Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Mission Story

by Lenette P. Toledo, Columban Lay Missionary

Time passed by so quickly, unnoticed. It seems only yesterday when I came to Ireland and now my three years commitment to cross cultural mission is about to end. I feel that three years is so short! I am just beginning to find my way around, falling in love with the place and its people and soon I’ll be uprooted again. I know I’ll be missing my new friends in the community, my pastoral involvement and specially the people in my ministry. I feel sad but I am also looking forward to going home and seeing my family.

July 2010, Dalgan, during the REAP - Respond, Energize, Alive, Process Stress and Trauma Management

I was assigned in Ashbourne, County Meath. The first few months in my ministry were a challenge as I find my way around. I had to look, listen, and observe to understand and integrate myself in parish-community life. But I felt so rewarded with so many blessings! Asbourne is a vibrant community of hospitable, kind and generous people. The priests and the parishioners are very supportive, understanding and caring.  All these made me feel at home. I sensed a strong presence of sincerity, commitment, sharing, hard work, and unity. I was touched by the humility and leadership qualities of our parish priest and curate. Their openness gave confidence and a good venue for the parishioners to share their thoughts and feelings. I felt so blessed to belong to such community and share my presence and support to the people.

Ashbourne is a diverse community and there was no ministry or apostolate waiting for me when I came to the parish. So I had to make myself available and flexible to answer whatever was needed. They said that “by being present missionary is already doing a mission through witnessing” but that wasn’t enough for me. I felt uncomfortable by just being there. I accept that “doing” something is part of my weakness. I  can associate myself very much with “Martha” in the Gospel. I feel useless not doing something because I know that I have talents, gifts and abilities to polish! And to keep these talents, gifts, and abilities to myself is a sin.  I’m afraid that one day God will ask me why I didn’t use the talents he has given me.

Nette (front row, left) with Columban Missionaries and partners
at Mayo Abbey en route to Knock to Croagh Patrick
After few months of listening and observing the parish life I started to find my ground. I volunteered to join the senior citizen’s meeting every Monday of the week and visited the confirmation class in schools. The confirmation class is part of the parents and teachers program which is a parish-based ministry. I found joy in helping the parish on liturgical celebrations and visiting the sick and the elderly in their homes.

During my three years in Ireland, I had ups and downs as well especially when members of my family (my parents, particularly my beloved father) in the Philippines were in and out of the hospital. During these times, I was comforted by God through the kindness, goodness, love and presence of friends. The unfailing support of the people around me gave me strength and inspiration in my missionary journey.

Easter 2010, Ireland, Baptism of RCIA candidates on Easter Vigil Mass

One of my more memorable opportunities is to attend a week of workshop and conference of RCIA (Rite of Initiation to Adult) in All Hallows, Dublin. I never had any experience giving formation to people who wanted to become Catholic so the whole experience was totally new to me. To journey with the people coming from different countries, religious background/beliefs and culture was a big challenge for me. I realised then how important my faith, culture and my being a Filipina are to me as missionary. Faith in God first and foremost is the most important recipe in mission. I know that I can’t do things by myself. Without Him I am nothing. My experience of walking with people from different cultures, background and races has enriched my life, my capacity and openness to listen and learn from their experiences. They have taught me to be more flexible, more loving, compassionate and kind. To walk with them was a humbling experience indeed! For that, I am truly ever grateful and I could proudly say that after three years “gratefulness is the language of my heart”! Everything is attributed to God! I know I’ll miss so many friends but I’ll bring all their beautiful memories in my heart when I leave. Thank you for such an enriching experience in my missionary journey!  I can truly say that what matters most to me are not my accomplishments. Rather, it is my relationship with people that I value the most.

Lenette “Nette” Toledo of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, is the 3rd of 5 children. She is one of five members of RP17 who joined the orientation for Columban Lay Mission in June 2007 and in 2008 was assigned to Ireland for her first mission term. Lenette worked in Ashbourne, Co. Meath. One of the ministries she served was the Rites of Christian Initiation to Adults. Lenette is renewing her commitment as a Columban Lay Missionary and will return to Ireland soon for another three years of mission work there.

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