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Finding Deep Family

September 11th, 2013by Sue Sack

As my dad needs little anymore in the way of “stuff,”  for Father’s Day we decided to honor him with an enrollment in the National Geographic Genographic Project.  A simple swipe of the cheek, and his DNA went off to join that of hundreds of thousands of others as scientists work on tracking the movement of our ancestors from the beginning of human time.

WOW!  Were the results amazing or what?!   I knew I was a mutt – with family from France into Eastern Europe, but I had no clue what a mutt I really am.  What we discovered was that my dad’s father’s family was among the first to move out of Africa, away from our common mother ancestor.   Then they were in the eastern Mediterranean region for, oh, ten thousand years or so – in Palestine, primarily – before moving into the Caucasus Mountains and finally heading north into Eastern Europe.  His mother’s family, on the other hand, was among the last to leave Africa,  spending a great deal of time in present-day Egypt, then Syria and Iran, then Afghanistan and Pakistan, before heading west back into very eastern Europe.

Thanks to all that time in the Middle East, in addition to our northern Europe genes, we have a huge percentage of Mediterranean blood. (Is that where the curly hair came from?)   Additionally, the ‘heat map” sent to us of the movement of our family through the millennia, also shows where our closest relatives now live.  Beyond the recent European roots, we have relatives in Egypt!  In Palestine!  In Afghanistan and Pakistan!   How cool is that?

Even as the wow factor hit me, that last thought took my breath away. ..  As I write this we are on the brink of ….something… in Syria, and Afghanistan and nearby areas remain a mess.  Egypt is in an uproar.  Parts of Africa continue to suffer.

And now there’s the realization … that’s MY family, caught in the middle of all that!  I may have blood ties, green-eyed woman to another, to that Afghani girl on the cover of National Geographic several decades ago.  That may be my many-times-removed cousin!

What an amazing, gut-wrenching way to grasp that somehow we really ARE all truly family.  As Catholic Christians we “know” we are the Body of Christ, but science is showing us that we truly ARE one body, one family.  Saint Paul had no clue about genetics, but somehow through the influence of the Spirit, he got this right.  Science (gasp!) is proving a theological truth.

One question still leaves me wondering though – watching those moving arrows on the maps over a hundred thousand years time–  here’s where we’ve been, but where are we heading?  Toward love or toward annihilation? We came from one mother… will we, someday, truly again be one body, one family in Christ?  Will we actually care for our distant brothers and sisters as the Gospel calls us to do?

That’s our choice to make, every day. So, are YOU for the family, or not?

Photo credit: National Geographic Genome Project

Sue Sack

Sue Sack is Director of Adult Faith Formation for Precious Blood, St. Rita and St. Paul, Englewood