enough to understand a lot of conversation.
Most of the Sisters we visited in conjunction with our 775th anniversary knew at least a little English. However, the conversations inevitably switched back to their native language, German, leaving me unable to comprehend what was being said, save an occasional couple of words.
We had some of what was said (especially on tours and at official gatherings) translated, but for much of the time, my ears could well have been closed for all I could glean from the collection of foreign sounds.
This mentally straining experience of being immersed in a language incomprehensible to me was actually a fruitful one. It opened to eyes to what other people go through. Being in Germany as an English-speaker made me think of what it must be like for the many people who are forced to leave their homeland and immigrate to another county with a language they do not understand.
I knew that I would be returning home, to my own language and to all I hold familiar in a short time. Many others know, in contrast, that they will never be able to return home. How very difficult that must be!
This experience, which “open[ed] the eyes of my heart” inspires my to pray for and sympathize with the refugees of our time. I was also reminded of our Sisters who first came to America early in the last century. One of my travelling companions pointed out the sacrifices they made and the hardships they endured.
(To see more pictures, you can visit our album.
Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF