As I sat and watched my almost 3-year-old daughter dancing back and forth about 50 times in our upstairs hallway Saturday morning, all I could think about was how wonderful God is to put me on the path I am on. The path that kept me in Western New York, close to family. The path that led me to my love, my best friend…my husband, Matt. The path that took us to the most remote region of Kenya to serve the poor with the Daughters of Charity. The path that led us to Sister’s Hospital to meet the beautiful Daughters of Charity that once lived there. The path that introduced us to Fr. John Freund and the subsequent dinners and conversations we had. The path that has thus far blessed us with two incredible children. And the path that lead us to say “yes” to Fr. Aidan Rooney when asked if we would serve as editors of the .famvin English site.
Matt and I both grew up in Western New York, not far from each other, and met as I was graduating from the University at Buffalo’s MBA program and he was beginning the same program. We were married in 2009 and both love to travel. I worked at a Catholic Church at the time and had the opportunity to participate in a Mission trip to Nicaragua. It was something we had never done before, so we went on the week-long mission. To say it changed our lives is an understatement and from that point on we knew we wanted to do more. Matt joined our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society and we began to look for other mission opportunities. We found the Vincentian Lay Missionaries and were accepted to travel the following year in 2012. I can honestly say from the moment Sister Mary Beth Kubera called to tell us we had been accepted into the mission, I could feel the warm Vincentian embrace that was welcoming us into this special family. The feeling was only enhanced after orientation (and the mission itself) and we both knew our entrance into the Vincentian family was going to be for life. Happily, we continued on our journey.
It has been almost four years since our mission to Kenya (you can read about our experiences in Kenya and other ramblings on my personal blog at: astridowski.blogspot.com) and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about or pray for the people we served there. Having little kids now has made a trip back in the near future unlikely, but our goal always has been to try to serve them from here through fundraising and support for the ongoing projects in their Kenyan community. We also try to honor the spirit of the Sister’s we met in Kenya by serving here locally in ways that reflect their mission abroad.
We are blessed to keep in touch with many of the Daughters of Charity we served with in Kenya, our Vincentian Lay Missionary family as well as a few of the Buffalo Daughters of Charity we had the privilege of spending time with while they were still here. I delivered my first child, Millie, at Sister’s Hospital while the DOC still resided there…not many people can say they had a parade of nuns come to their hospital room and bless their new little bundle of joy! Sister Jeraldine Fritz has been especially close with our family, and even came to visit us in November, so she can attest to the chaos that ensues at our house. She stayed in our spare room, which instead of being called “the office” is now lovingly referred to as “Sr. Jerri’s room” by Millie.
So, here we are, lay vincentians, one a full-time Assistant Treasurer for a regional bank and the other a full-time mom, serving as managing editors of the .famvin English site. Amongst the chaos of broken dryers, colds, finger painting, singing Christmas songs all year long, dance parties, and building snow penguins, the quietest part of our day is when the kiddos are napping or asleep for the night and we can settle down and accomplish our .famvin duties. As the rookies on the team, we are learning a lot, mostly from our mistakes, but thankfully we began this endeavor in the Year of Mercy, so please, have mercy on us as we find our way! For example, one of the interesting things I recently learned (due to a mistake on my part) was why we use “famvin” instead of “vinfam.” According to Fr. John, it is a bow to internationality even if it sounds strange to those of us who speak English. He said, “Historically it was Fr. Pat Griffin’s genius in 1998 to realize that famvin works best internationally because of the way Vincentian Family is translated in French, Spanish and other languages.” These are the types of things that we are figuring out along the way, but are fascinated with finding out the history.
I hope in the future to post every so often about our little Vincentian family and our journey towards raising little disciples. I’m not sure where God’s path will take us next, but we will take things one day at a time…dancing, singing and enjoying the ride. Thank you Sr. Mary Beth, Jess, Sr. Pat, Sr. Mary Shea, Sr. Sharon, Sr. Esther, Sr. Jerri, Fr. John, and Fr. Aidan for forming and continuing to form this Vincentian family. And thank you to the rest of you for welcoming us into your family!