Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Three Confident Christian Women

By Fr Neil Collins, SSC
Misyon Vol.8 No. 3 July - August 1995 issue

A couple of years ago, I spent a week in Pakistan, visiting our three Filipina Columban Lay Missionaries: Pilar Tilos, Emma Pabera and Gloria Canama. As the Columban Lay Mission Co-ordinator for Mindanao in the Philippines, the experience was invaluable for me. It has coloured all I’ve said and done since. 

First Impression 
My first impression of Lahore, where Emma and Pilar worked, was formed in a night drive through streets packed with cars, buses, weaving motorcycles, bicycles and wagons hauled by oxen or buffaloes. I admired the skill and the coolness of our driver, Fr. Mike Gormly. But I remember even more the driver of a truck who gave us directions, and then followed to make sure we didn't get lost. Such courtesy was one of the constant themes of my visit. 

Filipino Meal
The lay missionaries had prepared a Filipino meal to welcome us. For me, after living in the Philippines for ten years, it was like coming home. 

In the morning I realized I was far from the Philippines. I awoke puzzled by a thump, thump, thump and the sound of children's voices coming from downstairs. It turned out that a game of cricket was being played against the front door. That was another of the constants, cricket in the streets, on every patch of dusty, waste ground, everywhere. At the time the Pakistanis were the world cricket champions every boy seemed to see himself playing on the national team.
Lahore, 1992, Emma with the children in the village
Women Only 
As it was a Sunday, we went to Shadbagh parish where Mass was celebrated. Emma and Pilar went off to speak to friends and organize some meetings. I took off my shoes and went inside. I found a space near the back of the hall which was almost full. Something was bothering me, but is was only when Pilar came to rescue me that I realized that I was sitting on the women's side. When I saw that at least half of the congregation were men and boys, I was impressed.

Only Crawling 
Emma told me she gets letters from home, asking, "What are you doing there? Why aren't you here where the action is?" I think she is tempted at times to agree with the writers. "We're still only crawling," she confessed.

Presence as Main Contribution
I was struck by the reaction of various people to our lay missionaries. One young girl in the family who came to lunch was obviously taken by Emma and her way of acting. Fr. Finbar Maxwell summed it up by saying that the main contribution of the Filipina missionaries may well be, "Presence, as confident Christian women, leaders in their communities, free". Evening brought Pilar and me to another Catholic family for a hot and spicy meal. Pilar had to drink three glasses of water.

Street Sweeper 
Pilar Tilos
Like many of the Christians, the father was a street sweeper, working in the middle of the night. He had a second job also. His wife worked cleaning a house. They managed to have a comfortable home, and the were putting their son through technical school. Half of his school fees are paid by the government.

Pilar told me one story about her friendship with them. One evening when she was eating with them, the boy ordered his older sister to get him a glass of water. Reacting to this example of the male dominant culture, Pilar snapped. "Get it yourself!" For a second everyone froze, then the boy got up and poured his own glass saying, "All right." The girl looked at Pilar as if to say, "If I tried that my parents would have punished me." It's a small example of how a foreign missionary can sometimes do what a local can't do.

Very Hospitable 
The Pakistanis were very hospitable to me as a man. Each time I went to a mosque, someone would approach me, grasp my hand and say,"Welcome to Pakistan." When I went out alone, and becoming confused had to ask for directions, people would go out of their way to guide me. In shops, in a very fine local museum, at the airport, it was always the same, a little initial suspicion, then a handshake, a huge smile and helpfulness.

Look Straight Ahead 
But when Pilar and I shared a horse-drawn buggy with a Muslim family, Pilar had to sit in the middle, with the mother on one side and me safely on the other. "I have to walk like a buffalo," Pilar complained, meaning that a woman could look neither right nor left, in case she caught the eye of a man.

Gloria Canama with Filipino migrants in Pakistan

Pilar, Emma and Gloria 
In the prayer groups that Pilar, Emma nd Gloria organize, they help the women to reflect on their lives and on their faith, so such incidents and the attitudes that underlie them must be discussed. But it's their own example and freedom that is the loudest message.

How About You? 
Since I've come back to Mindanao I have met many possible lay missionaries, men and women, married and single, who wish to go as partners in mission with the Columbans. I carry a packet of photographs from my visit to Pakistan, and I find that they explain what lay mission is all about much more eloquently than I can. Difficult, still crawling, effective - all of these describe the work of our Filipina lay missionaries and, Emma would add, 'very enriching.'

This article first appeared in Misyon Vol.8 No. 3 July - August 1995 issue. Fr. Neil Collins was the Columban Lay Mission Program's Mindanao District Coordinator then. Emma, Pilar and Gloria were the first Filipino Columban Lay Missionaries sent to Pakistan in October 1990. Emma (Candoni, Negros Occ.) completed one term of three years in Pakistan and then joined the Formation Staff of CLM - Philippines from 1994 until her retirement in 2006. Pilar Tilos served in Pakistan for five years before she joined our creator while in mission. Gloria Canama was a Columban Lay Missionary from 1990 until 2013 spending most of her mission work in Pakistan.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Called to be Missionaries

by Ms. Nene Yap

As a mother of eight, I am proud to say that three of them joined the Columban Lay Missionaries.  And there is no other joy than seeing my children willing to offer their life as missionaries serving our God through others.  Hence, I am most thankful for the opportunities to touch other lives. I thank the Columban Missionaries for providing my children a venue to express their love of God through service to our brothers and sisters who are in need of spiritual care.  I thank the Columban family for having a program where one can offer his/her life as a missionary for the service of our God and the Church.  You are an instrument of God's love not just to our family but to the world.

Being a missionary is not so new to my children, for us their parents, have also been missionaries in our own unique way.  We have mostly lived our life as a couple working and helping closely with the Jesuit missionary fathers in building and establishing our then Prelature of Ipil, which was recently erected as a Diocese.  As a couple, we have been missionaries locally and internationally helping form Basic Ecclessial Communities (BECs)  or Gagmayng Kristohanng Katiligban (GKK) in our context and strengthening the Family Life Apostolate.  So with all of our participation and involvement in these missionary activities, our time as parents to be physically present for our children had to be sacrificed.  There were many times that we had to leave our children with our adult relatives or friends.  And it is an absence not just for days but weeks due to time and distance that we have to take in order for us to be able to fulfill our missionary endeavors and commitment. It is an unfortunate fact that some of my children have grown in this unlikely kind of family environment.  But it is with no regret that as a couple we have accepted the situation relying only in God's grace.

Yap Family
It is only with God's grace also that we have given all our children the proper education they need for them to fulfill their own dreams and aspirations.  Some of them even went to some big universities and institutions which was unimaginable then for our meager salary (honorarium) combined as a couple that we were receiving from the Prelature.  With our love of God and continuous service for the Church, I can proudly say I have seen and felt God's generosity through the many people we have worked with.  Indeed, 'seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all things will come to you' has been our real experience as a couple with our family.  In serving the Lord with our whole heart, He didn't let us down for He provided the things that our children needed for their growing up.  I believe that it is because of our family's unique setting that a calling to be missionaries for some of my children came with not much of surprise to us.   As a couple, I believe we have made ourselves clear to our children that they can choose to be whatever they want to be and we will give them the support they need in the best way we can.  And is with great joy that the call of my children to be missionaries was not from an outside force but from their own willing and personal spiritual discernment.

With my husband Lito during our younger years
As a parent of three missionaries, I have nothing but joy in my heart that our hard  work and sacrifice, as a missionary couple, have more than paid off.  As I recall the loving memories of my husband Lito who has gone ahead to our Creator on June 6, 2006, I know that he is smiling with me knowing some of our children had somewhat followed our footsteps to be missionaries with our model and guide who is Jesus.  I know that the life of a missionary is never easy. It is a  path of sacrifice, pain and danger but at the same time a path for great self-discovery, adventure and spiritual fulfillment. It is a path that I would not want to bargain with anything else in this world, for it was a path for my knowledge of the great love of God for me and my family. Yes, it will be a path that I will always recommend but not force on anyone else because I know that each of us here on earth has different calling in serving our God.

To end, I express and offer my endless gratitude and prayer to the Columban Family who embraced my three children as their own and shared their missionary spirit.  I hope for more of God's blessings  for the Columban Family that you will continue to touch many lives by providing opportunities to touch other lives.  I thank you for providing my children a venue to express their love of God through service for our brothers and sisters who are in need of spiritual care. You are an instrument of God's love not just to our family but to the world.

With my daughters visiting the grave of my husband.
From right counter clockwise: Joni, Jenny, Joan and Jasmine
With Jasmine, USA
Ms Nene Yap, fondly called by many as Mommy Yap, has three children who joined the CLM over the years.  Jenny joined the orientation in 1999 and was assigned to Fiji from 2000  to 2003.  She is now married and has her own family.  Jasmine joined CLM in 2004 and was assigned to Taiwan from 2005 until 2007.  She is now married and lives with her husband in the United States. Joan joined the CLM orientation in 2010. She is now on her 7th year as a Columban Lay Missionary in Taiwan.  Mommy Yap's youngest son Marcelo is preparing for his Diaconate Ordination set for November 2018.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Behind a tattoo is a story

By Mavic Mercene

Liliani Maafu, from the Kingdom of Tonga, one of the many islands in the South Pacific, arrived in Manila on the 28th of December 2015 with two of her team mates. After only a few days in the capital, they flew to Cagayan de Oro to spend the new year with the lay missionaries assigned in Mindanao. Right after new year they again moved to Davao City for six months studies of the Cebuano language. Now she is assigned at the Barra Chapel as well as in women’s ministry of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Liliani has met many people in and out of her ministry and every time she tells them where she comes from, she is always bombarded with more questions like: Where is Tonga? Is it in Africa? Who is the president of Tonga? Oh, you do not have a president only a prime minister? And you have a king? What is the money (currency) in Tonga? And so on and on and on. Later, she realized that some people just want to make a small talk as a sign of respect and they do not really mind what your answer is. So one time, she told someone that she is from Hawaii and he seem satisfied with her answer and no more questions followed.

Liliani Maafu, 27th June 2018 at CLM House
Liliani has been in the Philippines for almost 3 years now as a Columban Lay Missionary and she feels overwhelmed with the graces she has been blessed with through her many experiences, some funny, some good, some not so good, and there are also ordinary daily experiences which made her stop, think and contemplate. An example is this: One morning in a jeepney ride going to her ministry, she sat beside the driver. She felt the driver’s curiosity on her. When she paid her fare, he asked if she was a foreigner. She said she was a local but he did not believe her because of her accent. She told him she had been away for quite a while, hence, the accent. The jeepney ride continued and he noticed her t-shirt which at that time was a red T-shirt with the Columban logo on the left breast. “Are you a missionary?” he asked, and with quiet pride she said yes. “Why do you serve the Lord?” he asked. She was taken aback and kept quiet for a while to gather her thoughts and then she said “because this is the right thing to do”. He kept quiet. Few minutes into his silence, he noticed and pointed at her right wrist and asked, “Is that a tattoo?” he asked. She nodded. He looked surprised and incredulous and asked, “Why does a nice lady like you have a tattoo?” She looked at him perplexed and said, “Why not?” The driver went on to say that he always had bad impression of girls sporting tattoos. In his opinion women with tattoos are loose and not supposed to serve the Lord. But he looked at her with what seemed like admiration and said, “Yet here you are, a nice lady with a tattoo serving the Lord.” And when she looked at him, she saw that he was also sporting tattoos in his arms up to his shoulders and she threw back his own question. “Why do you say all these when you yourself have tattoos?” she asked. “Ooh, this is different. I can have tattoos because I do not serve the Lord,” he said. “That is not true,” said she. “What difference does a tattoo make to a person? What is important to the Lord is the heart, what is in one’s heart, not how one looks like on the outside. The LORD doesn't see things the way we see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” After a very long pause he said “Now, I will never look at women with tattoos the way I used to. Thank you.” Liliani’s heart rejoiced with this enlightenment.

Liliani (in red shirt) with other Columban Missionaries

Back in Tonga, tattoos are quite common among men. It is a cultural thing.  But tattoos are not common among girls and women.  When Liliani was in high school, she met a girl from another island who was in the same class as her.  They became very close and as a sign of their new found friendship they vowed to have their name tattooed on each other. Young and foolish Liliani was then, the promise was just a half hearted one for her.  But when classes ended and just before going back home, her friend tagged her along to see a tattoo artist and to have the tattoo they promised.  Her friend went under the needle first and she had Liliani tattooed on her back.  Even at that very moment, Liliani did not know if she really wanted to have a tattoo, let alone her friend's name.  Her friend kept asking where to have her tattoo. Again, Liliani did not know where to ink her friend's name in her body.  Liliani want it hidden since her father will not approve of any tattoo, at the same time she did not want to expose her body to a total stranger who will do the tattoo.  So she decided to have Melania Waqa on her right wrist. This tattoo is a piece of art and symbol of friendship.

After the death of his father few years back, four of her brothers had their father's name Sikifi tattooed on their body.  Liliani had hers only last year when she was missing her family, most of all her father.  Putting her father's name on her wrist was to honor him and to let him know that gone he may be but never forgotten.  This tattoo is a permanent memorial, a remembrance tattoo to an unbreakable bond of a daughter  to her father, a daughter's love and reverence big enough to merit an art in her body.

My Ministry with the Elderly

by Jenanydel Nola

When I was first sent to Beongcheon dong in South Korea as a Columban Lay Missionary I had doubts and uncertainties as to why I was here.

I roamed around the city and hoped that just seeing the place might help me understand my presence there.

During that time, I noticed many elderly people sitting in the street. One night I saw an elderly lady standing alone. I greeted her with a smile and she invited me to her house.  Inside we sat on the floor while she shared her life story with me. As I was leaving to go home at 9:00pm she asked me to visit her again as she lived alone and rarey had company.  I promised that I would return.

For more than a year I spent most of my time visiting the elderly.  The work is enjoyable but takes a lot of energy, and a peaceful mind and heart to be able to listen to them.

Among the people I have engaged with are:
  • A woman who was left by her own family and is now living alone.
  • A woman who shares the smae stories every time I visit her because she is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
  • A woman with whom I have to coverse through writing because she can't hear.
  • A woman who can hear but can't see me because she is blind.
  • At least two who are sick.
  • At least two from North Korea.
As time passed, my face became familiar to them, and I would meet up with some of them in the church and after Mass I would walk with them on their way home.  Often I was invited to visit them in their homes.

After more than a year in Bongcheon dong mission parish I decided to spend some of my time at GuRyong village which is known as the last shanty town in Gangnam, Seoul's wealthiest district.  Most of the residents in the village are elderly.

With the help of Fr. Lim Yong-Hwan (the Chief of the Urban Poor Apostolate Committee), I met Sr. Lucia who lives in in the village.  She introduced me to the residents, many of whom I now spend time with playing the guitar and singing and learning Korean songs. I massage their shoulders, back or aching legs and hold their hands to let them feel they are not alone.  I listen to their stories and complaints and share my own, despite my imperfect language which makes them laugh.  I sit with them silently while we watch their favorite TV program.

In reaching out to comfort those in need it is I who feel comforted and loved by them.  By God's grace and mercy, I finished my first mission term in Korea.

2016, Seoul, With fellow Columban Missionaries

Jenanydel Nola joined the orientation for Columban Lay Missionaries in June 2013 and went to Korea on May 20, 2014 for her first mission assignment. After almost 4 years of mission work there, she is now back in the Philippines with her family  in Maitum, Sarangani.
(Posted: September 2018)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My Journey

by Irma Lara Cantago

I am a high school teacher by profession and was teaching for 15 years while being involved in the parish, helping out with the catechist and the formation of the lay leadership. I had the passion to serve and be with people even before.  Such was my experience which deepened my faith and made me reflect to leave the school someday and be a parish worker.

I was accepted for the orientation to the Columban Lay Mission program in 1992 with five other lay people. Before saying goodbye to everybody I did an act of letting go that was very difficult to do then, i.e., burning all my school notes with a light and a happy heart. I believe that my 15 years experience as a teacher and as as a volunteer parish worker prepared me to answer the call of God to be a Columban Lay Missionary overseas; to learn, to continue my formation, and to share my faith and life.  I was happy with my decision but I was facing another difficult situation to leave my mother along with my six brothers and sisters.  Since the death of my father and being the eldest girl in the family I became the right hand of my mother.  The first time that I explained everything to my mother and expressed to her my love and passion to become a Columban Lay Missioary, she did not say anything and I knew it was hard for her to me go.  But later on she told me to go and not to worry about her and my brothers and sisters.  I thank my mother, my brothers and sisters for the support, though it was not easy for them to see me go to a faraway land.  It was not easy for me either to leave them for the first time but I strongly believed that time that God won't leave them alone.  If it is His will then everything will be fine and He will allow me to reach the place where He wants me to be.  

Ozamiz, 2016
I, together with three other lay missionaries, was appointed to Brazil in 1993. It was the first time for me not to see my family for a long time and be in another country with different culture, people, and language.  There were a lot of adjustments to make even to my co-lay missionaries and the Columbans.  I had to face and live with that challenging reality for three years in a faraway country, far from my family and friends, and up rooteed from my comfort zone.  It was not that easy facing the uncertainty of what will happen ahead in the journey.  There were a lot of emotions including the  fear of traveling by plane for long hours.  But the excitement and the feeling of a dream and the desire coming true helped me a lot to be strong to continue and be firmed with it.  My faith that if it is really God's call He will take care of me and bring me to Brazil safely When God calls there is always the grace to make one strong and free to venture to the unknown.  This is very true that God is always giving me the grace to continue and to be strong in a foreign land, the grace and energy that helped me to continue to the second country where I did my mission in Lima, Peru.  It was the same when I arrive in Peru I did start all over again, learning new language, adjusting to the culture and the people, with co-lay missionaries and the ordained Columbans and associates.  The only advantage was I had my mission experience already from Brazil.  It is still in Latin America so there are some similarities in some aspects in the culture and language though there are a lot of difference even in their life-style and ways for celebrating life. It is not easy to live in a new reality that is not your own your own.  It is where your faith, patience, humility, openness to learn, acceptance of new ways of doing things, and one's listening kills are challenged.  I did learn how to listen and be flexible in ordeer to understand and be a part of their culture.  The people of Peru taught me a lot to learn their own language, jokes and even how to live in their own land.  They taught me to celebrate life in the midst of the of their poverty, dancing and enjoying the most of the time with a hungry stomach.
Renewal of Contract, September 2015
The different ministries I had both in Brazil and Peru with different age groups helped me to be more creative, open to learn in order to persevere with the difficulties that I encountered and love the life as a missionary.  The openness and acceptance of my presence by the different groups gave me the strength and the confidence as a person and as a missionary to continue to tell Christ's story to the people.  There were a lot of frustrations, confusions, changes and new realities on the way that were not easy to deal with in the community, and with the Columbans and the region.  Not all were happy moments but I learned to see those moments as new realities that I have to live as a person and as a missionary, a care take and be responsible for myself and all creature around me.  Those experiences made me reflect more, drew me closer to God , to the Columbans and to the Peruvians who were with me in this journey. God was with me in all these years revealing God's self in many ways in the different experience I went through.  I was inspired every day to continue living the life of a missionary.  One of the greatest gift that God is giving me  is the passion and the grace to go on.  God knows what is best for me and will be always be with me and the people I left behind. I believe that my presence and my journey with the people as a person and a lay missionary made a difference. It was and is an affirmation that every lay person is a missionary to their own family, neighbors, their own parish and the society; an inspiration for lay people to be involved in mission.

Indeed, to be a lay missionary is a call and challenge to value and defend the life of all creatures.  Recognizing the presence and the face of God through my experiences with the people of different cultures and ways of celebrating life is a gift. I am evangelized by all who journeyed  with me . The treasure that is apart of em and I will be bring it where ever God wants me to be to continue to tell Christ's story.  The uniqueness and beauty of the different cultures, realities and the people that I encountered and who journeyed with me teach me to appreciate and value your own culture.  yes, life is a mission where everyone is challenged to take care of one's life in order to take care of  others and the life of the earth.  God is giving us the gift of life and the life of the earth in order to live and enjoy the beauty of His creation but with th responsibility, to take care of it, this is mission. I am very thankful to God for giving me the gift to be in mission and the passion and the energy to continue this journey to be a lay missionary.  A million thanks to my family, friends, Columbans and he people of Brazil and Peru for this enriching experience and the sacred space of being partners in misision.  I am what I am now because of all of you. There is always something to learn that prepares us  for the next day.

CLM International Meeting, Tagaytay, July 2011

Friday, September 14, 2018

Leaving the Good Things

by Lilibeth Sabado

Fiji, 2013
It is almost a year now since I was asked to do a rotation assignment back home.  I had a difficulty leaving my previous assignment. I thought I still need to finish the work I have committed to do there. But I must admit, part of that difficulty was concerns related to reintegration to my own culture, one that I’ve been away from for 15 years. I was afraid and the easiest way out is to say no.   

However, when I offered myself to mission, I understood that obedience is also paramount to what I do. I hold on to the belief that God is in control and allowed myself to give in to the request.

This part of my journey reminds me of the story of the rich young man in the Holy Scriptures. He who approached Jesus and asked, “What good work must I do to receive eternal Life?” Jesus said, keep the commandments. Then the young man answered, I have kept all these commandments. What do I still lack?  Jesus replied, if you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess, give the money to the poor, then come back and follow me. 

I was comforted with the thought that serving God will continue no matter where I am called to be. To be able to give a doubt-free response at that moment is grace itself. I left an unfinished task almost a year ago. I left the good things, I left the seeds. I may not be able to see the seeds bear fruit but I know I planted it there.

Just like the young man in the passage who left feeling sad hearing the answers of his master. I left my previous assignment with a heavy heart, but I said yes after all.

With Siblings, 2018

China, 2016

Fiji, 2013

With Columban Lay Missionaries, November 2017

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Blessed Finale

by Lorna Yting Cañete

As I reminisce the joys and challenges in my experience in Chile over the years, it seems as if the time I spent in mission flew by so quickly. I will always remember the smiles, the welcoming embraces and kisses from the parishioners as I was introduced in the community of the Parish Sagrado Corazon de Jesus here in Alto Hospicio on my first day . 
Chile, 2017

I found happiness in being with people. I am grateful because they inspired me to continue serving despite of the challenges brought about by our different languages and cultures. I came across a quote saying, “Be deaf to negative thoughts, if your aim is to reach your goal.” Indeed, I wouldn’t have made it without having a positive disposition in facing challenging experiences in mission. 

One of my unforgettable experiences in Alto Hospicio was working with a deacon named Ibar. We worked together in a place called ‘La Toma’.

In the beginning, during times when our activities with the community did not go as planned or when people turn up late, I used to complain and become discouraged. Sometimes, I would ask myself what I was doing when no one seems to be interested. But Ibar would remain patient without uttering any complaint despite how many times it happened. 

I observed how he worked silently without advertising his works. And from his example, I learned to be more humble and patient with myself and with others. Ibar gave me strength as well as inspired in me an eagerness to continue despite not achieving our goals at times.

Mission Promotion in Malate, September 2, 2018
It was because of Ibar’s constant patience that I slowly learned to have a positive outlook in such situations. More importantly, I learned to trust in God, in His plans, and in His providence. I realized that no matter how our activities turn out, God is still working with us in our community. 

Ibar reminded me what it means to have a missionary spirit. I saw this in his way of witnessing to the Word of God, his being attuned to the reality of the people and the way he responds to the signs of the times. 

Now, I have reached my final year of my mission assignment. As I prepare to leave, I found myself having mixed feelings. I’m sad because I’ve reached a stage wherein I’ve come to know the people and to understand our community better. This was what has allowed us to work well together and I believe our efforts can bear fruit in the future. 

Having gone through trials in mission, I realized that no matter how others judge us or how we can be misunderstood or    discouraged along the way, what is important is to continue moving forward and believe. I am happy because I’m leaving with the experiences and the lessons I received in mission. All these I will treasure always.

Lorna completed three years as Columban Lay Missionary in Chile. She is now back in the Philippines and preparing for her new mission in Myanmar.

Three Confident Christian Women

By Fr Neil Collins, SSC Misyon Vol.8 No. 3 July - August 1995 issue A couple of years ago, I spent a week in Pakistan, visiting our th...