God of Silence

 by Necita Fetalvero
Columban Lay Missionary, Korea, 2002-2011

I took the early morning bus heading to my favorite spots in the island to take some photos. I enjoyed the scenery as the bus took the longer road passing through the rice fields and the mountain side and viewing across the small islands. I got off from the bus and started the day's journey of silence and beauty...

City of Gwangju, South Korea

The rush and busyness of life brought me here. I had enough of the noise and the never ending activities that made me long for something quiet, relaxing and refreshing. As I started taking photos, my attention was caught by the silence around me. I sat on the bench in the middle of the fallen leaves on the ground and reflected how the grass, flowers and trees move and grow in silence and how the flying birds are clothed by silence and how the sea journey with silence. 

Nature is touched and nurtured by silence.

Is it the same silence that touched my being and long for some peace? 

Is it the same silence that  nurtured my heart to move and grow in love?

Is it the same silence that enables me to find intimacy with God in prayer? 

Is silence the nature of God? or Is God the God of silence?

These questions came across my mind and yet telling me a certain reality in life that God is the God of Silence. "Be still and know I am God."  Can I be still enough to allow silence to experience the God of Silence and to be touched by him in silence and to listen to Him in silence?

Indeed, we all need silence to experience intimacy with God in prayer and to be able to find intimacy with God in all things and to be touched and touch others' lives.

The author wrote this reflection on November 9, 2010.  She worked with mothers of multi-cultural background in Gwangju City from 2009 until she left Korea in  April 2011. 


Would you like to serve in China in the spirit of missionary service
 by teaching English as a second language?

Do you have a college degree with an English Major or
Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language?

Do you have teaching experience?

If you answer YES to all these, then


can help you.

AITECE (pronounced EYE-TESH) is an independent, non-profit organization based in Hong Kong with an office in Manila. It helps to place teachers in universities in China.  Over the past years, it has placed more than 200 teachers for educational purposes in China. It has as its explicit inspiration a Christian witness through the service of teaching in the secular realm.

For details, please e-mail aitece_phil@yahoo.com.

Mission in China

By Lilia Fe Taguba
AITECE Teacher

After 5 days of orientation in Hong Kong, I finally set foot in China.  It was the 28th of August 2003. I whispered to myself, “Mission begins.” 

I was met at the airport by representatives of Nanchang University.  They introduced themselves as staff of the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO), brought me to my apartment, gave me their phone numbers and left.

My first apartment was situated at the north campus of Nanchang University while my teaching building was at the south campus. My first home in China was very old. Walls and floor were dilapidated. Everything was old but I didn't care.  I was prepared.

To my surprise I was asked to teach Spoken English to graduate students to which I had zero experience. I had the courage to ask why me when there were other foreign teachers and native English speakers as well.  Gao Ying said that among the new group of teachers, there were only 2 foreign teachers who were qualified to teach at the graduate school, me and another AITECE teacher from Australia. (I felt honored yet challenged.)

Lilia Fe, AITECE teacher in Nanchang University
My contract with the school states that I am not allowed to discuss three things in class, Politics, Religion, and Taiwan.  During the orientation in Hong Kong, AITECE made it clear to all of us what our mission was!  Not to preach but to be living witnesses of the Gospel. Challenging.  It wasn't easy. Well, nothing was easy in the beginning. I am not a political person so I have no problem not talking about politics,... as well as about Taiwan since I know little about it. But religion?...mmmm...

My colleagues and students made my first year in China easy.  Learning my way around became interesting as my students would take turns in offering their time to take me to places I needed to know like farmers market, big market, foreign supermarket, etc...

On my first day of school, I gave an orientation and also presented the textbook to be used, and settled the English names of my student. I felt uncomfortable seeing English names like "Mountain", "Cloud" and "Bread". As the first week continued, names got weirder. I had "Bill", and "Clinton" in the same class.  Then I had "Monkey", "Snake", "Dragon", "Lion", and other animal names. But when a girl gave me her name "Kiki", I was speechless. I tried to persuade her to change her name but she was insistent claiming it's a beautiful name. Of course I couldn't tell her my reason.

Teaching post graduates was light and easy. Their sense of maturity was an advantage to managing the class. I always started my lesson by explaining the objectives of the activity and most of the time I was appreciated and they were more participative. This reciprocity made me more inspired to provide additional activities to motivate them even more. I organized an informal conversation with a small group of students twice a week. The class monitors helped me in dividing the class and assigned these groups a specific afternoon to come to my flat. We talked for nearly two hours about simple things; from daily life to food. Eventually, I thought I'd try something else.

I presumed many of them were a bit domesticated, coming from middle class families. I offered them my kitchen and asked if they'd be interested to cook our dinner so they'll learn some food vocabulary. They got excited. The following week, they offered to go to the supermarket to buy vegetables. One good thing about Chinese food is vegetables. They asked me what food do I love and I said, "fish". They made use of some meat that was sitting in my freezer for a while. But   I realized I had enough chopsticks but not enough bowls, so I ran to the nearest store and got some cheap bowls. Good thing, it's easy to find. The afternoon went great. I noticed they were a lot more relaxed and natural and no matter how difficult they tried to express themselves in English, they felt good they were able to do so.

I thought of other possible activities that could boost their confidence in speaking English. We had English songs in class. During my early years I would bring my guitar to class and we would have song appreciation lessons. They're thrilled to have discovered that they could indeed sing an English song. Then, I started to get access to you tube and could then download some songs in karaoke version. It’s a class that requires lots of energy but students became more participative, relaxed and confident.

Lilia Fe (2nd from left) and her students after winning a provincial contest

I started a tradition. I organized a Culminating activity (English party), a gathering  of all my 8 classes (that's over 300 students). Each class prepared a performance and I took care of 8 parlor games. I would meet with the class monitors a month before the set date (usually Saturday before their final exams) for planning and assigning different committees (invitations, venue, prizes, snacks, decorations, emcees, etc.).  It's  a lot of work but its worth every bit of it. Majority of the students consider this event the most memorable and most enjoyable party they have ever been to. They get to spend the afternoon with their classmates and friends having fun and forget about their worries on final exams. I've attempted a few times to stop doing this because it was exhausting but news go around fast. By April, some students or monitors would approach and ask me about the English Party that graduate students have every year. So I guess I 'm stuck with it until the day I finally leave the University. I have been doing this for ten years now and I am ok with it.

I got lucky for being assigned to teach at the graduate school. I learned a lot from my students. After they leave the school some of them stay in touch by calls, emails or at times visits. Years passed swiftly. In June this year I celebrated with my students my 10th anniversary. I have so much to be thankful for. Those ten fruitful years have made my life richer and I am a lot happier. My head teacher at the English Department told me once; "you've been with us for many years, you can stay as long as you want." I felt happy hearing those words and after a while I started considering the thought of staying until.....I want.

China is changing my life. Nanchang University is improving my life. My students continue to inspire my life. I get more than what I give. China is my mission and my life.

The author joined AITECE in August 2003.  She has been teaching at the graduate school of Nanchang University since then. She is from Allacapan, Cagayan.

Picket Line

Dearest Ate Mavic,

Hello!  This is my long over-due promised recollection of our exposure with workers. I decided to make this in a letter format addressed to you to get me expressing what I have been keeping inside me or what is left of it. 

I could still remember that day when I arrived from the exposure. I was sweaty and smelling so bad. I entered your office and started sharing with you on how the whole exposure went, oblivious of the fact that you may be into more pressing concerns or a deadline. But you were so generous of your time that you patiently and attentively listened.

I started sharing with you on how the particular experience I had in the ride way back to the CLM House when a co-passenger transferred seat because she cannot stand my smell - literally bathing in my own sweat and had not taken a bath for the last 24 hours and on how I was looked upon with distaste because of my repugnant odor.

That experience was so humbling for me because I too have caused discomfort to the strangers I met in the past, co-passengers that were smelly too. I was insensitive on how they may have had felt with my reaction when confronted with the same incident. I did make a fuss over how a person may have had smelled, forgetting where they may be coming from. The said experience made me more sensitive and more understanding now, even tolerable, when confronted again with the same.

I went sharing with you how the plight and condition of the steel factory workers have touched me, the unexpected emotion evoked, and the realization I ended up having with. I shared with you how I came to see the faces behind every nail, chicken wire, barbwire and other things that were made for my use and comfort – on how I ended up hoping and wishing that the very people who made all those things mentioned were compensated justly and afforded the required safety precaution/measures needed in the industry. I was able to see the family beyond every worker, and the number of people dependent to a particular job.

While staying with the workers in the picket line and conversing with them, I learned about the issues why they went to strike. Weighing their reasons and the facts shared, I could not help but hope that the owner will give what is due to the workers. I was hoping that he may be able to see his workers as his partner in the business he was in and he may learn to share more, or at least give what is due to his workers.

I concluded too that the root cause of the problem is the greed of the employer, his unwillingness to pay the just compensation due to his workers and viewing them merely as tools to enrich himself more. If the owner would only be willing to view his workers as human beings and pay his workers justly and provide them everything that the law requires; he would have a stable company. His worker will be more thankful and would perform better; and the strike would have been avoided.

The author
I remembered Papang when we were once in the picket line. He was then the union president of the logging/plywood company he worked with.  I remember how he looked after every co-worker and union mates and how happy he would be when they win their case and are given the compensation due them. Maybe this is why I have a soft spot for the workers since they are basically the blood of an industry and also because my father was a worker.

I left the picket area thankful for the persons behind every object made that I am using, and services I have been enjoying and benefitting – praying that, at least they may have been justly compensated.

Ivy. J

The author, Ivy May Carpio, together with two other women from Mindanao, is on her seventh month of orientation with the Columban Lay Missionaries.  As part of their studies with the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies, she joined other students of the Institute for an exposure with workers in Novaliches, Quezon City.    - Mavic Mercene

God Answers Prayers

By Angelica Escarsa
Columban Lay Missionary, Ireland

“God answers our prayers all the time, believe me all the time! I promise you. I can assure you God answers our prayers all the time.”

This is what I share with the children when I visit schools around different parishes to do mission promotion. Many of you might think I could be taking big risks in making such claims about God. Could it create big trouble for me? Could it result in me being accused of false doctrines, of teaching something that maybe the Church does not teach?

Well I am sure you would want to know why I make such a claim; I can assure you that I speak with conviction, and that such conviction arises from my own lived experience. When I was eight years old, I suffered from a urinary tract infection. It was not a very serious illness, but at that tender age, taking big tablets the size of kidney beans three times a day was like life coming to an end. It was an awful experience, and I felt scared. However even at that young age, I knew about God. I knew that I could pray to Him, and that He could make me well. That was what my godmother assured me. So I did. I prayed to God, actually I bargained with Him. I told Him that if He made me better I would go to Mass every Sunday. Promise, every Sunday…Then I got well.

I never prayed so hard as I did in 1995. It was the year I took my board exam to become a teacher. It was the most important thing in my life that year as it governed my future. If I passed the Board Exam, I could get a teaching job and help my family... I did trust in God’s mercy, but without prayer I feared I wouldn’t get it. I always did my best during exams, but on my own I couldn’t be sure. I needed God’s help. So I prayed every day until the results came out. And I can tell you that it was the most exciting and life-giving experience of my life when I saw my name on the list of those who had passed the Board Exam. God had again answered my prayer.

On January 27th, 2002, I was standing in front of our lady’s statue in St Columban’s Church, Olongapo City, Philippines. It was the night I was surrendering my sister to God as she was struggled to survive on a life-support machine. She had been in a coma for almost a week. Entrusting her to God was the only way I could comfort myself. At four o’clock the following morning my sister passed away due to complications from her rare illness of systemic lupus E. 

On September 25th, 2002, just eight months after my sister died, I was lying on the bed in tears, praying so hard after getting the text message from home that my father had been brought to the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest and had only a 50/50 chance of survival. He was in coma. Did God answer my prayer? My father died twelve hours after he had the cardiac arrest. Did God answer my prayer? Yes. He did! How did I pray? I asked God to help my father. Did He help my father? I’m certain that He did.

You see God answers our prayer. But his answer may not always be in accordance with our wishes. God answers our prayers according to what is best for us. He knows exactly what is planned for us. Remember what He said, “even before you were born, I knew you.” When we pray to God, and we don’t get a yes, it doesn’t mean God did not answer our prayer. No, is also an answer, isn’t it? 

I remember during my first year on mission there were moments when I was homesick and upset, and I felt alone and lonely. I took refuge in a chapel in the Ilac Centre in Dublin, Ireland. There I knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament and started to cry. Then a woman came to me and asked me, “Are you okay?” I told her that I was upset and missed my family and that I wished I was at home. She was so sympathetic and was trying to console me. She told me, “Pour out everything to Jesus,” (pointing to the Blessed Sacrament) “Tell Him everything. He will listen to you, and you will be okay.”

I thanked her for her kindness, and my heart was lifted. I was longing for my mother and there she was, a woman who talked to me the way my mother would speak to me. After few minutes, she came back and handed me €20. She said she had returned the trousers she bought and had her money back. She was giving it to me so I could go to the cinema and treat myself. It was such an overwhelming experience. You see, I was only asking God for comfort when feeling sad and alone. But I got more than comfort. He sent me to the cinema.

Maybe for that woman what she did was just a simple act of kindness, but the impact on me was tremendous. It was like experiencing God face to face. It was an affirmation that God is so close to me and walks with me always. In that simple act I was assured that God reveals Himself through every person I meet, allowing me to know that He loves me no matter what, and that He loves me especially at the lowest times of my life.

May all of us meet the God who is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He is the God who answers our prayer all the time. Believe me, He answers all of the time. 

CPE Graduation

Nani Mounga successfully completed one quarter (10 weeks) of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Philippine Heart Center.  She graduated in December 2013. Nani is now back in her mission area Malate. Her CPE Supervisor was Ms. Flora Calleja.

Nani receives her Certificate of CPE Completion

Nani with her CPE batch mates

 Likewise, PH21 composed of Jenanydel Nola, Ivy May Carpio and Luda Egbalic also finished one quarter of Clinical Pastoral Education at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. Their graduation was on December 5, 2013. Their CPE Supervisor was Sr. Teresa Yusay, SPC.

L-R: Sr. Teresa Yusay, Jenanydel Nola, Luda Egbalic, Arlenne Villahermosa and Ivy May Carpio.

My Prayer

By Joan Yap
CLM, Taiwan

Joan Yap in Taiwan
Lord here I am
Wanting to do your will
So weak and frail
Anytime it will break

Lord here I am
Happy with all the knowledge; and
Fear that I may not be enough for you
But your love fills the emptiness

Anxieties and fears trouble me
but you never give up on me;
am I in the right direction?
Touch always my heart

You are the source of everything
The light of my life
The meaning of my life
Hear me when I say
I surrender!

Empty me, I pray
For in you I find the fulfillment
And that would be the greatest
gift that I give to myself
and making you as my life.

Lord I am weak
And you love me
And I love you
And that what matters most.

Visit to Filipino AITECE Teachers

by Mavic Mercene

Between 1990 and 1991, before I came to work with the Columbans, I worked with an electronics company with its main office in Taipei.  It had a huge production plant in Guangzhou, China and a thriving marketing office in Hong Kong.  I was based in Hong Kong but part of my job required me to travel to our production plant in Guangzhou.   As I look back in 1991, I realize I have several interesting memories of China. One of my recollections of that 1990s China was the “men  in blue”.  These men wore flat black Chinese shoes and blue jackets called Mao jackets carrying bamboo poles on their shoulders.  A blanket which appears to carry clothes and other personal effects hang on these bamboo poles.  The men chatted loudly, carelessly smoked their cigarettes, and spitted just anywhere.   I also recall a girl, whose face I can still vividly remember. This girl was assigned to man the elevator in the building where my room was.  My room was on the 8th floor and the lower floors were offices and showrooms.  This girl was always excited to see me. Sometimes she would stare at me from the time I enter the lift until I leave. I suspect she had never seen a foreigner in her life before especially someone whose skin was not as light as hers.  There was one time she asked to touch my skin.   She thought my skin was strange because it was dark and hairy.   Another memory of China which comes to mind was during a company party which I was asked by the big boss to sing.  Our big boss insisted that I sing. I refused. He said Filipinos are very good singers and that he has never met someone who was not.  I chose to disappoint him and keep the Filipino’s integrity intact. 

Twenty two years later, I returned to China and this time under the Missionary Society of St. Columban’s  AITECE Program to visit 7 Filipino teachers. AITECE (pronounced EYE-TESH) is a program of the Society which screens, recommends and sponsors qualified teachers to teach in China.  

Twelve days, 7 amazing teachers, 6 universities, 5 provinces, 1 gigantic country… lifetime of beautiful stories and learning…. this is how I would summarize my trip. 

I had a wonderful time with the seven Filipino teachers during my visit in China. I visited the teacher's accommodation, university, sat in their classes, and went around the city for education and tourism if time allowed it.    My casual conversation with the teachers gave me a sense of their love for their craft and the satisfaction and joy they feel as teachers in China.   I have witnessed firsthand their creativity and passion for teaching. I was amazed to see how eager the students were to participate in class activities.  To them the many good and lasting relationships they have with their students and peers nurtured and sustained over the years were most heartwarming. Some of these friendships date from as far back as ten years ago.  Some students have even endorsed their teacher to other incoming students when they moved to other cities.  

Edna Salcedo, Jimei University
Mavic Mercene and Lilia Fe Taguba who teaches at Nanchang University 
They have expressed their gratitude to AITECE for the opportunity to teach in China.  Many miss Fr. Hugh McMahon who was AITECE Manager for more than 10 years until early this year but  happy for him as well in his new ministry.  They feel that their loss is someone else's gain.  All the teachers agree that Fr. Teddy Collins is the best choice to replace Fr. Hugh having taught in China himself  for 15 years. They always look forward to visits of AITECE representatives and grateful to them for finding ways to improve their teaching and living conditions.  They were encouraging of my planned visit then and happy that it actually happened.  I was grateful to them for their warm welcome and generosity.  

I can say that Lilia Fe, Edna, Therese, Bernadette, Jim, Niña and Socorro were able to achieve the goal of AITECE which is to teach in China in the spirit of missionary service and contribute to China's development.  To them, teaching in China is  not only a job but a vocation.

Mavic (R) with Niño Manresa, Changchun University of Chinese Medicine
Mavic Mercene is a staff member of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM) and contact person for AITECE-Philippines.     

In Love and Gratitude

by Arlenne Villahermosa, CLM

It all started with a dream.  The attraction from mission work remained in my heart as a desire and in my mind as a dream ... for so long.  I tried listening to it and responded in my own way, trying to fulfill that dream and satisfy that desire.  Thus, aside from my full time job in the bank and my part time teaching in the university, I made myself available, with much joy and "gusto", to be involved in the local church through apostolic work and in the formation work by giving retreats, recollections and seminars, and recently, spiritual direction.  I was happy with my life, but something deep within never stopped stirring.

Korea, 2003, Arlenne with an elderly woman
It was back in 1984 when I first met Fr. Sean Coyle, a Columban priest assigned in Cebu who paved the way for me to the Columban Lay Mission Program. More than anything else, his presence gave a good witness to the Columban way of life for me.  Then, I started reading the MISYON magazine and other related magazine on mission.  so in 2001, after searning for mission program to join, I finally decided on the Columban Lay Mission Program. (I'm happy with the decision I made). God's hand was very operative in the events unfolding in my life leading to my decision.  In the orientation / discernment stage of the program for nine (9) months, I found affirmations of my decisions. It was a very good formation stage as well for the four (4) of us, individually and as a group.  The journey was beautiful, as the different modules, courses and immersions brought about varying degrees of psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, sexuality, theological and mission awareness. It molded me for the mission.  But ultimately, I saw myself prepared to be always open and discerning to God's will for me as manifested and to be manifested in the daily events of my life, in the diversity and uniqueness of each experience.

Myanmar, 2010, Columban Jubilee Celebration  
On March 16, 2002 at 10 am, I was sent off by the parish of Sta. Teresa de Avila in Talisay City, Cebu to
work on mission with the Columban Society. It was a day of commitment, prayer, assurance, awareness and hope not only for me but also for my family, relatives, friends and the local church of Talisay City, Cebu.  The outpouring of graces and the generous support of my family, friends, relatives, parishioners and the Columban family made God's love truly present and alive. A good number of people present, solemn liturgy, strong presence of the Columban family, beautiful songs beautifully sang, bountiful food, full support of family, happy faces, I could not ask for more.  I felt it was a day of God's affirmation to my missionary life.  The pain of detachment was very real to me.  But there was something more than the pain that made me go beyond ... and it was LOVE.  The unconditional and mysterious ways of love I've experienced and received from God through my family, friends and the Columban Society and all the opportunities for living and growing in life have pushed me to share to others what I have generously and abundantly received, whatever circumstances, and whoever I will be with.

What has been freely given to me, i try to freely and wholly share to others, in love and gratitude.

Arlenne Villahermosa was assigned in Korea from 2002 to 2006.  She was recalled to the Philippines in 2006 until 2008 to coordinate the  Columban Lay Mission here.  In  November 2008, Arlenne , together with  two Korean LMs   were  assigned to Myanmar.    She is  back in the Philippines since May 2012.   

Why RP18 is returning to Britain

During the Eucharistic Celebration for RP18's renewal of commitment,  Ger, Jayjay and Rose shared what made them decide to return to Britain for another term. Read what they have to say.

Rose Basada

It’s been really great to be in Britain and I feel blessed and privileged to be able to insert in a multicultural place. We were assigned in Birmingham, a multicultural place. When I arrived in Britain, I was asked to live with a Chilean. It was great to live with another culture and living with another culture is mission in itself for me because being a Columban is crossing boundaries, gender, creed and culture. So when I was asked to live with a Chilean and she was 10 years already in Britain and I was new. At first I was hesitant and I asked myself if this would be a big challenge. But I appreciated living with another colleague.  It was great. Living with a Chilean gave me the opportunity to learn another culture, another language, another “everything”.     This is what I appreciate in being a missionary. I joined the Columban Lay Missionary because somehow it grasp my charism as a Christian. I was involved In the Philippines in Catholic activities so leaving the country makes me feel guilty so even now that I am in the Philippines I am a bit shy of meeting my colleagues in the catechetical center where I used to work as a religion teacher.  But I realized that the work of the Church is not only in the Philippines. The work of the Church is vast. So the idea of this exchange of missionaries is really great. People are going and coming, learning another culture. The best thing that I appreciate, the best thing is I really  learned that somehow makes me want to go back to Britain is I have the opportunity to celebrate with people of other faith and culture.  In the Philippines, I do not have that avenue to do that.  We are 80% Catholics here and I am always surrounded by Catholic people. I miss that. When I go to my province, when I go everywhere I always meet Catholic people, Christians. But in Britain everyday I am always with people of other faith and culture and it is interesting to be with people of other faith. I think this is the challenge.  The Church is not only  a group of Catholics. So it is really great. So now that I am going back to Britain, I am happy and I am proud I am a Columban and I thank the Columbans for having me. I am learning, I am growing here and I am happy.  

Rose Basada: "I am learning. I am growing. And I am happy."