History and education major Peter Flaherty woke the morning of March 9 with a single thought in mind: “Today is the day.”
Along with fellow co-leader Emily Chinchilla, the sophomore duo together found the heart of San Diego Mission, another Missions of Peace installment of Franciscan University students set to embark for the west coast, to instill in the hearts of youth a love for Christ.
Courtesy of programs directed toward sixth, seventh and eighth graders, plus two youth nights for high school students, the mission team delivered a love for the Gospel to the five San Diego parishes.
Preparation for life-changing mission work began some months before departure day. “It was a lot of mission formation,” said Flaherty. “It was the preparation of each individual, mainly through Lectio Divina and talking with each other, so that when it actually came time to prepare talks, we were already formed to be great witnesses of Christ,” he said.
Chinchilla also remained busy with preparatory logistics. “We’ve been emailing back and forth with schools and figuring out Mass,” she said.
Through each new struggle, as small as pre-mission sickness and as complicated as a team member’s ER visit just days before departure, the mentality has remained unchanged. “Every little thing we do, I think ‘This is for the kids,’” said Chinchilla. “The main thing that we do is to love on these kids and show them Christ’s love through how we interact with each other.”
A dedicated combination of team member witnesses, skits, dramas, praise and worship, Eucharistic adoration and available Confession characterized the main agenda for a seemingly ever-busy San Diego Mission. In free moments, Flaherty and Chinchilla planned to hike portions of Mount Helix and Mount Soledad and to sample some world-class San Diego cuisine.
“There’s also Mass every day,” Chinchilla said, a necessity given the sheer undertaking of a weeklong, five-parish endeavor. The week concluded with a presentation of the Living Stations in front of an expansive Santa Sophia congregation.
The emotional performance “is a reflection on the Passion through the eyes of Mary,” said Flaherty. “It’s such a powerful experience,” added Chinchilla. She said that the Christ-figure is painted and smeared with dirt, sufficiently discolored and marred in a program “that doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house.”
The packed itinerary and well-intentioned leadership of San Diego Mission is nonetheless little without a dedicated supporting cast. Fortunately, team members understand the importance of the evangelistic platform. “Everyone is so willing and so ready to sacrifice for these kids,” said Flaherty. “This is just all for the children.”
Said Chinchilla, “The dynamic of our team is really great. It’s exactly the kind of energy you need.” As a freshman initially less than enthused about her enrollment at Franciscan University, Chinchilla said the 2017 San Diego Mission solidified her purpose. “It was on mission that I realized … why I’m here. And now, everyone else on mission can experience what I experienced.”
Flaherty didn’t mince words when describing the mission entrusted to himself, Chinchilla and the rest of the team. “It’s the perfect opportunity to surrender everything you have,” he said. “We’re called to die to ourselves constantly. That’s just what a mission is.”
“They just want someone to love them,” Chinchilla said of the children she knew were waiting in San Diego. Between In-N-Out runs and rejuvenation under a friendly California sun, it seems the rest of the San Diego Mission team was more than ready to follow suit.