This week I’m traveling with a group of leaders from Dolores Mission Church and School community to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. We will be joining a larger group of women and priests from Discerning Deacons and from Latin America, and our journey will help us to deepen our faith in the kind of church Guadalupe asks us to build – a Church where the gifts of all are welcomed in a sacramental community of love and service.
For a Jesuit, pilgrimage is always about discernment. We know the importance of having a clear destination, but we also know that God is at work all around us and within us as we journey along the way. And we’re always ‘along the way’. God doesn’t wait to love us and the destination is always the same – we are made in, of, and for divine love. That’s it. There is no surprise ending. The destination is God and God is love. We come to know God in our loving. So the pilgrim question is always and everywhere the same – Where am I going to love and be loved today? How can I, from exactly where I am, get free in order to grow in love?
As I set out on this journey I know I’m not alone. In the literal sense I’m traveling with five powerful women, leaders and servants in our church and school community here at Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights. I know that God is with us because I know these women to be convincing witnesses, agents, disciples, dare I say, deacons of God’s love. They teach me every day what it means to serve – proclaiming the word of God, setting the table where our gifts are gathered, blessed, broken and shared. For me this journey is about deepening my appreciation for what I already know to be true and praying for our Church to grow in that freedom which gives rise to love, to be faithful to its sacramental promise, to make visible the grace already present in their service by reestablishing the ordination of women to the diaconate.
We were asked to bring a favorite image of Mary and I didn’t have to think too much about which image I was going to carry with me. There’s a mural here at Dolores Mission of Our Lady of the Way – Santa María del Camino. It was painted as an offering when this community decided to open their church as a sanctuary to homeless migrants and refugees. Maria del Camino, depicted as a migrant woman arriving in Los Angeles, carries a child in one arm and holds the other out in a gesture of welcome, accompaniment, encouragement, and support. The road she is on has been cleared as she walks, obstacles kicked out of the way by her own bare feet.
This pilgrimage is a journey, but it’s also a gathering – the centering of a synodal church led by diaconal women and a few friendly priests. We are discerning about next steps and new opportunities, but we’re not confused about the destination – it is simply that we may be as we were in the beginning – a Church where all are welcome, part of that one Body, that one Spirit, united in Christ, free to love and serve.