Fr. Maurice SCHROEDER, an Oblate and a Medical Doctor, recently returned to his homeland after many years as a missionary in Peru. Here he muses on that homecoming experience.
TRITE (adj.) – According to Webster´s Dictionary, it means: “Used until so common as to have lost novelty and interest, without the freshness that evokes attention or interest.”
We live surrounded by the trite in life. But once in a while a trite reality pushes itself forward in our consciousness to surprise us with new significance.
I recently had such a trite moment. I’d left Saskatchewan in 1954 at age 17 after graduation from Grade 12 at St. Thomas College in North Battleford. In August 2017, I was “re-patriated” to Saskatchewan, specifically to Battleford, in time for my 80th birthday, after many years in our mission in Peru.
It was the closing of a full circle. In Peru I was always different from the people with whom I lived. I looked different. I spoke differently. My skin color was different. My physical size was different. My mind-set was different.
Being different had long become common and lost its novelty and interest. In my own mind I was accustomed to being an extranjero, a foreigner. My official document of identification for the last 40 years has been a Peruvian “carnet de extranjería” (“immigration card”). Then one morning I was walking out of the North Battleford Hospital. Suddenly I realized that I´d just been moving among and interacting with people who were my size and age and color. They spoke just like me. They looked just like me. A good few of them even walked just like me. None of them looked at me as if I were any different from them.
Crossing to the parking lot, my “trite moment” crashed in and made me stop to take it in. Right out loud, I said into the wind, “I’m not an extranjero anymore!”
Trite? No. Significant (for me)? Yes! In my imagination there was a woman behind me on that sidewalk where I´d stopped. She’d pushed by me, muttering, “So who cares, Mac? Out of my way!” (Oblate Spirit, February 2018)