Thursday, December 19, 2019

God in Everyday Life

By Sunhee Kim
Columban Lay Missionary from Korea

          I recently began my new ministry in Our Lady of Remedies parish in Malate, Manila. Although I am familiar with this parish, having visited it on many occasions, my feelings are different now that it has become the area for my mission. People who I used to greet casually before, now I ask how they are doing, and the places I used to pass by without a second thought before are now pause for a closer look. This is my first time to work in a Columban parish, and I am looking forward to it.  

I went to the Adoration chapel not long after I arrived in Malate. I saw many people coming and going to the chapel for just a short period of time. For me, the Adoration chapel is a place to visit on purpose, to pray faithfully. However, the people who would come to the adoration chapel seemed to be familiar with this as if it is part of their normal routine and were comfortable with it. 

Malate Church, Manila
In retrospect, the first time I got to know anything about an Adoration chapel was as a middle school student in Korea when one was built in my parish for the first time. I was reminded repeatedly about the sanctity of this place and the proper etiquette to follow. A notice of the dress code, and what dress should be avoided when visiting the Ado-ration chapel was posted on the board in the parish. There were also strict visiting hours for security reasons. Perhaps I carved this in my memory without realizing it, and I thought it was important to keep it. That’s why the people I met that day at the Adoration chapel in Malate were quite a novelty to me, not only due to their familiarity, but also due to their natural appearance.

Parishioners in the Adoration Chapel of Malate Parish
         They meet God in their own natural way during the course of their daily life regardless of social status, appearance, careers, and so on. I know that the Lord does not see our outer appearance but rather our inner selves. As simple and obvious as it may be, I often overlook it. In addition, sometimes I used to be negligent in my prayer life under the excuse of being busy. I have learned, however, from the people I have met in my ministry by observing their faith, which is a natural part of their everyday life; they consider serving God as their mission, they pray wherever they are (they do not separate the places for prayer and their daily life). Their devotion inspires me. By breaking perceptions inside me one by one through various experiences, I have become a little freer and more flexible since I became a missionary. Thankfully, I have been given opportunities to learn and grow. I look forward to seeing what is waiting for me in my new ministry. I believe it will be a inspiring and meaningful journey with good people.  

             My Lord, open my heart, Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Loving the Fijian Hospitality

By Lily Faunillan

My name is Lily Faunillan, from Cebu, Philippines. I came to Fiji in 2017 as a Columban Lay Missionary and that meant traveling several thousands of miles from the Philippines, and leaving behind my family, comfort zone and friends. I am currently assigned at St. John the Apostle – Natovi Parish.

Being a lay missionary is not easy because from day to day of my mission journey, I am tested in many different ways such as spiritually,  how faithful I am in saying yes to this mission especially at times of difficulties;  In the midst of crisis and criticisms, how strong I am in handling my anger and stress. I’m not a robot. Sometimes when I am physically strained, sick and tired, my commitment, consistency, perseverance and determination in fulfilling my day to day missionary responsibilities in Natovi parish specifically in St. Vincent de Paul Primary School, house / village visitation, women, youth and attending the Small Christian Communities are revealed.

I also celebrate joy in my missionary life by sharing my joy with the people, through them, unto them and in them.
 
Upon completion next year of my three year agreement as a Columban Lay Missionary, I will go back home to the Philippines. I’m very thankful to the Missionary Society of Saint Columban for accepting me as a lay missionary. This is the greatest gift that I have ever received in my whole life because of my mission experiences here in Fiji. Coming to Fiji for my missionary work is something I will cherish forever. It has allowed me to interact and engage with the parishioners in their villages and local community, learn a new culture, and share my experiences with them. So far I’ve found the Fijians very warm and family oriented and this reminds me a lot of home. I like too the Fiji weather and I have developed a liking for local food, including spicy curries, chopsuey toa, ika vakalolo, lovo and kokoda.

With my fellow lay missionaries in Fiji
Most of all, I Iove the hospitality of the Fijian people. This is something I will dearly miss when I return home.  I am often invited into people’s homes to eat and tell stories. I never really felt home-sick because of this.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Angel

by Liliani Losi Ma'afu

I am presently assigned in Antipolo, a sub-parish of Barra, Cagayan de Oro. My ministry involves accompanying and visiting families, and teaching catechism to the children among others. I am also involved in the Women’s Ministry of the Archdiocese.

I would like to share one of my experiences about a woman I met in Antipolo named Analie Echnique. Analie grew up in Bukidnon and was the eldest of twelve children.  During my visits, I'd tell her stories about how I became to be a missionary. She'd claim, "Sayang, naa koy bana ug mga bata. Pwede unta mag missionary lang ko (It's a pity, I already have a husband and children. I would have loved to be a missionary.)."  She'd also help me practice with my Cebuano.  When she appeared to be busy with household chores, I would often help her out.  Over the course of time, a strong friendship developed between us and  I have come to know her as a responsible mother to her children and a loyal  wife. Every time I finished my visitations, I left with her parting words, "Balikbalik ha (Please come again)."

One day, I accompanied Analie to the hospital for check-up.  Tests revealed that she had Hansen's disease (leprosy). I continued to accompany her to the doctor during her follow-up visits and helped her family understand about her illness and the impact of her diagnosis on the community.  Getting sick in the Philippines costs a fortune so Analie was delighted to know that free medicine could be requested at the Health Center.

I was in Manila for almost two weeks and upon my return to Cagayan de Oro, I was informed that Analie had been admitted to the hospital.  I rushed to the hospital.  When I entered the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), I saw the reality of what full-blown Hansen's disease looked like.  Her skin was swollen and covered with lesions.  Analie greeted me with a weak smile and sighed, "Sakit kaayo, Lily, kapoy ko (It's extremely painful Lily, I am tired.)."  I could not utter a word - I just stood beside here, perplexed. Her moans and her failed attempts to move were indicative of the severe pain she was experiencing.  Unfortunately, the disease had already progressed.  When I was about to leave the hospital, Analie said to me, "Balikbalik ha (Please come back)."

She confided in me that she asked her parents to adopt her children while her 3-month old baby was left to her husband.  She told me, "Dili na nako kaya karon (I can't take care of them now)."  I didn't understand what she meant then.  Analie was discharged from the hospital after two weeks. One early morning, I was preparing to visit her when I received a call from Analie's neighbor saying Analie passed away.  At that moment, my world stopped revolving, my hands began to shake, and tears rolled down my cheeks.

That was the saddest day in my ministry - when I lost a great friend.  Arriving a few minutes before her body was taken to the mortuary, her husband said  that she died in her sleep.  A glimpse of her lifeless body revealed hands clasped on her chest and a face that looked peaceful.  At that moment, I felt a sense of comfort knowing she was at least prepared and knew here time was coming.

The passing of a stranger who became my family, brought me grief but I found peace in the belief that Analie is an angel now.  She taught me to be patient, to be courageous and to be ready when God calls me to rest in His arms. 

I pray that she finds eternal rest in God. Amen.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Grace

by Lilibeth Sabado


It took me a while to understand what she was saying.  Then finally I understood, she was saying “My name is Grace”.  “What a lovely name” I said, then she smiled.  Grace was 16 years old.

I spent 10 days in an orphanage north of my previous country of assignment.  While I was there, I joined the staff in caring for the residents in the center.  There were around 150 residents with different levels of need and attention. Some are able to perform activities of daily living; others are capable to do some simple tasks, while some remain in a vegetative state. They have varying levels of special care but all of them have the same story. They were left abandoned outside of the church gate because of their deformity, because they weren’t perfect. Grace is one of them.

While I was there, I helped in the morning care. After lunch break I joined another unit to help them in their work of arts and crafts.  Then later in the afternoon, I joined another group for their English class, taught them how to sing and dance. What I mean by dance here involves simple actions of raising their hands and shaking their heads. Singing would mean simple la la la.   After supper, we all gather at the chapel for prayer, and then they start to mumble, they recite their prayers. I find it hard to understand what they were praying but I said it is for God to understand.

Hospicio de San José is a Roman Catholic welfare institution in the City of Manila, the Philippines. It is the first social welfare agency in the country, and as a foster care institution has been a home for orphans, the abandoned, special needs, and the elderly. Wikipedia
On my second day, I was asked if I could privately tutor Grace to prepare her for her English Proficiency Test.  I said yes. Grace arrived that evening. I learned that Grace used to be a resident in the orphanage.  A Christian elderly couple with an unmarried son adopted her when she was 6 years old. It has been their tradition that every summer, her adoptive family would take her to the orphanage for few days to mingle with the residents.  The unmarried son who she refers to as uncle continued the summer tradition to the orphanage. Grace considers the orphanage her first home, therefore the 150 plus residents are her siblings!

I met with Grace an hour and a half in the morning, then two hours in the evening.  At first she showed me her English reviewer. Aside from the written exams, Grace had to tackle an oral exam. I was a bit unsure how to go along with the class. I can speak English but being able to speak the language is different from knowing how to teach. Teaching isn’t my profession, but nonetheless I took the challenge because I was the only one who could assist Grace in her need at that moment.

There were 50 questions and some of it was sensitive family questions such as ‘How do you show love to your parents?’ What is your most memorable birthday celebration?  When is your mother’s birthday? What is your favorite childhood memory?  When we started working on the questions, I noticed her silence.  I waited then noticed she shook her head then took a deep breath, with her already struggling speech she said: How can I answer all of that, I do not have a mother! I do not know my mother. There were no words but tears streaming down her face.

This experience gave me deeper appreciation of the childhood memories that define who I am as a person.  Many of us will find those questions easy to answer.   I pray that we continue to be a saving grace to those in need.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Simple Things in an Extraordinary Way

by Jennifer "Jake" Lunor

One of the many joys of being a Columban Lay Missionary is the joy of entering into a new culture and sharing my faith and experience with the people, while at the same time learning so much more from then in return.  I began my ministry in Dogoru village (Fiji), which is part of Labasa parish, last year. I was no stranger to living in a village setting as I had already undergone my previous language exposure with a family in a different village.

At first, I thought everything would be plain sailing as I had already studied the Fijian language for five months, but it wasn't. I was faced with the challenge of having to learn a new dialect for that particular village in order to communicate within my ministry and, naturally, to understand the people and their culture.
With confirmees and Archbishop Chong

Two weeks after arriving in the village, my first ministry involvement was to teach  Confirmation Class every Sunday. My daily activities would include visiting families for a chat and a meal together, depending on the time availability of the family.  I would also visit the kindergarten, offer support and help the students there as needed and in that way form a bond with the children.

Another aspect of my mission was of being present with the people to attend the Small Christian Community's (SCC) Sunday schedule and participate in the different community groups.  Last October I attended a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) workshop in Labasa to help me in my ministry here in the village.  During the last week of November, I also started up the SCC with the youth in the village to gather them together and get them active again in community. We participated together in some youth activities such as the Youth Vigil Rally, the Youth Synod Workshop, and I supported them in the Bishop Mataca Tournament at Napuka.  On top of that, I was also busy attending community meetings, gatherings, functions, and the usual village activities.
With the youth of Labasa parish

Having to learn new things in life, again and again is not a bad thing.  The only drawback is when one romanticizes what one already has and becomes too attached, not willing to let go.  A person can be stuck in his or her comfort zone and be afraid to make changes. However, we need change in our lives, not so much as to change ourselves but to change the way we see things and how we perceive other people and thereby accept them to be part of  our lives.  If we are willing to open up our bodies, minds and emotions, our lives will be pretty good, and we can do simple things in an extraordinary way.


Even the little things I did in this community village were well appreciated by the people, and for some it even impacted their lives.  But what they didn't know was that the way they responded and the goodness they've shown towards me has touched my life and made me realize that it's not how big or small the things you do that really matter, but how you change people's life for the better.

As Psalm 37:4 says "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart." This is why I surrender to God and make the change within myself and share my love to others, because with God's love we become one on this journey we call life. 


Columban Lay Missionaries in Fiji

God in Everyday Life

By Sunhee Kim Columban Lay Missionary from Korea           I recently began my new ministry in Our Lady of Remedies parish in Malate, Ma...