Oblate Scholastic Reflects on Trials of Formation in a Foreign Land

San Antonio, TX

My Oblate School of Theology Experience by Brother Democracy Mudenda, OMI

(Editor’s Note: Scholastic Brother Democaracy Muedenda comes from Zambia and is currently studying for the Oblate priesthood at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. )

Sch. Bro. Democracy Mudenda, OMI

The beginning of the semester at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, (O.S.T) seemed to be comfortable and straightforward, but as everything settled down some things began to turn around.  The sense that all my energy began to vanish and be washed away by the constant demands of the professors and the community life was unexpected. I kept asking myself when I was going to settle down, to breathe in or relax when I constantly had something to do or work on.

Indeed, the semester was packed with academic research, frustrations, anxieties, and nervousness about the ending of the semester. A lot of the professors’ expectations were high in terms of what I should do and what I should get from my assignments. My semester was so heavy with a variety of concepts to chew on all at the same time, I felt that I was expected to know everything. The frustration, anxiety, and nervousness came when all the assignments, community life demands, personal life, and prayer life needed my attention simultaneously. I tried to figure out how I could balance all of these to have an understanding of the O.S. T. lifestyle.

As I dealt with community life, prayer life, driving, weather adjustments, and many other things, I thought to myself that I could not manage or enjoy life at the end of the day or by the end of the semester. The other hard thing was the change of language from British English to American English.  I saw that I needed to be aware of the pronunciation, spelling and the meaning of words which were different in U.S. English as opposed to British. So, I had to exercise my patience and sense of humor. However, something came as a positive sign, encouraging me to have an inner conviction about myself.

I must admit that I had a different perspective from the start of the semester, but I ended up brushing my shoes nicely so that I should not be left out of the wedding feast of O.S.T scholars. I was able to see the value of having cultural inclusivity because of the deep relationship among students, staff, and community. The experience of living at the Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois, gave me a sense of humor, a sense of mutual aspirations, respect and tolerance towards cultural inclusivity.  This carried over to my O.S.T community as I tried to mingle with others.

As I look back, I think all went well with the help of different people such as the professors, staff, formators and my fellow students. The saying, “To err is human” comes to mind. The erring I did at O.S.T. helped me to open up to new ways, new possibilities, new fresh air and unique experiences to my life and my vocation.

As John Dalrymple said, “We live and grow by relating to ourselves, to things and people outside ourselves because the whole life is thus a confrontation with our selves, others and eventually God.” My commitment was not in a vacuum.  It is to God who is alive and still working wonders in my life and my vocation.