Awestruck by Compassion: Brother Richard’s Search for Meaning

He is on the road to Damascus Village, tennis shoes dusted in red dirt from the walk from the chapel on the hill. Jacob’s Ladder is lush and bright in the sun, but Brother Richard’s mind is clouded elsewhere. His metaphysics and logic class assignments snag through his mind as he worries if he heard his calling to the priesthood at the right time, in the right place. Worries about doing laundry, organizing diapers for the residents –

“You good?” asks a voice.

Lee Chin, a longtime resident of Mustard Seed Communities, waves from the porch of his cottage. His small stature and T-shirt are unassuming, but the smile from his face reveals much more than the surface might show.

Brother Richard responds mechanically – ”yes, I’m good!” Yet, a minute later, he stops in his tracks.

Lee Chin bothered to check on HIM, to see how he was feeling!

That simple consideration from a friend, a resident of MSC living with Down syndrome, reminded Brother Richard what the mission of Mustard Seed Communities is actually about: love and care for your fellow human.

Brother Richard Hines is a seminarian of the Mustard Seed Missionaries, studying philosophy in order to become a priest in MSC’s formation program. As an organization inspired by the healing and caring ministry of Jesus Christ, MSC holds spirituality at our core; the Mustard Seed Missionaries, a society of apostolic life, is made up of men and women who have devoted their lives to uplifting God’s love within our communities. 

In Jamaica, three MSC seminarians and one priest reside at Saint Andrew’s House of Formation, which opened at Jacob’s Ladder in April 2019. Brother Richard was one of the “pioneers” of St. Andrew’s that year – this move directed him on a path toward a transformation that would change his life, personally and spiritually.

The “pioneers” of Saint Andrew’s House of Formation grew in both faith and fellowship.
Brother Richard says his first vows to the Mustard Seed Missionaries.

Brother Richard didn’t always want to be a priest, but when he attended church with his grandmother, something about watching the priests perform miracles inspired him as someone searching for meaning and internal fulfillment. This was when he first heard the call to become a priest in the Church: a calling that, according to Brother Richard, “has its heartaches but truly has glory and joy!”

The search to fulfill his internal calling led Brother Richard to Mustard Seed Communities. He first encountered MSC in 2011, when his youth group visited Jacob’s Ladder for a week of service. “It was a shock to experience the countryside in Moneague. It’s different from the city, so peaceful and makes you reflect,” he remembers. As his team stayed in the mission house and spent their days serving the residents, Brother Richard realized that MSC is part of his calling from God, and perhaps a place he can find meaning in life.

In the years following his first visit to Jacob’s Ladder, Brother Richard became involved in nearly every facet of MSC Jamaica. He worked as a caregiver at Jerusalem for a summer, befriended many of the staff and residents, and took on maintenance duties on top of his studies for the seminary. “It settles the mind to be with Mustard Seed,” Brother Richard remarks. Between My Father’s House in Kingston, where he lives during the school week, and Jacob’s Ladder, Brother Richard’s friendly personality radiates joy. 

A friendly face to many residents at MSC, Brother Richard loves to laugh and joke around with the community.
At Jacob’s Ladder, Brother Richard worked as a caregiver for a summer.

Today, Brother Richard sees his calling as the work of the Holy Spirit. He claims that his work at MSC is “really a selfish thing! I feel that I myself am dignified when I uplift others and show them how special they are.” He believes the work he does in caring for the residents and making spiritual resources available to them is powerful.

“This work could be diminished in the day to day, but I’m always reminded that this isn’t about me – it’s the Holy Spirit!” 

Interactions with the residents, like his simple encounter with Lee Chin at Jacob’s Ladder, inspire Brother Richard. Their joy makes him joyful: “They have so much they could be mad about, like their disabilities or their challenges, and they still sit there smiling! It’s grounding, and roots me right here.”

Brother Richard and Kevon, a resident of Jacob’s Ladder, are peers and friends.
At Jerusalem, Brother Richard joins in a game of soccer with the residents.

In addition to his daily duties of studying, maintenance work around the apostolates, and assisting at Saint Andrew’s, Brother Richard holds a passion for teaching. “Teaching is never just one way, teacher to learner. It is reciprocal and mutually beneficial,” he describes. Remaining in the headspace of a learner allows him to constantly recognize that every person has value and talent to bring to the table. Any resident, caregiver, and peer can teach him something new. This mindset reflects MSC’s core belief that every person, with any ability or background, is an invaluable gift from God. 

A resident’s simple question asking “you good?” continues to bring awe to Brother Richard’s eyes. Feeling truly humble and grateful to serve in the Mustard Seed Missionaries, Brother Richard is forging ahead on his educational and spiritual journey for the betterment of the world around him. His unapologetic search for more ways to pour out his love into his community is, in turn, inspiring to our MSC Family. While he admits he doesn’t have all the answers, Brother Richard is filled with hope as he gazes upon his bright future with MSC. 

Through his dedication to uplifting others, Brother Richard not only finds his own purpose and joy but also illustrates that genuine service, performed from a place of love, enriches the “giver” and the “receiver.” His journey with MSC, running at the intersection of his love for God and his love for his neighbor, is a testament to the transformative power of gratitude and empathy in forming a more compassionate world.

The spiritual and pastoral well-being of the residents, staff, and volunteers of MSC permeates every aspect of MSC’s activities.

Men and women with a calling to spread love and joy to the MSC Family are hard at work every day. You can learn more and explore how to support spirituality at MSC!