**This blog post is part of a series of reflections by interns from the Montreal Mission Internship program, who are as guest writers at The Community as they wrap up their time in this program from the diocese of Montreal. The second reflection in this series is written by intern Nick Oligny.
I was nervous starting this internship. I have no religious background and minimal knowledge of scripture. In academia or the workforce, I had a losing hand. But the welcome I received from the Montreal Mission Internship leaders and participants was unwaveringly warm and patient. I felt like a welcome guest. I can hear you: “Yeah, duh. We’re the Anglican Church. Obvi.”
But as a neophyte, I was fully ignorant of this. To give you an idea, I still sometimes confuse ‘Christian’ and ‘Catholic’. I didn’t know whether preachiness would outweigh compassion (it didn’t) or if I could bite the wafer (I can (right???)). My insight prior to immersion was made up of snippets of poorly informed sources. I had no cohesive image of what I was getting myself into, and I want to thank you. Thank you for taking me in. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for taking an interest in me and the others, so selflessly, and wanting to see us work thoughtfully and compassionately.
Thank you for putting values first, and teaching me to love others more broadly and openly, and to find comfort in vulnerability.
Oh, and thanks for the free lunch. [The MMI community ate a vegetarian lunch together every Wednesday]
My project has been to draw wisdom from the Church in order to inculcate positive values to myself and others who might be wary of the baggage affixed to certain world views or symbols. I can understand why some want to distance themselves from one faith or another, for whatever reason; but there are universal values which I find important to hold onto: compassion, diligence, reason and temperance (shout-out to Thomas Aquinas for the Cardinal Virtues).
Yet I’ve come to suspect that my project is almost secondary to my mentors. They want to help us grow and broaden our spiritual selves. They want to nourish our faith. What I think, and they seem certain of, is that when my beliefs and actions are joined to my daily praxis, I may do the most good through my little deeds (I’ve figured out what the Kingdom of God means, guys!). The end doesn’t justify the means, but rather decent means lead to decent ends.
As far as take-aways, I am grateful for several new experiences. Prayer figures very high on the list: counting your blessings, feeling for those around you, and taking a step back. The belief in a cognizant, compassionate God is difficult and secondary for me, but the action of praying is revelatory. Qualms and quabbles are reduced to dust, leaving more room for others in our hearts. Praying in the morning and praying before a meal change the angle from which a day gets viewed, away from the self.
You guys are cool, and it’s been a true pleasure spending these weeks with you. Thanks again!
Nick Oligny, born and raised in Montreal, is an artist whose work focuses on the constructs that define communities and questions the practice of dissecting socio-cultural constructs: “Artists tear down monuments and their hierarchical meaning yet do not replace them, leaving us on our own when we attempt to relate to one another. How can community be consolidated where culture is divided?” During the internship, Nick examined and re-contextualized four symbols–the four Cardinal Virtues–which, in his words, “evade hierarchical structures and help us understand how different personal histories create a rich cultural soil whence a better future may arise.” To read more reflections by Nick, visit the Montreal Mission Internship blog here.