When I got sick

by Arlenne B. Villahermosa
Columban Lay Missionary
Philippine Region

Short Rewind

I joined the orientation program of the Columban Lay Mission (CLM) in 2001.  My first mission assignment brought me to Korea for three (3) years.  I returned to Korea for another three (3)-year agreement but after about ten (10) months, I was asked to go back to the Philippines to coordinate the lay mission program in the region for the remaining two (2) years of my contract.  At the time when I was finishing my term in the Philippines, negotiations and processes for Myanmar mission had started.  I put my name forward for the first team that would be sent to Myanmar and fortunately so, I was chosen to be one of the three who were sent on mission to Myanmar in 2008.

Jubilee Celebration in Myanmar
I was then assigned to Myanmar for a period of six (6) years beginning from 1 Oct 2008 to 30 Sept 2014.  I had my mid-term assessment in October 2011 in Thailand together with my teammate.  Our review had to be conducted in Thailand as it was not advisable to do it inside Myanmar.  A member of the CLT came for our personal review and the mid-review of the first Myanmar mission.  The Myanmar Mission did not belong to any region and thus, we were directly under the CLM Central Leadership Team.

After 3 years and four  (4) months on mission in Myanmar, I came back to the Philippines in Feb 2012 for medical reasons with the intention of going back to Myanmar as soon as I finished the medical examinations and corresponding procedures, if needed.  Little did I know that I will be staying in the Philippines for the next five (5) years.  I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had undergone 3 major operations in a span of one (1) year because of some complications.  I stayed in the hospital for one month during my first 2 surgeries. Because I had to undergo 6 chemotherapy sessions plus the reversal of my colostomy bag, I needed to stay in the Philippines for at least 1 year.  After my chemotherapy sessions and the reversal of my colostomy bag in April 2013, I was advised by my doctors not to go back to Myanmar yet. I will have to continue with my medical check-ups and follow-ups until it can be ascertained that I would be fit again to go to Myanmar.  I was allowed to do work that would not involve so much stress on my part.  As of this writing, I still continue to see my oncologist but not as frequent as before.  Starting the month of April, I only have to see my doctor every 6 months.

When things were done to me

When I was still in a quandary whether I would be allowed to continue as a lay missionary or not if I stayed unfit to do work after 4 months, the Philippine Region took the initiative in asking the General Council that I would be assigned to the region while recovering and had given me the support I will always be grateful for.  It spared me the decision of leaving the CLM as mentioned in the policy.

When I was in Myanmar I was open to the surprises that came to my group in the way we did mission there. I was surprised and later understood (though I may not 100% agree with some of them) the actions the Catholic Church did or did not do in relation to some social, moral and civil issues and in dealing with the government. I remained open in terms of learning new ways the people were doing things, to the simplicity of life (which I enjoyed) – being able to do things with what was available, to do what was required by the government even when I did not fully agree.  However, I was surprised with myself but happy with it, when I remained open to whatever would happen when I was diagnosed with cancer.  More so, when there were complications after the first operation that led to another major operation, in a span of only a little more than a week, which resulted to the attachment of a colostomy bag that I had to carry for a year. I found myself open to leave CLM if asked to do so or to continue with CLM if allowed and to do whatever was available for me or to continue life with where I am at and to die.  I did not have any remorse feelings or feelings of anger, regret or shame.  I took it as part of life.  I can say that I was not negligent in terms of taking care of myself specially my health.  Each day I’d been trying to live my life as if it’s my last.  Now more than ever, I’m aware that the little things I do each day, I do them with joy and gratitude. 

May 2013, Outing in Baguio City
I’m amazed at how I cope with my present health predicament. When I was told by Fr. Pat O’Donoghue, the Regional Director of the Philippine region at that time, that my ministry at that moment was to heal myself, I was put to proper grounding.  I then understood that to be healed was to put my whole self at the mercy of God’s love as He worked in me through the people he sent my way.   To allow myself to stay completely in the process of healing was a way of acknowledging my own limitations and the force greater than me.  Being in that state was also my way of thanking the Columbans for all the care and attention given to me.  I need to be well to be at the service of mission.   It’s God’s grace being able to see that and to do it.  I am able to surrender, i.e. I recognize the limitations, fears and pains I have and being able to go beyond them.  I can only do what I can with what I have; deal with the consequences of my actions. There are many things beyond my control. But I also believe that God sees the bigger scheme of life.  My image of God in Myanmar was one that was vague, mysterious & incomprehensible but ever-present and faithful. Now, I continue to see God as constant and faithful, ever-present in the details and intricacies in the web of life. He is the source of life, in life and is waiting with open arms at the end of the road. 

I am happy that I have joy and gratitude in my heart for all that has been and for all that is.  I find myself thanking God for the love He has for me manifested in and through the people he sent my way (Columban Fathers, LMs, Columban Sisters, family, friends, relatives, Banmaw Diocese, staff, doctors, nurses, aides and others) and the experiences I’ve had.  I’m more conscious and aware of the bounties and blessings in life, more mindful of the decisions I make. Everything that I have does not really belong to me.  There is nothing that I have which does not come with grace.  In my sickness, I was left with not being able to do anything and yet many things had been happening to me, with and  in me. Perhaps, my one-month stay in the hospital and my accommodation at the LM (lay missionary) house had given me enough time and space to watch things happen before me and to me and to reflect on them.  I have become more appreciative in the uniqueness of each person, seeing how each does things differently or similarly, each with her/his own grace and gift.  And how everything and  everyone else is interconnected in this whole wide world!

I’ve found peace with where I am at.  I have become more forgetful in many ways.  I just can’t remember many details now or events of the past.  But I’ve learned to accept that as part of where I am at now and I’m at peace with that too.  I try to help myself in this area by writing things to help me remember.  My energy level is at a different stage now and I have to live with that.  I try to do some exercises, like walking, stretching, slowly doing some aerobics or tai chi, to keep my whole being in tune again.  I’ve noticed changes in my body and in my system.  I thank God I can still give thanks for it and be joyful with it.  Each waking day is a gift for me.  And each morning I pray, “Thank you for the rest last night.  Thank you for the gift of another day.  Thank you for the gift of life.  In everything, grant me the grace to stay with you, to be present always in your presence, to know you more intimately and to love and serve you more dearly each day as I live.”

When I started doing some things again                           

 I’m most grateful to the Columban Society for all the encouragement, inspiration and support given to me and to the lay missionaries.  Being in the Philippine region at this time has given me a better opportunity in understanding where the Columban Society is at present, as opposed to being in Myanmar where access to the outside world and the Columbans was very limited then.  The involvement I have with the Awakening the Dreamer workshop has opened new avenues for me in responding to the call for responsible living and having a caring relationship with the earth – one that is close to my heart.  Given the opportunity to work at the Regional Director’s office, together with all the participations at the area meetings and regional assemblies, has given me a good sense of the region at present times.  Working as manager during the IRMU was a good venue for me to meet and relate with the delegates of other RMUs which has deepened my connection and inter-relation with other members of the Society.  Staying at the LM house and becoming a LMLT member starting July 2013 have provided me good space and time in getting connected and  reconnected again with CLM, the lay missionaries, returned LMs, priests, sisters and  students. 

I continue to believe and be encouraged in the works of the Society and what the members stand for  – the Columban way of being on and doing mission.  I find value and meaning in my present state of being called to mission.  My health condition has prevented me from going back to Myanmar but has instead led me to the call into the leadership role. I am in a different space now than where I was before when I first assumed the role in 2006-08.  I will respond and carry out the responsibilities before me to the best I can with where I am at this time.

I continue to be amazed by the unfolding of events.  Surely, there is a time and place for all that is happening to me, to the Society, to CLM and to all but what I am thankful for is that I’m not alone.  No one is alone. I am called to be on mission with the Society in the mission of Christ.  This, I respond to with the love of Christ I receive in my life.  There is still so much to be done, the role that I will assume come June 2014 is my contribution to the church at this time.  

September 2014, Arlenne (seated, 2nd from left) at the Columban Lay Mission House 

September 4, 2014

The Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM) is grateful for another blessing received. Today, September 4, 2014, marked another milestone as Peruvian Ana Belma Flores Huamani signed a  contract as a long term lay missionary in the Philippines.  Ana arrived in the Philippines in December 2007 with three others.  Her team  was the first team of Peruvian lay missionaries who joined the orientation in Peru and sent to mission.

We also welcomed Noh Hyein (Anna) and Kim Sun Hee (Sunny) who returned to the Philippines for their second term.  Anna and Sun Hee will do English studies before returning to their ministries.

Ana Flores signs her contract as  Columban Regional Director  Fr. Dan looks on.

Ana Flores, Sun Hee Kim (Sunny), and Hyein Noh (Anna)

Columban family and friends

Fr. Dan O'Malley presiding the thanksgiving mass

Columban Lay Missionaries and Staff

June 18, 2014

Exactly three years ago today, Reins Mosqueda , Joan Yap and Sherryl Lou Capili, better known as RP19 signed their first mission agreement with the Missionary Society of St. Columban. They were sent to Taiwan. Today, we welcome them back. Today is also a welcome for Arlenne Villahermosa for another term as Regional Lay Mission Coordinator for the Philippines.  She held the same post between 2006-2008 prior to her assignment to Myanmar. We also welcome Michael, JIb Braux, Gilda and Lorna, better known as PH22 for the orientation  or the preparation to mission program.

WE also thank John Din for his music, jokes and laughter, friendship and for his work as Regional Lay Mission Coordinator for the past three years.

Sherryl Lou Capili, Joan Yap, and Reins Mosqueda

Obituary of Serafina Ranadi Vuda, Columban Lay Missionary

Born to Esira Vuda and Makarita Dicakau, Serafina was baptized by Columban Fr Arthur Tierney, in Navala, Ba. After elementary school, she attended Xavier College in Ba and St John's College in Levuka, Ovalau. In 1984 she graduated from Corpus Christi Primary Teachers’ College in Suva and taught in Navala, St Theresa, Ba and Stella Maris, Suva, during the following 12 years. Born to Esira Vuda and Makarita Dicakau, Serafina was baptized by Columban Fr Arthur Tierney, in Navala, Ba. After elementary school, she attended Xavier College in Ba and St John's College in Levuka, Ovalau. In 1984 she graduated from Corpus Christi Primary Teachers’ College in Suva and taught in Navala, St Theresa, Ba and Stella Maris, Suva, during the following 12 years
Serafina Vuda (24 August 1972 - 31 May 2014)
During these years Serafina was an avid netball player, and traveled to Europe as a member of the Fiji National Netball Team.
In 1996 Serafina joined Columban Lay Mission and did her orientation program in Suva. After studying Spanish in Bolivia, her first mission assignment was to Chile (1997 - 2000). There she lived and worked among the indigenous Mapuche people, promoting the formation of lay leaders. After a vacation back home she was assigned to Peru where she spent the following nine years (2001 - 2010). There she was engaged in parish ministry, the formation of lay leaders, and the accompaniment of others in their discernment regarding a lay mission vocation. From 2008 to 2011 she served as the Coordinator of the Central Leadership Team of Columban Lay Mission, while from 2011 to 2014 she continued as a member of that Leadership Team.
During those years that she was in leadership positions, Serafina lived in Dublin, Suva and Los Angeles. While living in Dublin she joined outreach endeavors to migrants and homeless people. After arriving in Los Angeles 20 months ago, she began to learn to drive, and succeeded in obtaining her license a year ago. She had also initiated outreach to parishes in that city as well as to the South Pacifican community across California, particularly in the San Francisco area.
Two weeks ago Serafina was unexpectedly hospitalized in LA and found to be suffering from a number of serious ailments. Since then it seemed that she had only fleeting moments of consciousness. Columban priests in LA, fellow Fijian lay missionaries, Monika Lewatikana and Sainiana Tamatawale, as well as several friends visited her daily. Then, on Saturday evening, 31 May, just after having been commended by them to God, she returned to her Creator,and joined her parents and brothers, Villame and Petero, who had gone ahead of her.
Serafina (back row, right) with other LMs during the 2011 International Meeting in Tagaytay

As she had lived in several countries and visited several others as a Columban lay missionary leader, Serafina's passing is grieved by Columban Missionaries and the various peoples to whom she ministered.
Serafina's death is also a cause of great sadness to her sister, Udite, her brother Paulo Ramasima, another brother, Sipriano Ranuko, and his wife Sisilia, her sister-in-law, Mere, as well as nephews, nieces and extended family.
Messages of sympathy may be sent to: Mr Sipriano Ranuko, PO Box 1141, Ba, Fiji. Tel: + 679-667.8026
Please remember to pray for the eternal repose of Serafina, as well as consolation for her grieving family and friends.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace, Amen.

The above was issued by the US Region of the Columbans on 4 June. You may read more about Serafina and how she saw herself as a lay missionary here

PH22: Orientation 2014 - 2015

We welcome PH22 composed of two men and two women to the 2014-2015 orientation program of the Columban Lay Missionaries.  We wish each and everyone of you a fruitful and enriching ten months ahead, and beyond. 

PH22, from left, Jib Braux Raña, Gilda Comayas, Lorna Cañete, Michael Javier

Jib Braux Raña – 40 years old, from Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay, is a BS Psychology and BS Nursing graduate. He passed the nursing board exam given in December 2013. He worked as a college teacher for 11 years in Zamboanga del Sur and served as choir master in his own Parish. He also had the opportunity to teach in Mozambique. He has a talent in conducting and teaching. His friends describe him as loving, supportive and dedicated.

Gilda Comayas – 42 years old, originally from Cagayan de Oro, is a graduate of BS Biology from Xavier University, CDO. She was a former lay missionary of the Assumption and spent two years in UK. She left the Assumption because they have a policy of maximum two years for overseas lay missionaries. She has worked for more than 9 years as a teacher. She is also a graduate of Mother of Life.  She now lives in Novaliches, Quezon City. Her friends describe her as hard working, strong willed and responsible.

Lorna Cañete -  37 years old, from Alegria, Bacolod, Lanao del Norte, is  a graduate of Geodetic Engineering.  She was a Claretian sister for 11 years until she left the convent in 2009. While with the Claretians, Lorna had the chance to travel to Rome and Indonesia. She learned about the CLM through the Columban Misyon magazine when she was still a student in La Salle, Ozamiz City. She has established herself in the last three years after leaving the Claretians by starting a business of her own. Her friends and family describe her as a leader, outspoken and sincere. She is actively involved in her own parish.

Michael Javier – 33 years old, originally from Surigao, is a graduate of Chemical Engineering.  He is a member of the Singles for Christ. He worked as an overseas foreign worker in Taiwan where he met Columban Lay Missionaries Beth Sabado and Joan Yap who invited and encouraged him to apply to the CLM.  He was very much involved with the church while working in Taiwan. He is described by his friends as a happy and encouraging person. He now calls Iriga City, Camarines Sur his home.

Faith Guiding Course

by Jonah Jane (Jayjay) Enterina, Columban Lay Missionary in Britain, during the award ceremony for new Faith Guides

Good evening friends, families and fellow faith guides.
I have been asked to say a few words on the feedback from the students who completed this course. Initial thoughts were of heartfelt gratitude to our almighty God & Spiritual Divine teachers, for providing this wonderful opportunity, without which none of us would have been able to journey together through this spiritual experience.
We would also like to thank Ruth Tetlow and the Faith Encounter Program, for organising this course which has provided a priceless opportunity for strangers to come together, become friends and share their spiritual heritage.
The course has deeply helped me in nourishing my own faith as I continue to witness the faith of my friends. They are my example to truly live life according to what our God (through our spiritual teachers) has taught us to do. I believe that hope, love and faith bring us all together in peace. Our identity as a multi-faith group on this course is indeed an authentic witness that we can work and pray together- that there is HOPE especially in our world today filled with so much division and gap. I will be forever grateful for the privilege to walk and journey with all of you’
This course has been running for so many years, and all over the city we now have Faith Guides who are not only able to confidently explain their faith to others, but who have also, now become ambassadors of interfaith,  promoting harmony, understanding and cooperation between different communities.
This is hugely important in today’s modern times. Birmingham is such a beautifully diverse, multicultural city. We are privileged to coexist amongst so many different faiths, religions and cultures. Building friendships between these communities is what these ambassadors are now doing.
We have all realised that the way to break down barriers is to build personal relationships and to grow in understanding – and the course has not only enabled us to do this with each other, but also gave us the skills to continue doing this when we welcome visitors at our respective places of faith.
But even though understanding about and between people and communities in the UK has increased in recent years, inter religious misunderstanding still exists and can bring discord and conflict.
Jayjay (2nd from left) with fellow graduates of Faith Guiding Course
Nelson Mandela was a great believer in breaking down barriers and building friendships – especially in times of discord. He once said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Inter religious understanding should never be taken for granted; it has to be taught and worked for in each community and each generation.  To this vital work, this interfaith project makes an important contribution.

Thank you.

My Journey to the Columban Lay Mission

by Jenanydel Nola
Columban Lay Missionary

Before joining the Columban Lay Mission (CLM) I was working at the Notre Dame Business Resource Center (NDBRC) - Maitum as Daycare Worker and Community Organizer. I had a beautiful, inspiring, caring, understanding and loving family there.

It has always been my desire to serve God but in the other part of me I thought too about giving priority to the needs of my family, to be with my community and to be of help to my tribe because here in Maitum I am the first T’boli scholar of Bro. Robert B. McGovern to finish college. Yes, it has been my dream to finish my studies and to be with my people.  When my dream of finishing college was granted, I thought it was the end of my journey and I could already be with my family, community and my tribe. But I realized that there was a part of me which hinders me to laugh, talk about and face challenges freely and naturally.

My Heart's Journey

By Luda Egbalic
Columban Lay Missionary
May 17, 2014

Today, I will be sent off to mission by the Columbans. I will be one of  the Columban Lay Missionaries.  My heart is filled with thanksgiving, peace and joy for it has found her rest.
I am Luda L. Egbalic, 2nd child among the 10 children of Mrs. Lucresia Luminhay Egbalic ( Talaandig tribe ) and Mr. David Fabre Egbalic ( Boholano ). I got my name from the 1st 2 letters of my parents’ names.
When I was a child, my mother would remind me to study hard so I can finish college and find a job because I was never content with what was served on the table. Life was easier when we were only four in the family but when we became ten, it became a suffering for me and my siblings. I dreamt of becoming rich so I could buy anything that I wanted, go to many places and live independently and at the same time be able to help my younger siblings too.   

I went to church every Saturday afternoon when my household chores were finished just to read lives of saints and Sunday to attend mass celebration alone. Once, I heard my father say “Magmadre man siguro ni akong anak.“ I only smiled at him after being permitted to go.  I talked to our God since my parents though provided almost everything I needed had no time for me and talk about my problems. Silently sitting on the bench and just gazing at the cross gave me comfort, strength and peace.  I owed this to our Catechist who prepared us for our first confession and communion, invited us to go to church for Sunday mass and  attend Flores de Mayo. My parents were not church-goers. My father graduated his high school from a Catholic school but he disliked going to church. I hoped that one day my family will together worship our loving God. I longed for my parents’ love, a peaceful and happy family.  I was comforted by our God and our Mother of Perpetual Help whenever I visited the church. There, when I gazed at the cross, I silently told the crucified Jesus, “When I grow up, I will help you carry your cross. I will serve you.” My relationship with my God had grown that whenever I made decisions, I consulted Him even if I couldn’t hear His voice but I had known that God had been with me in my journey. I was and am never alone in my journey. This I realized when I was a child.