The following was a talk given by missionary Mary Catherine Pankus at a Mass during the last weekend of the summer mission work of 2021:
Hello Everyone! My name is Mary Catherine Pankus and I have been a summer missionary with St. Isidore Corps for the past few months. It has been an incredible joy and blessing to be in Maine serving alongside the community this summer. I am humbled by the example of how each personal mission is lived out in the day to day here.
The past few weeks we have read from the Gospel of John on what is often referred to as The Bread of Life Discourse. Reflecting on this to ponder how this relates and impacts our lives. It is through the bread of life that we are reminded of the love of the Father. It also reveals to us the fullness of who we are meant to be.
Reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, he reminds us how we are called to mimic the virtues of Christ to others. How Christ is merciful, kind, patient and compassionate to us, we must be to others. This is the personal mission we are called to live out. He reminds us that we are a part of the body of Christ, the “hands and feet of Jesus” in the world.
You may have heard the phrase – you are what you eat – and quite literally the more we come to share in the precious body and blood of Christ, the more Christ-like we become. Then we are able to go out to serve others. Whether this is in your homes to your families, out with friends, or helping to volunteer in your community. You are a witness to Christ’s love. When we act out of love, we are allowing for the reality of God’s presence to be alive in us. Ultimately, this begins with our friendship in Christ and receiving the daily bread offered.
I would not have been able to serve well and love well this summer without my friendship and strength found in Christ. I came here with little: little faith, little gifts, and little talents. I offered it to God and allowed Him to do with me as He saw best. Even when I did not think I was able to fulfill this mission He called me to be in Maine. I had my doubts but He has transformed and healed me beyond expectations. He calls all of us to experience this freedom and He always uses what we have to offer for His glory. Through the Eucharist and friendship, he offers us the most incredible gift, eternity with him through the sacrifice of the mass. It sustains us through whatever journey we find ourselves on.
When we receive our daily bread, whether that is through the Eucharist or reading Scripture, we are reminded of the freedom, love and redemption he has promised us. The reality is not just for those 2000 years ago but living and present for us today. The story continues throughout our lives.
This can be hard to recognize when we find ourselves in a spiritual desert. I experienced this dryness when I left for college, a dryness that seemed to last for a long time. When I went to college I was unaware I was walking into a culture so spiritually desolate. It left me feeling isolated, with few to accompany me in the walk of faith. The Eucharist became my source of nourishment. I found confidence in my friendship with Christ, knowing that He was walking with me even when I felt alone or lost. In His compassion and mercy, he continued to feed my spirit with the bread of life. It was a small flicker of hope. Believe me, I grumbled, complained and was confused about why I was brought there and where he was leading me. But I continued to trust in His promises of abundant life and I was humbled by the realization that I could not make it through on my own without leaning into Him and His strength.
I still know this is true for me everyday, even when in life I’m not necessarily in a place of dryness. I need the overflow of graces on both good and bad days. He brought me through and out of that desert with a deeper understanding of His love, gentleness, and pursuit.
He asks all of us to trust in Him when we find ourselves along a journey that seems like a desert. He provides nourishment and deep satisfaction when we seek him, and continue to lean in and abide in Him. He has led me to many places, and now presently here, serving in Maine.
I have experienced more of Christ’s love in this community and a deeper reality of the gift of abundant life. Thank you all for showing me what it means to live that out day to day.