Brother John Blazo:
Learn by Listening

Learn about others and you learn about yourself.

That’s been my motto all these years. Here are just two examples of what I mean…

One time while teaching young children in Guatemala, I was in overdrive mode, waving my arms and raising my voice with excitement for the day’s lesson. A very kind woman tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Lower your voice… and don’t wave your arms!”

I thought the kids were wide-eyed because they were amazed at my storytelling. Actually, I had frightened them. So I relaxed and they relaxed. Lesson learned.

Another time I was visiting a remote village in rural Guatemala. Ever gracious, the people kept telling me how educated I was. But it wasn’t long before I realized that when you’re in the middle of nowhere and the potential for danger is real, your education might not be much help. I relied on my hosts to get me around safely. They were the educated ones as far as I was concerned!

These lessons remind me even now that mission in its simplest form is just being in right relation with another person. Whether we are serving overseas the way I did, or living our faith here at home as you do, we are all learning. Each relationship teaches us something new about humility, generosity, and how to witness the Gospel.

“Each relationship teaches us something new about humility, generosity, and how to witness the Gospel.”

Right now my calling has me at headquarters in Maryknoll, NY. In addition to being an advisor to Maryknoll’s U.S. Regional Superior, I have a great job: I am Maryknoll’s official tour guide and host.

I meet with school groups, college students, and members of parish organizations—people of all ages and backgrounds who want to learn about mission. Most are Catholic or Christian, but some aren’t. One visitor from Nepal said he didn’t understand why our chapel has statues of saints. Doesn’t the bible say these are forbidden? I explained it this way: “We often have family photos in our wallet to remind us of the people we love. Statues and images are just reminders of our Catholic faith.” The man said, “That’s the best explanation I ever heard!”

Our Museum of Living Mission always makes a big impression on people, especially the displays and artifacts. But speaking with retired missioners is what overwhelms visitors the most. Our men don’t focus on what may seem like great sacrifices. Instead they convey the joy and nostalgia for their mission years. Some say they would go back even now—if only they could!

Each time I welcome someone to Maryknoll, I offer my time as a prayer of thanksgiving for you. Your gifts make learning about mission a rich—and often life-changing—experience for visitors. They come to see mission the way I do: as a two-way street where both sides are listening, sharing, learning, and growing in God’s love.

~ Brother John Blazo, M.M.