Preparing for Mission

 by Michael Javier (PH22)
Lay Missionary in Training

“To serve God and His people.” This was my aim when I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries. But before I can do this, I have to undergo further discernment and preparation for mission through the orientation program. I took short courses for one semester, different modules and the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) for ten (10) weeks. From the short courses I’ve learned how to respond to social issues, history, beliefs and culture of different religions, philosophy and gender studies. It’s not that easy to go back to school again because aside from the fact that it has been ten years since my last formal studies, I also encountered a lot of new terms or words that I really did not understand. But I thank GOD I still made it. What I’ve learned also from the different modules is that the Columbans really give the best modules for us to be equipped for our future mission. The topics ranged from creation, Christology, bible studies, church history, transition, environmental awareness, human development, to sexuality. They are preparing us really well so that we can be effective missionaries. But the most important and the highlight of the orientation program, so far, is the CPE. This is a 10 weeks program where we served as associate chaplains at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Quezon City. In every room we visited, we talked, listened and journeyed with the pains and sufferings of every patient and their relatives.  There were some who asked why we are serving in the hospital and not in another place? In the hospital I’ve learned that there are different kinds of pains and sufferings not only physically but mentally, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as well. Listening to these different stories, I was made to look inside myself and I was surprised with the way I reacted to things and why I focused on a particular thing. I’ve learned that I too was wounded and that I also need to be healed. As Henri J.W. Nouwen said in his book “The Reminder,” we are all wounded and being wounded we need to be healed for us to become a great and effective healer. CPE really gave me the opportunity to know more about myself because a lot of us can easily say “I know myself.” But going through the processing, I was surprised to hear what my supervisor and co-trainees said about me of which I was unaware of. I am very thankful that they helped me see my blindspot. I was given the opportunity to change what I needed to change about myself having grown in some awareness of what could be good or bad for me and for the others. Through CPE my faith in GOD has deepened. I can see and feel the presence of GOD in every person I encounter. Some challenged me, some inspired me, some taught me values and some affirmed the goodness of GOD. The CPE helped me recognize my blind spot and core issues. I have come to know and understand myself better, growing more to become an effective missionary to other people and to myself. My skills in relating with other people were harnessed and I was also challenged to deal with people especially those in pain. Now, I am preparing myself for the next stage of the orientation program and ready to share my learning to others, especially with my two companions Gilda and Lorna, for our future mission.

With supervisor Sr. Tere Yusay (right) and fellow associate chaplains at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Quezon City.

2014 CLM Annual Meeting

The 2014 CLM Annual Meeting was held in Cagayan de Oro City on November 17 to 22.  Present were lay missionaries assigned in Mindanao Aurora Luceno and Ana Flores, and those assigned in the Luzon area Nanise Mounga, Anna Noh, and Sunny Kim, and Regional CLM Coordinator Arlenne Villahermosa.  Facilitating the theological reflection and business meeting  were Columban Frs Jovito Dales and Jude Genovia respectively.

Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines

Columban LMs with Frs. Jude Genovia and Jovito Dales

Two LMs Renew Commitment

Congratulations to Arlenne Villahermosa and Aurora LuceƱo on their renewal of commitment to the CLM. Both Arlenne and Au renewed their agreement as Columban Lay Missionaries for another 6 years during a Eucharistic Celebration at the Columban House in Patag, Cagayan de Oro City on November 21, 2014. The Rev. Fr. Paul Glynn represented the Society in behalf of the Regional Director Fr. Dan O'Malley. The signing of agreement coincided with the CLM annual meeting.

Columban's Day in Rome 2014

The author
by Rose Basada

It is a blessing and privilege for me to have been able to participate at the opening of the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Columban. There were four major events. It started on Friday the 10th of October with the ecumenical vespers at 5 pm at the Basilica of San Clemente. The church was full of pilgrims from different parts of Europe. It was a very moving celebration as people gathered regardless of culture and denomination so I was able to meet pilgrims from other churches, from catholic Christians to Anglicans and Methodists. The parish priest of Bobbio held the relics of St. Columban during the procession. It was said that the relics had been kept at the Bobbio Museum. After the ecumenical vespers, we walked towards the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerv.  Later, together fellow pilgrims, we listened to “The Priests” in concert to raise money for the Hospital of St. Elizabeth of Hyderabad in Pakistan.

On the second day 11th October we gathered at the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the liturgical welcome of the relics of St. Columban and solemn Eucharistic Celebration presided by His Eminence, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Vicar of Rome. There were thousands of pilgrims in this event as well as priests and bishops. I was very blessed to have read one of the prayers of the faithful at this mass. It was very important to me to be able to contribute and pray for peace and interreligious dialogue, something I know is important in my work as a missionary and in the world today. I was amazed at how devoted the pilgrims to St. Columban were as many of them traveled from Germany, France, Ireland, Bobbio, Florence and each group carried a banner with the image of St. Columban on. I'm happy I got the chance to walk and make friends with other pilgrims.  I feel humbled and inspired by their patience and perseverance in joining the pilgrimage as I saw many of them walk for long hours to transfer from one church to another. This trip was very important for me as a Columban Lay Missionary as it helped me deepen my understanding about our patron Saint.

On the third day there was a solemn concelebrated mass of thanksgiving in honor of St. Columban.  The main celebrant was His Eminence, Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armargh, Ireland, at the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It was the only homily I understood because the celebrant normally spoke Italian but at this mass there was also an English translation. His homily was very informative and encouraging. It continues to gives me inspiration to keep going in my missionary journey.  It gave everyone more information about who St. Columban was. Indeed, his memory lives on the life of the parishioners of Bobbio and many Parishes in Italy and other places around the world today.

We ended our pilgrimage by attending the angelus with Pope Francis in St Peters square. It felt like a very personal welcome as though we were surrounded by thousands of people, Pope Francis was so welcoming mentioning the Columban Pilgrimage. It was a blessing to see the Pope and be able to pray with him alongside with my fellow Columbans.


Ballymun: My Mission

by Lorelei Ocaya

My six years in the missions has been a very satisfying and heart-warming experience.  It was a difficult journey both personal and work yet I would say I have been blessed with a mission area that has given me a sense of heaven on earth.  At this moment, all my heart can say is GRATITUDE.

Ballymun when I first arrived in the summer of 2008 was on its peak of the government’s regeneration programme due to massive anti-social behaviour especially of the younger generation.  Drug dealing/using, binge drinking, vandalism, littering are just few of the problems that the Dublin City council is facing.  There was not a week that we don’t see a getaway car burnt in the park, near the shopping centre and worst, in front of our house.  Lads hanging around the flats, we did not know what they’re up to.  Ballymun is a haven of illegal activities.  Also, there is a huge number of suicides among young adult.  I was petrified.   

2008 was also the height of the investigation and reports about clerical abuses.  The religious and church were named and shamed.  More and more TV programs and even ads are very satirical about them.  As a result, trust with the clerics and in the church was breached. There was a huge decrease of mass goers even from the older generation.  They were disillusioned.  A great number of people became cynical and sarcastic about the whole business of the church.  Three generations were lost (35-45years old, young adults and teenagers).  This is very evident in Ballymun.  I felt it was very rough and very tough. I asked myself, ‘was I wrong to choose this place when I had the opportunity to say no, when there were options in the countryside parishes?’

But the heart of a missionary prevailed in me.  I took the challenge and told myself ‘bring it on’ as the Irish would say when they bring their football/hurling clubs and race to Croagh Park for the GAA matches. 

Indeed the challenge was on!  There were so much that I have to unlearn, learn and relearn.  Loads of times I felt so discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned.  People I worked with were tired to create avenues for parishioners to get involved and participate.  Every time there is a suggestion they chorused “been there, done that, nothing happen, never again!”  Dealing with the environment was tough enough, how much more with the people I worked with?  It took me courage to be patient. 

Whoever said that ‘patience is a virtue’ really is a virtuous person.  I learned the virtue of patience and learned to let go and let God and everything fall into place.  I became open to every opportunity I met along the way – especially in establishing relationships and friendships with people.  I saw a different perspective.  People also became open of my presence and accepting of who I am.  I felt there was a grand exchange and appreciation of each others’ giftedness, a joyful presence of one another.  The following episodes of my journey just flowed much easier and flew very quickly. 

But of course, this doesn’t mean a bed of roses.  Like every journey there is always bumpy jagged road that make the journey more interesting and challenging.  All I am confident about is that when the journey gets tough, it’s worth trusting that my God has been very faithful with me.  God is always there to guide and protect me, to support me in every way.

After six years, nothing much changed in Ballymun.  There are still occasional troubles.  Anti-social behaviour still very much present, some people are still cynical about the church.  However, I would say that with the concerted effort of the three parishes in Ballymun, support from the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Columbans in the region, we can create alternative and better ways for people especially the youth to engage in the church as a community of faith.  And that they will have personal relationship with Jesus and experience the healing, loving and compassionate God.    

Personally, I still ask myself why did I choose Ballymun, why I stayed, why did I do the things I did, what kept me going?  I guess this time, it is how I can be more of the mission given Ballymun as my mission area and to be much aware of my own purpose in life.  It was rough and tough yet having experienced the generosity, kindness and openness of the people and their willingness to do something for their community despite their circumstances, was for me enough to get my journey going. 

I would say that I have been blessed being assigned in Ballymun.  I am very much grateful for the call to participate God’s mission in Ballymun through the Society of St. Columban.  The region of Ireland is very supportive and appreciative of the presence and efforts of Lay Missionaries and that itself is an assurance for the Lay Missions in Ireland to continue. I am thankful to God for the gift of mission and the people who made my journey worth taking.  A greatest gift indeed! 

My Missionary Journey in Taiwan

By Sherryl Lou Capili, Columban Lay Missionary - Taiwan
June 1, 2014 Reflection During the Homily

Good morning everyone. Today's gospel from Matthew is one of the readings in the Bible that gives me comfort for these past 3 years that I've been here in Taiwan as a lay missionary. I remember before I joined the Columbans, I was also like each and every one of you who needed to find a decent work in order to provide for my family and to help my mother send my younger brothers to school. A few years ago before I knew about the Columban Lay Missionaries, I was enjoying my work in my dream company because I get to travel to many places in the Philippines and meet many people from all walks of life, that actually gave me the inspiration to go outside the country and experience living in another culture. I was very adventurous at that time and ready to give up my dream job.

At that time, I never had any idea about being a missionary. I thought missionaries are only the priests and the nuns. After almost 3 years of living here in Taiwan, I believe God has led me to be in another country not just for adventure but because of a deeper and richer purpose in which only God knows. When I said “yes” to His call, I was ready to leave my family, friends, and other possible career opportunities without knowing what awaits me here in Taiwan.

When Jesus, in today’s reading said to the 11 disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” I feel that Jesus was also talking to me and that he used the same words to invite me to share in his missionary life. My problem is, how will I be able to do that? Like the disciples, I also had many doubts about myself and what talents or skills I can contribute. I wondered if I’ll be able to learn Chinese and if I’ll be fit for my assignment in the migrants ministry. When I encounter uneasy and difficult situations, I feel that my missionary spirit is also being challenged.

For example, my experience for 2 years of living and journeying with the ladies at our HMISC female shelter for victims of trafficking showed me many realities that are both happy and sad. These realities could also be true to most of us who left our homes and are away from our loved ones. It is true that we can be vulnerable in many ways like when we feel stressed and lonely and we tend to make decisions and do things which can be harmful to ourselves, to others, and the people we love dearly. 

At the shelter, I had the opportunity to live with Vietnamese, Thais, Indonesians, and fellow Filipinos and heard their stories of joys and struggles. I remember that no matter how many times a new lady would arrive at the shelter because they’ve been sexually or physically abused in their workplace, I couldn’t help but be affected and get angry towards those who took advantage of them, but of course I would have to try my best to compose myself so I can be present to the ladies needs and make them feel safe. One weakness that I realized I have is wanting to solve a problem right away. I would ask myself, what shall I do, what can I do for them? Sometimes I don’t have the answer at all, which makes me feel very frustrated. 

It is also sad to witness how many of us would fall into affairs outside of marriage while living away from our spouses and children. It is even sadder to hear ourselves say, “Only in Taiwan,” lang naman ito”….and later on we don’t realize how it is slowly pulling us away from our families. When I get to have meals together with the ladies at the shelter, they are very free to share with me about their relationships. It was hard for me to hear how their relationships with their husbands suffer because of this unhealthy coping with their loneliness of being away from home. Because we are social beings, of course we all need somebody to be with us, care for us, and share with us in our happy and low moments, but I believe there are healthy ways of doing it, without having to hurt ourselves or the people around us. 

Last year, it was also a big challenge for my missionary journey to hear news from home that my brother was hospitalized and was admitted to the ICU. I needed to go home to be with him and my family…and I had to make a decision whether to continue serving here in Taiwan or not. Events such as this would put my faith into test but at the same time remind me that I have a God who sent me to be here, and I don’t have to worry because He would take good care of my family and loved ones back home. Sometimes in our anxious moments, we tend to act on our own, forgetting that we have a God who is greater than our problems.   

When Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age,” I am reminded of the support I get from many people. I am grateful for the guidance and encouragement from fellow Columbans, the people I work with and friends whose presence make me realize that I am not alone in this journey. I am also thankful for the friendship that I have gained from the many volunteers in the different ministries and communities of our diocese, and with the moms and dads of HAPI through the seminars we had together. Your presence, life stories, and examples serve as a wonderful inspiration for me.

My heart is filled with joy as I look back to these past 3 years of living, learning, loving, and witnessing on how God is present and is at work in every moment of my life. It is also such a joy to see Jesus’ presence in every person I meet. My prayer for all of us who are gathered here today is that, in times of doubting, may we also immediately be reminded of God’s loving promise…that He is always with us. Amen.

To play or to work?

by Reins Mosqueda 

            One time, when I  stayed in the central house and was about to leave for work the second day, I said goodbye to some fellow members and said that I will go ahead because I still have to go to work.  I work at the Holy Family for Special Education (HFHC), a center for mentally-challenged students.  One fellow member said to me that I will not go to the center to work but I will go there to play.  I was so struck by what he said,  “to play and not to work.”  This phrase keeps ringing to my ears while traveling going to the center. To play and not to work? Hmm…how about that?

            Our students love to play!  They play many games and one of those I named after the title of an old song “Name Game”.  Some students during class break would start cracking jokes or teasing each other and you can hear them laughing so loud and free.  Most of the time during break, one or two students would start to tease their schoolmates by citing the names of the people around.  They are like teachers who would start checking the attendance of students inside the classroom.  Once they hear one’s name, they will laugh so hard.  Everybody is so happy and enjoying it.  At first, I didn’t understand why they are so happy just for that simple thing.  I tried to analyze what’s so funny about that – calling one’s name.  Nevertheless, I love seeing them enjoying themselves.  Listening how they tease each other made me notice more of their simple joys in life.  What’s with the name?  If there is one word that would catch your attention even if it is spoken by someone from afar – it is your name.  Sometimes you cannot help yourself but turn your back if your name was called and just realized that it is somebody else’s.

            When the students started to include me in their playtime, I can say that they are enjoying calling my name.  Just imagine that many students keep on calling your name many times aloud.  Mo Rui Na Lao Shi!  That is my Chinese name.  Yes, so loud that even the people inside the center’s office could hear.  One time, our directress was so curious about the students’ game.  She asked me if it is alright that the students are bullying me.  I explained to her that they are not bullying me.  We are playing and we are having fun.
            I just realized that it is true – I go to the center not to work but to play.  The students are teaching me to be more simple and humble…a beautiful understanding why I have deep joy here in my heart as a missionary.

            “…And as we grow with age, may we never lose that child-like simplicity and humility which draws us ever deeper into your loving presence.”