Letters from Seminary: Burmester

We must understand the crosses that friends and family have carried

Published: January 24, 2015

By William Burmester
Diocesan Seminarian

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

This past weekend I met Cruzita as part of a home visit we made in the Diocese of Brownsville, the southernmost border diocese in the United States. A group of nine seminarians and I visited Cruzita who immigrated into the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago and became a recent widow.

This trip to the border was a part of a two-week seminarian program at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas. During our first week, we were in class for many hours learning about topics that ranged from waves of immigration in U.S. history to Hispanic spirituality.

While the classes were very informative and helpful I noticed that in a classroom setting there was no ability to get past theories and anecdotes. I found that the trip to the border was an effective way of making theories learned in class more concrete with experience.

The highlight of this trip to the border was the couple of hours we were able to spend with Cruzita. We all sat in her one-room trailer home and learned about the joys and pains of her life.

I witnessed her pain and suffering through her stories, the tone of her voice and the sadness on her face. She has undergone many difficulties in her life and she was still mourning the loss of her husband when we were with her which made her feel more isolated from her community.

Actually, the meaning of her name reflects the reality which she expressed (cruz-cross; ita-little). Her life story was a story of small crosses. Her pain and misfortunes could have made her depressed and calloused toward life, however, I saw her joy and hospitality.

She made all of her visitors feel loved. She was grateful and full of joy and her smile spread that joy to the group present. The experience with Cruzita has been a source of reflection for me in prayer and discussion with my brother seminarians for the past week.

I noticed that I was in awe of the wide range of emotions that Cruzita was able to feel and express to us. She was able to tap into the full spectrum of human emotions and I was able to feel that with her through listening to her empathetically.

She was an example of perseverance which was rooted in hope. She had a desire to be involved in community and serve and the "small crosses" she was bearing were leading her closer to Jesus.

My experience with Cruzita was powerful and helped me realize that the relationships I have with friends, family, parishioners and people throughout the diocese have made a great impact on my discernment and formation in the seminary.

Through these relationships, I have learned about the lives of those around me. I am realizing that learning about the life journey of others helps me to learn what crosses others carry on a daily basis and to understand their hope and desires for the future.

Others have learned about my struggles and have given me perspective on how to carry the crosses in my life virtuously. My desire for this new year and in my future ministry is to instill hope in others of God’s love and mercy and to grow in my ability to be a person of availability so that I can continue to grow through experiences and relationships.

William Burmester, a member of St. Joseph Church in Conway, is a diocesan seminarian, attending St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. This article was originally published in Arkansas Catholic. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.