The Company I keep on this trip is the company of holy men, women, children, best friends, distant friends and stranger friends.  I could not be more blessed. 

I begin with Fred and Diana, best friends who began the Albany Catholic Worker (Emmaus House) some fourteen years ago.  Many of you have come to know them over the years.  I will dare not presume to explain who they are to me or what they mean to me.  They are my heart.

Also coming are their children, Freddie (14), Helen (11) and Carol who will turn eight on the trip.  I am Uncle Bobby to them.  Three children whose love and friendship mean the world to me.  They are beautiful, wise peacemakers in all they do.  It will ruin our relationship if they ever read this.

We are visiting our friends Mpume and her son Nhloso who stayed at Emmaus House for a year in 2002-2003.  They were given a home and we were given a family.  Their spirit, joy, hope and peacefulness filled our lives that year and all the time since.  People have asked me is this a mission trip, pilgrimage or vacation.  It might be all three, but above all it is our Emmaus House family visiting our friends.

We are most honored to meet Gogo Zondi, Mpume’s mother.  While she stayed with us, Mpume shared with us her mother’s work in giving the little she had to help her village, KwaNdebeqheke.  Gogo means grandmother in Zulu, but the English is a fair description of her mother’s work as well.  Since her retirement, she has begun a day care and through the efforts of supporters like Emmaus House, we have brought water and electricity to fifteen homes, paid for the school costs of dozens of children and helped provide dignified burials to the dying.  We are thrilled to meet one of our heroes.

We are excited to met Mpume’s relatives and friends of whom we have heard some much and the villagers who have been a part of our lives for so long.  We are excited to add their faces to the prayers we have been saying for years.

Finally, there is one more contingent with us.  The supporters of Emmaus House, the Newman club at UAlbany while I was campus minister, the parishioners of Our Lady of Americas, Saint Helen’s and Our Lady of Fatima whose backpacks we will bring and whose prayers we count on.  You are very much a part of our trip and we will bring your caring hearts wherever we go.  As I said at the outset, I could not be more blessed in the company I keep.