True Brother in Ethiopia: Journey of a Lifetime

Michael Wyrzykowski is one of eight seminarians from Mundelein Seminary traveling with CRS Ethiopia as part of the Global Fellows program. Here he shares his thoughts as the trip begins.

It is Thursday, February 18, 2010, and it is the start of our trip to Ethiopia. As I open my journal to reflect on the events that are about to unfold in the next eight days, I make few distinct notes. We are cruising at 600 miles per hour, at an altitude of 33,000 feet, and few hundred miles south of the most eastern town of Canada named after Saint John. These might seem irrelevant points of information, yet for me they are very concrete, facts proving that yes, indeed, I am going to Africa! This is really happening!

I know that this journey is going to be an experience of a lifetime for many reasons. But if I can sum it up in one sentence I would say: To fall in love with Africa, a love that will remain faithful through all the distractions, various commitments, frustrations, and finally the busyness of our lives here in the United States. To remain true to a love that will authentically express the message of Ethiopia to our people of United States—a charity that advocates and calls others to be generous with their resources, time, and efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, and the abandoned. Perhaps these people to be embraced do not need to be thousands of miles away but can be in our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods, or even next door to our house.

Coming into the plane I wondered about the people, the culture, the customs of the people of Ethiopia. I asked myself “how will they respond to my presence, how will I communicate with them, are they going to be welcoming?” Well I got my initial answer fast! As I came to my seat, I realized that it was next to an older woman dressed in traditional African clothing. She greeted me with a great smile, speaking in a language I could not understand, gesticulating with her body and hands signs of welcome. At this very moment, I realized that this is how the people of Ethiopia must be: open to others, respectful, joyful, engaging. (Very soon I found out that this thought could not be any truer and was proved to me many times over through the profound goodness and generosity of the African people).

Also during the flight I had a chance to meet and speak with an Ethiopian who came to the U.S. five years ago and now works and lives in California. This was to be Marco’s first return visit to his homeland since he came to America. He told me how excited he was to be coming home to see his parents, some of his siblings, and his family, mostly living in Addis Ababa. So already I am getting my stories, tales of the lives of people living thousands of miles from my home and getting ever closer to theirs.

As the days will unfold, I am convinced that I will realize more and more the profoundness of the people of Ethiopia—or any other people: All one human race, all beloved children of God, each and every one of us with the same dreams, wishes, and the same ability to love, share, and give. I pray that this encounter with this new continent will lead to on my part an authentic charitable response as understood in its broadest meaning, which engages in advocacy, in service, and in collaboration. I am sure that with the help and partnership of CRS this resolution can be met, which ultimately is for the sake of the people of Ethiopia and the people of the world.

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