Mission and Ministry
Alumni Living the Mission

Brazil & Back: A Pilgrimage Reflection

  • By Maria Ochoa, Assistant Director of Magis

    For three weeks this past July, my colleague Matthew Pyrc, SJ and I traveled alongside a group of thirteen Seattle University students and alumni to embark on a journey of living the Magis.

    We participated in MAG+S, a pastoral experience of Ignatian immersion and activities for pilgrims from Jesuit institutions leading up to World Youth Day. We were among 2,000 students, alumni, Jesuits and lay partners hailing from over 50 countries. This experience was followed by our participation in World Youth Day, a large world gathering where nearly four million youth and young adults from all over the globe gathered for prayer, celebration of Catholic faith, and an opportunity to meet the first ever Jesuit pope, Pope Francis.

    Since returning, folks have been asking me “So, how was your trip?!”, and to that I can only respond that it was a beautiful mess, a mixture of joy and challenge. Learning how to navigate crowds with nearly literally millions of new best friends was both thrilling and overwhelming. Sleeping in open-air gym floors during an unexpected cold winter spell and daily cold showers for three weeks taught me about simplicity and humility. Seeing the poverty of the favela communities made me terribly dissatisfied with oppressive economic and social systems. Waiting in meal lines for hours made us all cranky and tired. Time and again, inner and outer thresholds of all types were reached and crossed.

    Yet, God was smack dab in the middle of it all. Joyfully hidden in all the challenges.

    God was in the joy of simple and mundane things like homemade food. God was in forging kinship with pilgrims in my interreligious dialogue immersion group as we encountered Muslim, Jewish, Candomble, and Umbunda faith communities. God was in my chanting at the top of my lungs “Esta es la juventud del Papa!” (We are the youth of the Pope!) every time we marched to Copacabana beach. God was in having my swollen feet rubbed by a fellow pilgrim, late night heart-to-heart conversations, companionship in prayer and mass, samba dancing, and belly laughs. God was in the little children I held, the delicious acai bowls I devoured, and the multi-lingual conversations with thrown in hand gestures.

    I recently listened to the homily Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, shared at the missioning for MAG+S pilgrims before our week-long immersions. He told the story of a Cambodian bishop who chose the giraffe as a symbol for his faith community. His words resonated deeply in my heart then, and still do today:
    The giraffe has a big heart and a very high point of view. The giraffe can see a reality much higher than we usually see. And I think today this celebration is sending you off to  new experiences into which you are going to find people, situations, landscapes - a beauty that you have never seen before probably… let us keep our eyes and our hearts open, to receive, to welcome and see what it does to us. We might be transformed by the experience, if we are open to that.”

    Being inspired to live the Magis more deeply while I was in Brazil was a tremendous gift which will continue to reveal itself to me more over the next months. I am still trying to practice an open heart and seeing with a high view, to embrace the challenges of my life and see the joy in the midst of them. My everyday existence here at home and work is being changed by all the beautiful mess that Brazil was, and for that, I’m grateful.
  • The Seattle U crew kicking off their Brazil adventure!  

    Alumni include: Maria Ochoa '12, Matthew Salazar ‘09, Michael Alcantara ‘09, Andrew Giron ‘09, and Thuong ChuChe, Gonzaga ‘06 & Seattle U ’13.