In Good Faith

In Good Faith with Sister Ana Gonzalez, Pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago

Podcast Recorded: August 26, 2022
Sister Ana Gonzalez next to a marker on the Camino de Santiago
Description

Sister Ana Gonzalez, a Dominican Sister of Peace, ministers in the Admissions Office of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. She speaks about the journey and the joy of her vocation journey and all the companions she has encountered along the way – as well as her pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. 

Listen Now:
MP3
https://traffic.libsyn.com/anunslife/IGF056-aug-5-2022-ana-gonzalez.mp3
Show Notes

(1:52) When singing competitions go very, very wrong
(3:44) Living out loud, with joy
(4:56) Reliving the big moment
(8:43) A big celebration for Albertus Magnus
(10:06) Living in the House of Welcome
(12:07) Intergenerational, intercultural, inter-congregational
(14:24) An invitation when someone pushes your buttons
(18:23) Mom just didn’t get it
(20:26) A Mom “Come and See”
(26:08) Helping the family understand
(30:37) Heading out on the Camino
(33:31) Why become a pilgrim?
(39:09) Sister Ana’s Spain goals
(40:21) A castanets demonstration
(44:33) Travel highlights
(48:27) How Santiago came to Compostela
(59:47) Sister Ana’s favorite experience
(1:02:01) An elf, a warlock, and a princess

Links for this podcast:

Dominican Sisters of Peace
Camino de Santiago

Let us know your thoughts about the podcast! Please take this short survey—your input helps us shape the future In Good Faith podcasts. Click HERE to take the survey. Thank you!
 

About our Guest

Sister Ana Gonzalez, a Dominican Sister of Peace, ministers in the Admissions Office of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. She speaks about the journey and the joy of her vocation journey and all the companions she has encountered along the way – as well as her pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. 

Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Rejane  
This is In Good Faith, a conversation about living faith in everyday life. I'm Sister Rejane of A Nun's Life Ministry. My guest today is Sister Ana Gonzalez, a Dominican Sister of Peace, who currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and ministers in the Admissions Office of Albertus Magnus college with international students. The common threads of our conversation today are of journey and joy! Laugh with us as we share about the journeys of our call and discernment to religious life through our formation, the inclusion of our families on this journey, and all the companions we encounter along the way. Once final vows happen, the journey is not over. We find that we continue to navigate with God into the uncharted waters of the present, as we talk about the richness of interculturality in our living relationships. Then, Ana shares the adventures of her recent journey walking El Camino de Compostela de Santiago, Spain's pilgrimage road that thousands of people have walked for over 1000 years. Her adventures include castanets, and stories of St. James, gratitude, grace, and an elf. Together, Ana and I recognize that people are seeking the divine on their life journeys. And remember that we are not alone, because many people have walked this journey before us. Enjoy. Well, hello, Ana, how are you?

Sister Ana  
I am excited to be chatting with you! This great.

Sister Rejane  
Yes, this is great. So for my audience, I have Sister Ana Gonzalez who is a Dominican Sister of Peace with us today. We know each other through Giving Voice -- that seems to be a pattern with some my guests. And, you know, I was thinking back, and it was New York in 2017 at one of those national gatherings. And I remember you and I, we were doing like a song competition in the dining room.

Sister Ana  
Oh my gosh. [laughter]

Sister Rejane  
Do you remember that? I cannot remember the song. It's a funny story. I ended up roping the volleyball girl camp in to sing on my side.

Sister Ana  
That's right! Yes!

Sister Rejane  
You had all the Spanish-speaking--

Sister Ana  
Yes. Right, right, right. Uh huh. And we were doing, like, who would do it loudest.

Sister Rejane  
Yes. Yes, it was who would do the loudest and you totally rocked it and won. And then the next day those volleyball girl campers did not sit with us. They were like, "Oh, no." [laughter] So from a vocational standpoint, I totally blew it. Totally. And I can't remember the song. That's what I was trying to remember -- what song we were trying to sing. If it was like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," but that cannot be the song.

Sister Ana  
No. And you know what, that's a great question. I don't remember the song. I do remember loudness, banging on tables. Yes.

Sister Rejane  
Standing up and dancing. Yeah. I think we became good friends after that.

Sister Ana  
I would say so.

Sister Rejane  
Because we were kindred spirits in our passion for life.

Sister Ana  
Yes!

Sister Rejane  
Living out loud with joy.

Sister Ana  
I love that! And yes, isn't that just a fabulous theme? With many of our sisters in religious life: loving our blood with joy.

Sister Rejane  
Yes. Amen. I mean, that's what it's about. Right? That's what all people want, I think, in their lives is what gives you joy, what gives you meaning? And for some of us, it's singing songs in cafeterias. [Laughter] With lots of people. Well, let's see. So you made your final vows just about a year ago.

Sister Ana  
Yes. On August 8, it will be my first anniversary of my perpetual Yes.

Sister Rejane  
Woo-hoo!

Sister Ana  
I know.

Sister Rejane  
Congratulations! That's a big step. Yeah.

Sister Ana  
I am right now chatting with you live from Kansas.

Sister Rejane  
That's right! We're both in Kansas.

Sister Ana  
We're both in Kansas!

Sister Rejane  
I'm in Leavenworth and -- now where are you?

Sister Ana  
I'm in Wichita. But a few hours ago, I was in Great Bend, Kansas and I had traveled there because my Sister Margaret Uche, also a Dominican Sister of Peace, just made her perpetual vows. So it's just so much to be grateful for and so much to celebrate. And I can't help but as sisters make their vows -- you know, I had the privilege to participate in Margaret's perpetual vows. And a few months earlier, you and I met up at Christin and Nicole's perpetual vows. I can't help but also think back to a year ago, when I was making my vows, and I was making my final Yes, my perpetual commitment. And just overflowing -- just, I couldn't contain in my chest my beating heart. I was filled with abundant gratitude and joy. And you know, the sentiment is one of awe. And as I witness my sisters, with their perpetual vows, I relive that moment. And I imagine you have a similar experience.

Sister Rejane  
Yes. You do. You think back to your own experience, and it kind of resonates with this wider group of people that have also said Yes. And so you can tap into to your joy from past and present. And you know some of that experience is going to carry us into the future. It is that abundant gratitude for this life, and that we have sisters on the journey with us, right?

Sister Ana  
Isn't that beautiful? And that, you know, as we're making this journey, we don't know what's going to unfold in the future. We are not alone. Of course, above all, we are navigating with God. God is our rock, our pathway, we're following Jesus. But we have amazing companions in the journey. And look, I have you, and we could get together and karaoke and bang on tables and sing really loud. [laughter] What a gift that, through our commitment to religious life, we have companions in the journey, our sisters who have been in this journey, celebrating 60, 80 years of religious life. And the ones that are coming in with us, and after us. It's exciting.

Sister Rejane  
It totally is. And like all those years after -- you know, for me, it's been seven years since I made final vows. But when I go to a vow ceremony, it's not just that moment in time that I'm resonating with for myself. It's like those years in between, and how it's reaffirmed, and that I'm recommitting to it. Even though it's your perpetual yes, there's that daily commitment to it, and working with God's people at the same time. But what are you doing now, a year later? What are you doing these days?

Sister Ana  
A year later, my ministry is at Albertus Magnus College. Almost 100 years ago, our Dominican Sisters founded Albertus Magnus College. It's a small private Catholic university in New Haven, Connecticut. It was the first residential private Catholic school in New England. And there was such a need to educate the daughters of New Haven. Today, Albertus Magnus College continues to meet education needs, continues to provide amazing academic support to a wide variety of students. And I am honored and really, really privileged to navigate with students on the application process. I work for the Admissions Department, primarily overseeing international admissions, working with some of our Latino Spanish-speaking families. And it's really exciting because we are navigating towards the celebration of our first centennial.

Sister Rejane  
Oh, wow.

Sister Ana  
Anniversary. Yes.

Sister Rejane  
When is that?

Sister Ana  
2025.

Sister Rejane  
2025.

Sister Ana  
It's right around the corner.

Sister Rejane  
Yes, yes. As we know, big events take a lot of planning. So yes, you do have to start early.

Sister Ana  
So in addition to that -- that's my main ministry. In addition to that, I have the fortune to be living at our House of Welcome in New Haven, Connecticut. And among my dynamic community members, we just welcome two new candidates in New Haven. And wow, our sisters that are coming in as candidates are brilliant, amazing women, and oh, my goodness, I'm in awe, and I'm inspired by them as well. So I am thrilled that as part of living in community, I get to be part of their experience, the way someone was at one point part of my experience.

Sister Rejane  
Yes. Yes. Kind of comes full circle, right? Like you're always working within, like vocation and formation, right? At a different level. So how many people are living in the house right now? With you?

Sister Ana  
So we are eight at the moment.

Sister Rejane  
Oh, that's a great number in this day and age.

Sister Ana  
It is.

Sister Rejane  
Yeah.

Sister Ana  
It's a good number. And we will have another sister move in with us in August. And your mutual friend as well, June Fitzgerald, I have the privilege of living with her as well.

Sister Rejane  
Okay, okay. And then the two candidates, just for our audience -- those are women that have basically just entered community.

Sister Ana  
That is correct.

Sister Rejane  
And how long have they been with the Dominican Sisters of Peace at this point?

Sister Ana  
So their entrance ceremony was on July 14.

Sister Rejane  
Oh, gosh

Sister Ana  
They officially entered July 14.

Sister Rejane  
Not even a month at this point. Okay.

Sister Ana  
And they are amazing. So one of the beautiful things about this community is that we are living an intergenerational, intercultural, and as well, inter-congregational community. So it's very diverse in the sense that like, for instance, I'm Mexican. We have a Vietnamese sister living with us. One of our candidates is originally from Zambia. And then as well, we have a nice gamut between ages, from 80 something to 30 something. And among our Dominican communities, we have, of course, Dominican Sisters of Peace. We have Katherine Frazier, who is a Dominican Sister of Adrian, living with us as well. And we have a Dominican Sister of Go Vap, from Vietnam, living with us as well. And I think this is a very enriching and very telling experience, because as we navigate our journey in religious life, it's not just siloed. It's not just one angle. Being able to have a multi perspective angle is a good foundation for a world that is requiring us to have a global understanding, an invitation for us as we are ministering and living together, to have a perspective that encompasses not one narrative, but embraces and welcomes various narratives. So anyways -- enough of that!

Sister Rejane  
I do have to ask, though, do you have any for living interculturally and intergenerationally? It's such a gift, but I'm sure there's a lot of complexity. How do you navigate that?

Sister Ana  
We all are very intentional in the fact that we are all a community. So while the house, the structure, has been there for years, every time a new person comes in, it's a new community. So we need to be open to letting go of old ways, old traditions. I someone was in charge of certain duty, be open to let go of that because it might be an opportunity for someone else to do it as well. I think it’s also important to embrace the fact that we all have such rich diversity. And it's the invitation to pitch in and include a little bit of my gifts, a little bit of your gifts, a little bit of everyone's gifts. It's not assimilation. It's not embracing one dominant culture. It's contributing to a communal culture. So I feel that our commitment to religious life, our invitation to be grounded in God, is paramount. We get together in prayer, we open the Word in prayer together, and we see God in each other. And that's an invitation also, for us to be compassionate. And at times, buttons are pushed. At times, I might not agree. So when I feel that there's a button being pushed, my invitation is okay, so where is God inviting me as part of this dialogue? Am I seeing this out of love? Or am I being selfish? Who am I putting first? Am I putting God first, or am I putting me first? And I think we all are committed to that.

Sister Rejane  
That's beautiful. We also just connected at Giving Voice in San Antonio. And there was a breakout on intercultural reality. And someone introduced me to the phrase "cultural humility," which you are kind of speaking to. I have a culture, you have a culture, someone else has a different culture. And we're creating a communal culture, but my culture, my personal culture, isn't necessarily the best, right?

Sister Ana  
Right.

Sister Rejane  
You've got to have some humility, in order to be open to learning another way of looking at the world or even just doing something. Perfect example: my sister in law's from Colombia.

Sister Ana  
Oh, how fabulous.

Sister Rejane  
I was in her house. And I'm peeling carrots. And my niece is like, "Rejane, why are you peeling the skin off the carrots? It has good nutrients in that. We just chop it up. And it's good to go." And I'm like, okay, all right. We could do that. I mean, it's already cleaned. Right? I'm eating the skin off a potato, why can't I eat the skin off a carrot? I know, that's a little bit maybe too specific of an example. But I had to have some cultural humility, to let my nice teach me something I've been doing my entire life -- like, I know what I'm doing. [Laughter] I mean, really?

Sister Ana  
Right. Exactly.

Sister Rejane  
It is a little humbling to learn something new.

Sister Ana  
And then also, wow! My life has been enriched by every single one of my community members, from new dishes and new stories to faith practices and songs and forms of prayer. Just everyone has pitched in to my experience, and I am a better person because of it. I am a richer person because of it. And these are experiences that I would have never had, ever! Had I not embraced this exciting and fabulous journey. And I was thinking that as I was discerning religious life, one of my mom's biggest concerns for me -- she didn't want me to come in. Her biggest concern was that I was going to be lonely. Not really understanding religious life, she just felt that I would be lonely. And it's been completely opposite. I have been with great friends, amazing companions. And my life is enriched because of the people that I live with, because of my fellow sisters, within the Dominican congregation, outside other congregations. And yeah, it really is a huge blessing. And I really can't imagine my life any other way.

Sister Rejane  
Wow. And how did your mom -- how did you work through that with your mom, the idea of you being lonely?

Sister Ana  
Oh my gosh!

Sister Rejane  
You don't have to give me the big version.

Sister Ana  
I won't give you a big version. But what happened was that I was seriously discerning religious life. I was pretty much convinced that this was it. I had attended two Come and See retreats. And I felt the click. I felt that Dominican Sisters of Peace was it for me. I was certain. And my mom's like, "Oh, but you will be so lonely. Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to have a lot of kids?" And finally, an opportunity came up where my mom was visiting New Orleans. And the community in New Orleans allowed my mom to stay with them. Now, I was not with her. I was in El Paso, Texas. But the community in New Orleans allowed my mom to kind of have a mom Come and See.

Sister Rejane  
That's beautiful. I haven't heard of this. Okay.

Sister Ana  
They welcomed my mom for a few days. And during this time, my mom was able to experience the interaction of the sisters, how they cared for each other. How one would make coffee for the whole community. How if someone was late, they would save a plate of dinner for them. How at the end of the day, they would pray, at the beginning of the day, they would pray, and they would ask each other, "What's your day going to be looking like? Can we pray for each other?" And when she came back, after this experience, she told me that if she had the opportunity to experience a life like that, she would take it too.

Sister Rejane  
Wow.

Sister Ana  
Eventually, when I became a candidate, when I got approved to be a candidate, my mom said to me that she could die in peace, knowing that I would never be alone. And that I would be living a life where God would be at my center. So I would say that, you know, I talked and talked, I tried to explain to her time and time again. But those sisters who went out on a limb and welcomed my mom, not knowing her from Adam, to stay with them for a few days, so that she could see how they lived. That sealed the deal. And for me, that meant the world. I don't even know how we got into this topic, but okay. My mom is my number one warrior. She pushed for me and my siblings. She put herself on the sides so that we could have access to a good education, access to good opportunities. I'm just thinking like, how did she pay for music classes for my sister? What did she do? So she would sell newspapers, she would make tamales, she would find a way. And she went above and beyond for me and my siblings. I could care less what anyone thinks about my life choices. But my mom's opinion, to me is priceless. Because she's been that one person that's been -- I mean, through the grace of God, and I've had some guardian angels. But consistently, my mom has been that one person that's been pushing and inspiring me and telling me not to give up and wanting to achieve more. Seek the best in life as well. She was very instrumental in my relationship with God. So, when these sisters inspired my mom and showed her the joy of religious life, and that I was going to be embracing this lifestyle, she approved. That was good.

Sister Rejane  
What a grace.

Sister Ana  
Yeah!

Sister Rejane  
Well, in this day and age, and probably in the past as well, parents, -- their opinions matter. Especially when you have a call to a lifestyle that they didn't choose for themselves. It does take some grace to come to peace and acceptance and that their child will be happy. Yeah.

Sister Ana  
And it's a life that she did not understand.

Sister Rejane  
Right.

Sister Ana  
She did not know. The only thing she knew was the movies and the stereotypes.

Sister Rejane  
Right. Right.

Sister Ana  
So that that that was huge. I'm curious, what about your parents? Did they support you?

Sister Rejane  
Well, I was resonating with what you were saying. My brother and my dad were not surprised when I entered because I'd been living on and off in an intentional community with my Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth for a couple years. And they're like, "Yeah, well, you've been living with them," you know. But my mother had a harder time. And some of it was similar. Like, "Don't you want to have children? I want to have grandchildren1" And it's just a family of two. So when you have less kids than in the days past, it's different to let a child enter a religious community. And my brother is married and has three children. But you know, there's different access, sometimes between your son's children and your daughter's children. So, it really took some time, but we had many conversations. And I think she came to see that joy, and I'm happy. And you know, she had to kind of grieve some of those expectations for me. But we’re much stronger for it now, and understand each other. She was just up here today.

Sister Ana  
Oh, was she!

Sister Rejane  
Yeah, I have a pollinator garden at the motherhouse.

Sister Ana  
Oo, yum.

Sister Rejane  
And they're so good. And they come up and volunteer and water it for me. And then I had them over here for coffee and some donuts. I try and say thank you from time to time for their work.

Sister Ana  
Aw, that's awesome!

Sister Rejane  
It's a journey, right? As you said.

Sister Ana  
Right! You know, also my mom was concerned that once I would enter, she would not see me. And, gosh, I see her often. Just last week, she was visiting me in Connecticut, and how cool that she got to stay with me. And she got to experience my community. So I really feel that there, there are so many myths and so many misconceptions.

Sister Rejane  
Well, and the value of family, and that family is embraced by our communities.

Sister Ana  
Oh, that's another one.

Sister Rejane  
Today, in this day and age. And I am grateful. Those relationships made us who we are, and they're still part of us, and our communities have embraced having them, too. We're all richer for it, as you said, to have our families involved into our religious communities. Yeah. We are going to take a moment for a brief break. This is In Good Faith, a program of A Nun's Life Ministry. We want to thank our sponsors and individual donors like you, whose support makes the In Good Faith program possible. Please visit anunslife.org for more information, to make a donation, or to become a sponsor of the ministry. We will be right back.

Welcome back, I am Sister Rejane of A Nun's Life Ministry. And my guest is Sister Ana Gonzalez. You can find past episodes of In Good Faith and all our podcasts at anunslife.org and on all the major platforms where you get your podcasts. All right, we've been talking journey -- there seems to be a little bit of a theme. So we're going to make a little bit of a hard turn here into the Camino. You took a really neat pilgrimage this past May with also June Fitzgerald.

Sister Ana  
Yes. And Barb Kane.

Sister Rejane  
And Barb Kane. Okay, so there were three of you that did this journey. For our listeners, what is El Camino?

Sister Ana  
El Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a pilgrimage. This pilgrimage is ancient. It basically follows the ways of the steps of St. James the Major. Yes? Is that how you say it?

Sister Rejane  
Yes.

Sister Ana  
Okay. St. James the Major. And ultimately, it's a pilgrimage that culminates at his resting place. The pilgrimage has been followed by millions of people throughout the years. And for many, at one point, it was a manda -- a penance. So, back in the Middle Ages, when people went into confession and they killed the neighbor's donkey, the priest would be like, "Ah, that's a really bad crime. Your penance is you're gonna walk El Camino. And you're gonna really think really hard about what you did." For other people, since walking or making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was so foreign, or so distant, this was the closest to get to Jesus, by being with one of his favorite disciples, beloved disciples. So, as it evolved from one route, two routes, many routes, the intentions became very spiritual. As people were walking, some walked in gratitude, some walked in requests, asking for a petition. And today as June, Barb, and myself were walking, we encountered pilgrims who were walking as a bonding activity for families. Some were walking as a challenge. Some were walking in gratitude. Some were walking to request a miracle. And then some were walking in the steps of many people who walked those roads before them and wanted the experience.

Sister Rejane  
Now, why did you choose to walk El Camino?

Sister Ana  
Okay, this starts in 2011 in Great Bend, Kansas. At the time, I was a discerner with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and I was participating in a week-long retreat, featuring two amazing Dominicans, Brian Pierce and Marielle Driscoll. During the retreat, there was a section where Marielle Driscoll was talking about our pilgrimage with God, and our internal journey where we are going on this pilgrimage. We have an idea of what we want to obtain. But we need to be open to God's surprises and to the unfolding that happens. And then she mentioned the movie "The Way," featuring Martin Sheen, right?

Sister Rejane  
Yes. I've seen it.

Sister Ana  
I was on such a high when I finished that retreat. And that was another affirmation, a retreat of affirmation, where I'm just like, yes, I belong here! But I was on such a high on that retreat that I wanted to hold on to a little more of it. So as soon as I got back to El Paso, Texas, I'm just like, "Mommy, we need to watch The Way because at the retreat, they told me about The Way." So we watched The Way and I'm just like, "This is it, I'm doing this. I am not going to die until after – much, much after -- I do this.

Sister Rejane  
This was on your bucket list.

Sister Ana  
Bucket list. Life goal. It's a life goal.

Sister Rejane  
There you go. That's better.

Sister Ana  
So move forward. My journey into religious life with a bunch of highs and lows and many highs. And among them, one of the lows was, I had a sledding accident, right as I moved to Connecticut, and I was planning to enter as a candidate. And as soon as I had my sledding accident, I fractured two vertebrae, one was very close to my spinal cord. And there was concern that I would not walk. So that was a concern. And I remember just thinking, oh, I want to dance again. I want to walk again. So the surgery went well. You know, eight years later, I am walking, jogging like a fat lady. I am dancing. And I think it's God's grace, right?

Sister Rejane  
Yes.

Sister Ana  
And move forward, a very insightful and profound journey navigating with God into religious life finally, culminating into my perpetual vows last year. And all throughout, I wanted the opportunity to walk the Camino in gratitude for this amazing journey, these mind-blowing, awesome experiences in this period of formation. And then also, I feel that now that I've completed my vows, and we're talking about the future of religious life and how that's going to unfold -- all these uncertainties. We're on this journey -- all these uncertainties. But we know we need to get there. And we know the end of the story. But we don't know the in-betweens. So my prayer, in a way, during this time, was to ask for God's guidance on this next chapter. Gratitude for my chapter of discernment, my chapter or formation, completing my final vows and requesting God's guidance for Y ahora que? Now what? Right. So that's how that came to be. And about three years ago, I was thinking, you know, what, now's the time, I'm going to turn 40. Let's do this for my 40th birthday. And COVID hit, and we canceled. And then we were thinking of doing it again, and COVID hit again. And we canceled. So the third time was the charm. We finally were able to go in April. And we had so much to celebrate, so much to be grateful for, and so much to ask for God's guidance. Each one of us had something. So I shared a little bit of what I was bringing to the trip, why I was doing this. And then also the excitement that oh my gosh, I'm going to Spain for the first time in my life. Wow. As a good Mexican, a large percentage of my ancestors are from Spain. So in a way, it was pretty cool to be back in the country of the ancestors, some of the ancestors.

Sister Rejane  
Sure.

Sister Ana  
How awesome. So anyways, we got to Spain. We explored a little bit in Madrid. I had three goals. Goal number one, walk El Camino. Goal number two, get myself a pair of castanets, and have in my purse whenever the occasion arises: boom! Castanets. Goal number three, I wanted to see a flamenco show. So I achieved two of the goals. I did not see a flamenco show, so I will have to go again to Spain in the future, to see a flamenco show and maybe, maybe, walk the Camino again. I don't know.

Sister Rejane  
You’ve got to explain what flamenco is.

Sister Ana  
Oh my gosh. I'll explain two things: castanets and flamenco. Oh, where's my purse?

Sister Rejane  
Do you have the castanets?

Sister Ana  
Absolutely! Let me get my purse so I can grab my castanets.

Sister Rejane  
We can get the sound, at least.

Sister Ana  
Yes. Okay, here's one.

Sister Rejane  
If you haven't noticed, audience, we share a love of music.

Sister Ana  
So castanets are a shell-like rhythm instrument that is used in Spanish music, but it's not just necessarily confined to Spanish music and what I have here are two brown castanets. [Plays] Right?

Sister Rejane  
What are they made out of? What are they made out of?

Sister Ana  
They're made out of wood. And these ones are madera de Espana, wood from Spain. Right?

Sister Rejane  
Yes.

Sister Ana  
And they hang in your palm and, you know, you squeeze with your fingers between your fingers and your palm. So these are castanets. Now castanets are featured also in flamenco dancing. Flamenco dancing is traditional dancing from southern Spain, influenced by gypsy, Moorish music and culture, right? Very gitano, very gypsy. And the music involves sometimes castanets, sometimes guitar, sometimes clapping. And if you've heard the Gypsy Kings, those have been inspired by flamenco music. But flamenco dancing goes along with the music and it's incredibly beautiful and expressive. And if you have not seen it, I encourage you to go to YouTube. Check it out. Yes.

Sister Rejane  
So you're back, you're going back to Spain, so you can get play your castanets, and --

Sister Ana  
And witness a flamenco show. But I have castanets in my purse that I travel with. [laughter]

Sister Rejane  
That's great. It's a rhythm instrument. So you always have a beat.

Sister Ana  
And I think part of the reason why I want to castanets is I play the trumpet.

Sister Rejane  
Oh. I did not know this. Okay.

Sister Ana  
But the thing is, I'm not amazing at it. Like I'm not one of those musicians that could improvise and just play along and toot along. I need music, right? And let's say, all of a sudden, we are gathering and there's a singalong -- I can't just pull my trumpet out and start playing. I don't play the guitar. I want to learn how to play the guitar so that when there's a singalong all I can start singing and playing along. In the meantime the castanets will do for me.

Sister Rejane  
Well, and there's a real communal aspect of music, right?

Sister Ana  
Oh, yes.

Sister Rejane  
You're expressing and you can join in. Right? You don't keep music to yourself.

Sister Ana
No, we share music.

Sister Rejane  
You share music, and there's a real camaraderie. Companionship.

Sister Ana  
So that's part of the goals for the trip. But let me tell you something, Rejane.

Sister Rejane  
Yes.

Sister Ana  
My companions and I had two years to prepare for this Camino. We knew we would be walking anywhere from six to 16 miles -- no, kilometers.

Sister Rejane  
Are you doing kilometers? Okay. Six to 16 kilometers.

Sister Ana  
No, we were doing miles. I know the day that we walked the most, we walked 16 miles.

Sister Rejane  
Wow. Okay. That's a lot.

Sister Ana  
Right. In total, we walked -- it's 124 kilometers, 120 kilometers give or take. Let's say anywhere between 77 to 80 miles.

Sister Rejane  
And how many days were you on the Camino?

Sister Ana  
We did this in eight days, eight days. So we started in Valenca do Minho. That's in Portugal. And we began our journey walking into a medieval fortress. And this was not the only medieval fortress that we experienced. The journey encompassed vineyards, farms, forest, city, medieval fortresses, churches are along the road, sometimes medieval chapels. And it was just such a rich and dynamic landscape. Sometimes you have huge hills, and sometimes it was completely flat. But we trained, we walked. We walked a lot. And we thought to ourselves, oh, yeah, we're gonna be ready. And we're training and we're doing everything. Because we're going to have expectations, and this is the goal. And I'm glad we walked. Because that helped. But our experience was nothing like we had imagined. It was more.

Sister Rejane  
We're going to take a quick break. Thank you to all our donors and sponsors who support A Nun's Life Ministry, and our In Good Faith podcasts. If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, please leave us a message at 913-214-6087. Again, 913-214-6087. We would love to hear from you, our listeners. We will be right back. Hello, listeners, we are back. Remember to fill out our listener online survey that can be found in the Show Notes. Your feedback is important to us. Okay, let's listen to more of Sister Ana's story about how deeply the pilgrimage impacted her.

Sister Ana  
It was so rich, rich from the opportunity to walk among the forest, be embraced by curtains of forest and leaves and symphony of birds around you. And just walking in canopies of trees -- being surrounded and walking next to and under vineyards. Meeting amazing individuals -- all had different motivations and different reasons why they were going on this pilgrimage. And you know, there were some people we just kept bumping into and they were just companions on the journey. And of course the historical insight, the faithful insight, and then as well, the stories associated with the Camino. There are so many amazing rich stories.

Sister Rejane  
Oh, can you share one?

Sister Ana  
Okay, this is a bit of a long one.

Sister Rejane  
Okay.

Sister Ana  
But here we go. It all starts with St. James. Seeing Jesus resurrected -- now, this is a story that I got. Right? So it's not the book story. This is the story that I got from the people on my journey.

Sister Rejane  
On your journey, okay. Got it.

Sister Ana  
So just for clarification, some of this information might be wrong. But this is what I was told. Jesus resurrected, St. James was there and then Jesus is like, "Go forth and spread the message." St. James goes forth towards Spain. He's walking on the Roman trail. There he is walking, walking, walking, walking. And as he's walking, he's encountering the pagans, and the Celts, and he's telling them about Jesus and about God. And they're like, "James, you're awesome." Some of them follow James. And James actually has a group of disciples but some of them are like, "You're a nice guy, but I don't know about this." So James keeps going and he pretty much starts focusing on the Galician area -- northern Spain, Galicia. Apparently, he used to live in the area known as Padron, and this area, he would be on top of a mountain, and he would be preaching to people, and everybody could hear him. And there was a pagan Queen on the other hill that didn't like James because all her pagan followers were following James because James started springs and he healed people. And he was just a nice guy and they liked him a lot. So she got into arguments with James. Anyways. It gets to a point where James is so sad, because he's trying and he's trying and he's speaking and he's preaching, and it's going nowhere. So he's crying, and he's so sad. And all of a sudden, Mother Mary appears to him on top of a pillar. Mystery number one that Ana had on my trip: Why does Spain have such an affiliation to La Senora del Pilar -- the Lady of the pillar? It comes from this story! So Mother Mary shows up -- she bilocates, she was still alive when she appeared to James. She bilocates, she appears on top of a pillar, and she says, "Hey, James, don't cry. Don't feel bad. Look, we all have some challenges. Why don't you come back to Palestine? We'll give you some home cooked meals, you'll meet up with your brothers. It'll be great." In a few words, a few words less, James is like, “That's a deal, Mary, I'll see you there in a few months." Off he goes back to Palestine. In Palestine, later, you know, there's the gathering with Paul and with Peter. And then eventually he gets apprehended and gets killed -- decapitated. Now keep in mind:  James had some followers, and some of them went with him. And when he was decapitated, some followers sent word back to Spain that he had died. Some other followers put his body in a boat made out of rock to keep it from decomposition. Unfortunately, the head was not there, but the body was there. And then the body is carried by angels from Palestine -- on the boat made out of rock -- from Palestine all the way up to Galicia, Spain. The rocks are brought up to Padron, and they're currently in the church where the Lady of the Pillar showed up. And once again, this could be wrong. And the body was brought up to the hill where he lived.

Well, people came, and they all wanted to be with James, and touching and touching. And the disciples were very scared, because they thought, "Oh my gosh, if we keep the body here, James is gonna disappear. We need to take him to a remote, secluded place so that he can rest in peace." They go up to the pagan queen, and they're like, "Hey, Queen, sad. James died. And we need to take him away. Can you lend us oxen so that we could carry his body away?" And she's like, "Oh, yes, I'm gonna give you my best oxen." She lied! She gave two rebellious young oxen who had not been trained, they were just wild and kicking everything. Well, when they hooked on the body of James, they became tame, and they started walking. And they walked, and they walked, and they walked. Until finally, they got to this place where the oxen stop, and they started beating their little hooves to the ground and a spring sprouted. And eventually, it became the community fountain. And this was the sign for the disciples: ah, this is where we're going to bury James. So they bury James there, make a little chapel. And two of his favorite disciples remained there. Fast forward 100 years. A hermit is in the area with his goat. And they're just there in the hills in this place called Mirador, The Viewing Place. And there he is, when all of a sudden, he sees a star -- whoom! -- in this Campo de Estrella: Field of Star. Campo de Estrella, Compostela -- right? So he's curious there's this star that is on top of this field. "In bright daylight, it I think I need to go and check it out." So there he goes with his goat and the goat eat some grass and he realizes, "Oh my gosh, there are three graves here." And then he gets a little closer and he realizes one is St. James and the other two are friends of St. James. Well, we have to put a chapel here, another chapel. Rumor starts to spread. And 400 years later -- I'll tell you the name of the king. Four hundred years later, the king of Asturias was like, "Hey, what is this rumor I hear that James the Major is buried in this area, in Compostela? I need to go and verify." He was a big Catholic king. And he apparently walked everywhere. So there he goes. And he gets there. And he's like, "Yes. This is St. James and I, being a Catholic king, will sponsor a bigger chapel." And so begin the pilgrimages. The king was officially the first pilgrim, and he went through the Primitivo Camino. Camino Primitivo the first pilgrim ever. From there on, people begin taking the pilgrimages, right? Once again, because they wanted a proximity to Jesus. And here were the remains of James, because that was a penance, because they wanted a favor, because they wanted to show gratitude. So as people were walking, well, bad people were walking there, too. And they started taking advantage of the poor pilgrims. Well, before you know it, there's a papal decree that says you have to give hospitality to pilgrims. Well, those bad people that were robbing the pilgrims, all of a sudden were taking advantage of the hospitality that was mandated on the pilgrims. So then, the Pope said, "Hey, let's give the pilgrims a passport. One, they have to be sponsored by a church. And they need to have stamps proving that they are pilgrims. Real pilgrims have passports, and so forth. They need them to continue their journey and they need to certify that they get there." So that's one of the fascinating stories of Santiago.

Sister Rejane  
Right? And you still can get -- is it a certificate? Or is it a passport?

Sister Ana  
So everybody needs to have a passport. If you're walking, you need to have a passport. And when you're walking, you need at least two stamps a day. And upon completion of your journey, you turn in your passport with your stamps. And you get a certificate -- in Latin, mind you -- proving that you completed your pilgrimage.

Sister Rejane  
Wow. So that has lasted all these hundreds of years.

Sister Ana  
Thousands of years.

Sister Rejane  
Yes. Oh my gosh. Wow. That is a great story. I had not heard that. Thank you for sharing.

Sister Ana  
Oh, absolutely! Well, and there's so many neat stories. We were very fortunate because last year was a jubilee year. There's the door of absolution, a special door, that's only opened during the Jubilee year, so we were able to come in through that door. Also, one of the things that happens during the Jubilee year is that Santiago was a lighthouse. Before maps, before mile markers, pilgrims relied on stars and on lights, so many of them would travel at night. So in Jubilee years, Santiago lights up -- the Cathedral has a light at night for the pilgrims who are finding their way.

Sister Rejane  
Wow. So while you're walking, before you get to the church, did you have a favorite spot or experience?

Sister Ana  
Yes! And even more than the cathedral -- the cathedral is magnificent. It is definitely something to be in awe of. But I would say that my favorite spot was Padron, the space where St. James supposedly lived. We had the opportunity to go to the hill. And you know, the tradition says that St. James ignited a water fountain for the pilgrims. So we washed our hands, you know, with that water. And tradition also tells that he used to preach to people on rocks. So, June, Barb and I got on the rocks, and we sang our Dominican blessing and our companions who were traveling with us, who were at the bottom of the hill, said that they heard us clearly from there. However, as I was sitting on those rocks, just taking the whole environment in, something just hit me. And I wanted to stay there longer. I wanted to just remain there. That space -- while it was not abundant with tourists -- it's not well labeled. That place really hit me. And I would say that that's my favorite place.

Sister Rejane  
Wow, it sounds like it. Very powerful.

Sister Ana  
It was amazing.

Sister Rejane  
I did have a chance before our time here together -- I did go through all your Facebook pictures. [laughter] So I have a concept of some of what you're talking about. But one picture really intrigued me. You were holding up like mementos, little arrows that said the Duende del Camino. And what is that? What is that about? What does that mean?

Sister Ana  
Okay, so as you're walking the pilgrimage, right, you are meeting people from everywhere. A lot of them are pilgrims like yourself, but then you have special characters, right? Local special characters. So here we are walking, June and I are walking, and all sudden this man is like, "Venga! Venga! Soy el Duende del Camino! I am the elf of the journey of El Camino.' And we're just like, "Well, let's talk to this person." Part of the insight is you're meeting different people. And he tells us that he used to be a teacher, and now he's self-proclaimed the elf of the journey. Now, I think in part this leads to every good Spanish epic story. And it goes to every epic story. A good Spanish epic story includes an elf, an ogre, and a princess. So in our Camino journey, we had el Duende del Camino, who even gave us a little memento to carry with us from our experience encountering the elf. And that guy's a character. Like he's just a goofy character. But we had our epic story with the elf. Later on, I would have to say that the magician, the warlock in our journey were our guides. They were phenomenal. And they were so insightful, and I'm so grateful we worked with experts who knew the stories, who knew the terrain, who could give us insights. So I would say they were our warlocks. And then the princess -- well, we got a prince. When we finally got to the Cathedral, the Prince of Portugal was there. Now Portugal doesn't have nobility anymore, but because of lineage, etc., this guy's a prince. And he's the sponsor of a group called something to do with Archangel Michael. It's a Portuguese group that was celebrating their 800th anniversary. And thanks to the support of this group, and the prince of Portugal, they sponsored the huge incense burner and I forget the name of it. So the tradition, it says that pilgrims used to be very stinky. And when they finally arrived, the incense was burned so that the smell was not overpowering.

Sister Rejane  
In the church, right?

Sister Ana  
In the church. It's a four feet tall incense burner. It's 80 pounds, just coal and incense. It takes eight guys to pull it up, and one to push it back and forth.

Sister Rejane  
So like a pendulum, it's like swinging.

Sister Ana  
It's an incense burner that swings like a pendulum.

Sister Rejane  
Okay.

Sister Ana  
And we had the opportunity to experience that because we had a prince at Mass with us.

Sister Rejane  
Wow.

Sister Ana  
So I would say, going back to el Duende del Camino -- yes, a character, and you meet so many characters, locals that are just so giving and generous to pilgrims. And this guy was a character, but then proclaiming himself as the official elf of the journey. That meant that we had to come across, yes, an elf, a warlock and a princess.

Sister Rejane  
And it sounds like you did.

Sister Ana  
We did.

Sister Rejane  
Oh, my gosh. So you made it through Mass. How was that? How was that being in Mass on the Camino?

Sister Ana  
It was amazing. I mean, once you get to Santiago de Compostela and touch that zero-mile marker, that's an empowering experience. You've made it, you walk this journey. But we all know that this is not the end of the journey. Once we come home, once we tell stories, we are reliving the journey and the journey keeps unfolding. Our requests or our petition of gratitude or whatever -- signs continue to manifest themselves and to bubble. It's not the end of the pilgrimage. So an experience definitely is to go to the Pilgrims Mass. We had the opportunity to meet a Dominican friar who warned us don't show up on time -- show up an hour early. Thank goodness we showed up an hour early. We didn't get a chair, we got to stand by a column. It was already packed an hour before the Mass. So we got to celebrate Mass, we were there. It was nice to see our friend up at the altar, concelebrating Mass. And then to experience the incense burner. But I was just in awe, in gratitude for being able to make this pilgrimage. But then also thinking of all the people who have made this pilgrimage who had been at this church, listening to the beautiful music sung by such a fabulous choir. And having been able to participate in 1000s of years of tradition. I was just in awe. And then add the beauty, add the history, add the miracles and so much that is associated with this pilgrimage and in this cathedral. And it's all grounded on faith. And I love that even people that on our journey were like, "I'm atheist, I'm just doing it for the challenge" -- they were there at that Mass. I love that people that we were bumping into again and again -- we got to celebrate with them because they made it to that Mass. And we were there and there were embraces and there were high fives and thumbs up and celebrations that we made it, we're here. And regardless of your background, regardless of your faith, you were here and what a witness to being welcomed. What a witness to celebrating and community. And it's done in our Catholic setting. Yay!

Sister Rejane  
Wow. So you mentioned that there's so much more once the journey is completed. What would you say some of the unexpected grace has been for you now that you're home and back?

Sister Ana  
One of the biggest graces is being able to share a little bit of my experience, because when I share, I relive it. But then also the invitation, the loud invitation to slow down, go at my own pace. It's not a road race. And take time to experience interactions. As you and I have chatted, I do have a tendency to want to do a lot of things. And next thing you know, I'm making a fool out of myself, not being able to commit and things fall through the cracks. I think one of the invitations that I hear from this is, let's take it slow, take it at my own pace. And while I'm present in the here and now, witness and try to find the divine. The pilgrimage was awesome, because every step, the sound, the trees, the rivers, the vineyards, the fortresses. There, there was a little glimpse of divine at every single step. And I feel that as I come back in the rush of things, I am not doing good enough in stopping and acknowledging the divine in every step I take. So I think that's one of the biggest invitations Let's embrace this, this is not something that stops now; it continues. The pilgrimage does not end once I get to Compostela. I need to continue seeking the divine.

Sister Rejane  
Ana, I feel so blessed to have been able to hear this grace that you were sharing with us, that you talked about -- to continue to tell the story. And I thank you for doing that with us today.

Sister Ana  
Oh my gosh! Well, thank you for allowing me to talk about it even showing off my castanets.

Sister Rejane  
I know! that was special. Hopefully, Ana, we could maybe do a Facebook Live, where we could talk more. Because some people I know are going on this journey. And so would love to talk with you. Or, you know, people that have done El Camino may want to share their experience.

Sister Ana  
Right! And I know like for instance, there's so many of our sisters who have done it. And I think the richness of it is, as we mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, we are on a journey, and we're not alone. And as we're walking on a journey -- be it el Camino or be it religious life -- we're walking in the footsteps of people that came before us who've had such enriching experiences. By walking that journey, they leave a little bit of themselves behind for us to reap. So we continue walking the journey -- and it's not just a Camino, but it's our lives.

Sister Rejane  
Yeah. And in some ways, like you and I, when we left San Antonio -- when you left, remember we did the hand washing ceremony. I think we both consider ourselves companions on the journey, even now.

Sister Ana  
Amen.

Sister Rejane  
Amen! In Good Faith is a production of A Nun's Life Ministry, helping people discover and grow in their vocation by engaging questions about God, faith and religious life. This program is made possible through the grace of God and the support of our sponsors of A Nun's Life Ministry, and you, our listeners. Don't forget to call us and leave a message. Tell us what you like. Ask a question or just say hi. Call 913-214-6087 and visit us at anunslife.org. God bless.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

 

Recent Comments