By Rose Basada, Columban Lay Missionary, Britain
Rose Basada (left) with other participants 
Once again I attended the Flame National Catholic Youth event in the UK which took place in the Wembley Arena, London, last Saturday 7th March. It was a very moving event where thousands of young people, like me, from around the country gathered to share our faith.
The theme was ‘To rediscover our joy – The Joy of the Gospel’. It was very well explained by David Wells, when he said, “Pope Francis has called us to be a people of Easter, to rediscover our joy, to remember that we are joy-filled church” .
Philippine Cardinal Tagle shared the Mercy of God in the joy of the gospel. He inspired the young people to marvel on the many signs of mercy. At the same time he encouraged the youth to be aware as well of the many signs of lack of mercy: human trafficking, abuse, hunger, poverty and many more examples. He said that only mercy can save humanity, that God is known as the God of Mercy, of tenderness of compassion, of justice. And the mercy of God is related to the covenant relationship; when God said: ‘I am your God, you are my people’ (Exodus 6:7). I think Cardinal Tagle hit the core of his topic. He explained it clearly and shared some examples so that it will be well understood.
I was also moved when Baroness Hollins talked about Mental Health problems as there are so many young people these days experiencing these problems. She encouraged us to keep our minds well and to help others as well, being everyday a face of Jesus to others.
There was also live worship music by Matt Redman and he was great on stage. His songs were really inspirational and made the young and old sing and dance with his music.

Indeed, it was a very heart-warming event. I’m glad I participated as I also felt like I was able to rediscover joy and able to share my joy as a Columban lay missionary during lunch time activities. I was involved in a Columban workshop with ordained Columbans and co-workers. We went as a team and it was a very good experience for me. It was a great way to share joy and to be filled with joy.
The author in Britain

God, my gardener

by Joan Yap, Columban Lay Missionary

You can only fully appreciate life when you allow yourself to let go,  just like seeing the real beauty of a flower when its petals are opened.
Whenever I am in a retreat, I am always enamored by the beauty of the flowers in a garden. It gives me joy and tranquility whenever I gaze at their beauty and color. It gives me an opportunity to thank God of his magnificent creation. God is so perfect that he is able to give us all of these to appreciate. Everything undergoes a process of blossoming, such as life.
My life journey is not at all perfect but it is God’s loving care who perfected my imperfection. I was young and broken. I had my own weaknesses and limitations. I struggled to overcome my insecurities. I thought of so little about myself whenever I think of God’s other creation. I was lost and I could not find my own life. I was fragile but like the flower through the Maker’s hands, He slowly allowed me to open up at  His own time and space.

My vocation as Lay Missionary is one of the greatest turning point of my life that I blossomed to be where God wants me to be. It is where I find the invitation of God to let go of the many things that hinder me to grow and bloom. It is when I started to open up and His grace overflows. The real beauty of the vocation is opening our hearts to God. And in the heart of God, we find the true of meaning of love. And this is where we can reach others to love as we are loved by God. In being open to God’s grace, it is feeling the joy as I give myself to others.
The challenge I need is to fully trust in God. I am His creation. He knows me more than I thought I know myself. It is when I allow God to work in me, that I surrender my life in Him. My prayer is that God will teach me to be humble by accepting my own weaknesses and the courage to transform it as it becomes a  gift to others. My experience of His unconditional love saves me and keeps me grounded.
My yes to this vocation is a grace for me. I am forever grateful to God for this invitation of another 3 years. He has a way of courting me that I can’t refuse. It is my faith, that wherever I maybe, God will always find and lead me where He wants me to bloom. This vocation is a wonderful gift for me.  I have always said, it is a  journey of getting to know myself, others and most especially an invitation of being intimate with my God where there is no one I can cling on except to Him. As a line in a song says, “bloom where you are planted.” That’s how I see my life here in Taiwan… to be open in giving myself to others.

The flower blossoms itself to beauty because from the start, the maker/gardener knows how beautiful that flower is for his garden. God chose me to be here. I believe I am God’s own creation, in His own image and likeness. And like the flower, I just have to patiently allow God, the maker, the gardener to apply His expertise for the flower to bloom, and for me to grow faithfully in the loving hands of God.

TMU’s warm welcome when She, Reins, and I came back to Taiwan for
our second term as Columban lay missionaries

A Glimpse of Love for the Unseen

by Jao Resari, Columban Lay Missionary

On September 29 ~ October 19, 2014, the Agape Center for HIV and AIDS Education and Outreach Ministry of the Hsinchu Diocese and Harmony Home Foundation Taiwan, a non-profit organization sheltering people living with HIV and AIDS in Taiwan and China, collaborated in holding a charity art exhibit entitled: “A Glimpse of Love for the Unseen,” showing 22 artworks which include oils, charcoals and photographs, to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS.  The exhibit was held in two venues, the first was in Hsinchu City and the 2nd was in Taipei city. This event was a good opportunity for people from different communities to understand the realities of HIV and AIDS and to be in solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS.

Hsinchu exhibit 1st opening (L-R: Nicole Yang, founder of Harmony Home Foundation Taiwan;
Fr. Peter O’Neill, ssc, director of Hsinchu Migrants and Immigrants Service 
Center and
 migrants chaplain of Hsinchu diocese; Jao Resari, Agape Center, Bishop James Liu, auxiliary
bishop of Hsinchu diocese, Teacher Hank, volunteer of Harmony Home Foundation Taiwan)

It is with a grateful heart that I share with you the reflection I’ve written for the exhibit introducing my collection:

“Since coming to Taiwan as a Columban lay missionary, I’ve had the opportunity to journey with people who live in the margins of our society. People from different walks of life having one thing in common  – they are people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

It was in Harmony Home where I worked for 5 years as a full-time volunteer, that my eyes and my heart were opened to how the realities of HIV and AIDS have deeply affected  thousands of lives in Taiwan, China and in other parts of the world.

Most of the artworks I’ve created are captured moments in the everyday lives of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. The portraits are of faces unseen by our society. Most often, we see them under statistics or demographics. But they are more than just numbers – they are somebody’s family, relative, neighbor or friend. From newborn babies to teenagers, single mothers to old people. Each person has a sacred story to tell, be it their struggles or fears, joys and dreams.

“What’s on Your Mind, Child?” | Oil Painting

Facing the Truth
Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is what fans the fire of this epidemic. For many people, it is easier to ignore what is happening right before their eyes than face the reality; for others, it is more bearable to push people who are different from them outside their circle, hiding behind their walls of indifference. Sadly, many still believe that HIV and AIDS has nothing to do with them or their loved ones.

“I Want to be a Happy Bride Someday” | Photograph
The truth is, we are all vulnerable to HIV. All of us are affected by the epidemic. Each person’s attitude, behavior, actions, and choices affect others,  which also affect our community. So if one of us has HIV, then all of us have HIV.

Finding Hope
In deepening our awareness of how HIV and AIDS is affecting lives, we can begin to understand our own important role in fighting this epidemic.

“Finding Light in the Dark” | Oil Painting
Having witnessed how HIV has drastically affected thousands of people, young and old, I hope that this exhibition can open more eyes, more hearts into seeing that there is hope after HIV and AIDS; hope in stopping the spread of this illness – and that hope lies in each of us taking action now.

Witnessing Love
This exhibit is also a tribute to the good works done by many people who have been working in solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS. Their acts of kindness and compassion, untold in news or in the media, but nevertheless, they are the ones who continue to give hope to the hopeless, healing deep wounds caused by fear and ignorance.

It is humbling to witness the power of love overcoming the challenges of HIV and AIDS in the lives of people living in the margins of our society.

“More Than a Hug” | Charcoal
True Love compels us to action. I hope that more people may find the courage to  face the challenges brought about by HIV and AIDS, as well as value  the life, love and dignity of each person, including people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.”
Taipei exhibit 2nd opening, Press conference (Jao Resari with Nicole Yang, staff,
volunteers and residents of Harmony Home, local media and guests)

From Fear to Friendship

by Beth Sabado, Columban Lay Missionary

Beth Sabado in Hong Kong
 My pilgrimage in, indeed my conversion to, interreligious dialogue started even before I learned the meaning of the word dialogue. Both my parents were from Luzon in the northern Philippines, but in 1946, soon after World War II, my father decided to migrate south to Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur. At the time the town, which became a city in 1969, was predominantly Muslim, according to my father. My mother had a similar migration story and so my parents, even though neither was born there, met and married in Mindanao.
Mindanao, a little larger than Ireland, is the second largest island in the Philippines and is a place where sizeable numbers of Muslims and Christians dwell together.
At home, we spoke the language of my parents, Ilokano, the predominant language in northern Luzon, rather than Cebuano, the language of the south. This only stirred my curiosity about Cebuano and, unknown to my parents, I even tried to learn some of it. As a child, simply by listening to my playmates, I was already speaking Cebuano before I was aware of it.
As I was growing up, my parents were continually talking about going to court because of a land dispute. My father held a title proving his ownership of a piece of land, but the Muslim chief said that such a title was just a piece of paper and that the real owners of the land were his ancestors.
For us this was a strange notion of private property. This land dispute created an atmosphere of fear and we felt a coldness and ambivalence towards Muslims. These feelings were not confined to our immediate family, but they certainly contaminated our relatives and the families of the tenants on our farm.

After finishing college and passing the nursing exams up north, I went to Pagadian City where I spent nine years working in J. Cabahug Hospital and became Head Nurse. My nine years there not only enhanced my nursing skills, but also taught me to show respect to all the clients coming to the hospital and to begin to appreciate social and cultural differences. It gave me a great opportunity to build rapport with Muslims and to get to know them as persons. They were our main clients.
My previous assumption that Muslims were land-grabbers and criminals was gradually replaced by a relationship of empathy and respect. I became not only their nurse, but their friend. It helped liberate me from fear, mistrust and ambivalence.
Our school books contained simple explanations about beliefs, practices and rituals of other religions, but the books I read did not deal much with how to respect and celebrate our differences.
To fully understand and appreciate religious and cultural differences, I believe that we must have a complete head-to-heart conversion. For me, this involved changing my long held perspective from seeing God as associated with Church and primarily with Christians, to seeing God as a person who is present to all peoples and present in all religions.
In 2002, when I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries, the subject of interreligious dialogue was part of our orientation. It affirmed my earlier conviction that differences of beliefs should not be the basis for defining who we are, but, rather should be a space in which to understand and respect one another.
Beth Sabado with friends in Hong Kong
I worked for nine years in the migrant ministry at the Hope Workers’ Centre in Taiwan. There we assisted migrant works from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia.
Given the countries that most of the migrant workers came from, I was able to encounter a variety of religions. I found that people’s religious beliefs and background are important aspects of their ability to understand and cope with their situation.
I am reminded of a telephone call I received at the crack of dawn from the Taiwanese parish priest of the church where the Hope Workers’ Centre is based. He was apologetic, but he appealed to me to go to the center as soon as possible, because a migrant worker had been brought by a taxi driver and seemed to be in a lot of pain. I rushed on my motorbike to the center.
There I saw a man soaked in blood, lying curled in front of the gate of the church, moaning in pain. Some neighbors had gathered around helplessly. When I arrived, they explained that he was an Indonesian migrant worker who had been locked up by his broker.
Afraid he would be repatriated to his homeland, he managed to escape through a second-floor window by knotting his clothes and a blanket together. When the knot gave way he fell from a height, but managed to crawl beside the road until a taxi driver helped him and drove him to the church.
The human dynamics in that scenario made me reflect. I had been summoned to that man. I pray that when a stranger needs help my response will be spontaneous, because I see Christ in him.Our life journey has to be grounded in trust and in the goodness found in the diversity of our beliefs and cultures.
It is my hope that one day people will call each other by name and not by labels of creed and race.

This is how I see God - no limits, no boundaries, but a Being who is present to everyone, and in the midst of every group, regardless of ‘tribe and tongue, people and nation’ (Revelations 5:9).

PH23, New Team in Orientation

31 yrs old, Sta Rosa, Laguna

Marea earned her degree in BS in Computer Science from San Sebastian College Recoletos Manila and Masters in Religious Education from Mother of Life Center. She loves to read inspirational books and regards facilitating retreats and recollections as her special skill.   Marea, described by her family as responsible and friends as jolly and caring, came to the CLM from working as a pastoral associate at San Beda College Alabang  where she met returned LM Violeta Villaraiz who introduced her to the CLM. She is the youngest of 7 children.

27 yrs old, Alamada, Cotabato

Febie is a graduate of BS in Accounting and Financial Management from Notre Dame University. Described by her family as loving and caring, and her friends as humble and compassionate, Febie considers listening and counseling as her special skills. Becoming a missionary has long been a dream of hers and joining the CLM is a step towards realizing this dream. She was working full time at the Cooperative Bank of Cotabato and part –time at Notre Dame Center for Catechesis prior to joining the CLM.  She is the 4th of 5 children. 

Eucharistic Celebration June 18, 2015

Eucharistic Celebration
Thursday, June 18, 2015, 5:30pm
Columban Lay Mission House
Cubao, Quezon City

My Vocation Story

by Michael Javier, Columban Lay Missionary to Chile

When I was a child I like to be involved in some religious activities in our barangay maybe because I saw it in my grandparents that they were very active in the church. Some people and even priests usually asked me if I want to become a priest someday and my response is just a smile. When I went to Cebu for my college studies I joined and became an active member of Singles For Christ (SFC). I thought it would be enough to me that I can serve my brothers and sisters in Christ but when I left Cebu and went to Taiwan to work, my faith and service in the church became stronger. I volunteered in the church and unknowingly there were nuns working also in the church noticed my presence and asked if I want to become a priest. I told them that I was discerning. So they recommended a Spiritual director to talk to and guide me in my discernment. We talked and he explained to me about my calling and to see what call I have, if it is for priesthood, family or lay brother and I need to discern it well. I was very grateful to what he told me because it helped me a lot in my discernment. In my long time being a volunteer in the church I've already met some Columban Missionaries but I do not have time and courage to ask what their works are. All I know was they are Columban priests. I did not know there were also Columban Lay Missionaries who works with us in the church. When I learned that Beth Sabado is a Columban Lay Missionary I found time to ask what their works and how to apply to become one. When Beth was assigned in Hong Kong, I asked the same question to Joan Yap and she explained the process. So from that time on my mind said that I will try to join the CLM. Then I left Taiwan because my contract has been completed and back to Philippines. I wanted to return to Taiwan but my placement agency did not allow me due to some reasons beyond my control. So I decided to work in Bohol as Customer representative for a local brand of wine. But I worked there only one month and a half because I kept thinking that this was not the life I want so I contacted the CLM vocations and they welcomed me in their accompaniment program then I applied and was accepted in the orientation program. During the orientation program, I learned a lot about mission, social issues and knowing myself more and learned some of the works of the Columban Missionaries. Now I am ready to bring these learnings and my whole self to mission and become the living witness of God's love and mercy.

Michael and his grandparents

Mission Sending Mass of PH22

Be bridge builders of peace and hope....This was the homily of Fr. Ray Husband during the contract signing of Gilda, Michael and Lorna on April 30, 2015..

Read full text here.

Gilda, Lorna and Michael, this afternoon we join with you, your families and friends, to witness the formal signing of your contracts as Columban Lay Missionaries. For the last year each of you have prepared for this day and now it has arrived. I am delighted to be here with you to share this important event in your lives. I thank God for each of you for the gift that you are to the Columban Lay Mission Program and to the Missionary Society of St. Columban. Today signifies your response to God who has called you and is the source of all life.
Our documents, those pertaining to Lay Mission and to the Society as a whole state clearly what is expected of you and how you are to live out Mission as CLMs. It is in and through partnership as Called to Mission states “partnership for mission reflects the life of the Trinity as community of Persons reaching out in love for the life of the world.” Through your commitment today you are saying yes to Christ who has called you, yes to mission, and yes to partnership as lived out by the Columbans. It is good to remember that is Christ who has called you and has brought you to this day. He is always by your side, and will never abandon you, so always place your trust in Him. I believe the essence of who you are and what you are called to be or expressed beautifully in the Prayer of Blessings from today’s ceremony. You are messengers of salvation and peace, marked with the sign of the cross. This means you are entrusted with the task of witnessing to the love that God has for the world, for humanity, especially for the poor, the broken and those whose dignity is denied. You are called to mission not from a position of power or arrogance but from weakness and like Christ you are to be wounded healers. To this mission you bring your own individual gifts and talents as well as your brokenness.
Gilda, Lorna and Michael as you begin this great journey that will take you to Chile, a new land, people and culture never lose sight of the beauty which lives within you as Filipinos. Be bridge builders of peace and hope; embrace the beauty of your new culture while never losing sight of your own. Jesus was sent by the Father and Jesus in turn is now sending you on mission. As Columban priests, sisters or LMs, it is through solidarity with the poor that we are called to live out our mission.
The great Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez captures this beautifully when he wrote; today it is solidarity with people excluded by the present economic system and driven into worst poverty, solidarity with those who encounter closed doors and hearts because of their social insignificance. Never forget that it is with the poor, the broken and the hopeless that you are called to share your lives. Gilda, Lorna, and Michael as you leave the Philippines for Chile know that the Risen Christ is with you. May his peace fill your hearts today and always. Know also that you have the prayers and good wishes of all of us here today. Congratulations and may God bless you always.

Click here to see pictures from the mission sending ceremony.