Thursday, October 6, 2011

My life in Ballymun

Ireland, February 2011
Lorelei “Lalay” Ocaya, of Cagayan de Oro City, is the youngest of 11 children. She is a graduate of BS in Development Communication and worked with the Year of Service Program of the Volunteer Center for Peace and Development in Mindanao from 1995 until she joined the formation program for Columban Lay Mission in 2007.  During her first term in Ireland, she was assigned to the Holy Spirit Parish, Ballymun. She shares this story....

One of the joys I experience in my mission in the Region of Ireland is that I am able to have a glimpse of the lives of the people I work with which gives me the opportunity to journey with them making my life as a missionary more colorful and meaningful.

I was assigned in Ballymun, north side of Dublin, the capital city of Ireland.  Ballymun, in the 60s when Ireland started to gain strength in their economy and became a member of the European Union, was the best place to live in.  People from all over the country would love to live in this place because of its magnificent and superb high rise buildings like condos with a state of the art centralized heating system which has very spacious rooms and a little terrace where one can relax and enjoy oneself feeding birds and watching sunset during summer.  Also during that time, Ballymun had the best shopping centre probably in the whole of Ireland.  My parish priest, Fr. Gerry Corcoran, from the Archdiocese of Dublin, would fondly remember Ballymun as the favourite place to go for shopping where he can enjoy malling when he was in his early teen years.  One of the elderly who lived in Ballymun for over 40 years quipped, ‘Ballymun was an ideal place to start a family’.  Indeed, she raised her 3 boys in that environment.

However, Ballymun was not spared from the effects of what the technocrats called modernization.  As the years passed by, Ballymun became a haven of illegal activities especially drug trafficking.  Many became hooked on the substance aside from alcohol.  Many families were broken and became dysfunctional.  Children have seen all of these and cases of suicide with young people are widespread.  Ballymun became a place where its own people don’t want to identify with because it has a bad reputation.   Some Irish people especially those in the affluent strata of society are the ones who discriminate their own people.  Young Ballymuners are reluctant to tell where they came from because of discrimination especially when they apply for jobs.  They change their postal addresses.  It is sad.  A once heaven-like place became a haven of illegalities that made it a sore in the society.  This is the environment I witnessed.

Ireland, December 2010, Lalay with other Columban Missionaries
My first few weeks in Ballymun was a bit scary in the sense that I am still adjusting to the notion that Ballymun is a tough place.  I am used to going to different places in Mindanaw and am sure speaking of a tough place, Jolo is more than Ballymun.  But I had a different sense maybe because it is a place where drug addicts are rampant and youth gangsters are prominent.  I am not used to dealing with such a situation.  
I challenged myself on this reality because when I chose Ballymun to be my mission area, I knew more or less the facts, I just have to deal with it and besides I have the feeling that there are other people out there who I can trust.  Thanks be to God, He keeps me company and gives me people who are not only I trusted but who trusted and accepted me as one of their own.
I was basically involved in parish work at the Holy Spirit, a diocesan parish.  I assisted in all parish activities especially in the spiritual preparation for first communion and confirmation of primary school children in the parochial school.  I was also involved in the ministry of the Word and the Eucharist where I attend regular Friday mass at a nursing home and help the priest in the giving out communion.  I joined in home visitation especially to elderly who are sick and homebound.  I involved myself in the parish team and parish council and with a local ladies’ club of over 55s.
To maximize my time in Ballymun, I decided to help out in pre-school children ages 3-5 to develop their social skills and learn basic colours, shapes, rhymes, etc. in preparation for the ‘big’ school.  Also in my first year, I helped in the after school remedial class called Aisling program for 8-12 year old children in their homework and other activities designed by the program, and helped organized a children’s choir for the ‘Do This in Memory of Me’ celebration of the Eucharist of the first communicants.
My experience in the mission gives me the opportunity to work with two extreme age groups (3-5 years old pre-school children and 60-90 years old elderly).  I am very happy with this because I am able to develop the basic values of patience, appreciation of little things and being present in
Malate, August 2011, Lalay (front) and other lay missionaries
visit the boarding house of fellow LM Nani 
 the presence of people.  I learned to love the elderly and recognize their contribution to healing my relationship with my mother, gives me the strength to ask forgiveness of all I have done which hurt my mother, and the assurance that I am forgiven.  I know I am very incapable of dealing with children but the children in the playschool taught me to laugh more, being awed in their innocence and to have fun while learning about life.  My interaction with them helped me a lot in the process of healing my inner child and being able to get in touch with it. 
I am glad I have been able to participate in Christ’s mission in my own little ways as Columban Lay Missionary in the region of Ireland.  I am happy that I was given the opportunity to be invited and being able to share my giftedness to Christ’s mission.  There were very low and discouraging moments which made me disheartened and dejected yet God’s providence, boundless love and faithfulness are always present reminding me that there is nothing my God and I cannot handle together.  
I am grateful that I am part of the Columban family in Ballymun.  It broadens my understanding of servant-leadership and makes a difference in my life as a missionary.  Sometimes, I see mission as quantity rather than quality and it makes me feel frustrated. It makes me judgmental and comparing myself to others.  I am struggling to be more authentic, not to see mission as work per se but a continuous relationship with my God and His people – always hoping to build the kingdom He proclaims here on earth.  I know I have only done very minute in the mission but I’m assured that quantity is not the measurement of my being a missionary and I still have a long way to go. 
To end my story, I would like to share my ode to the Easter people in Ballymun which I made as part of my theological reflection in Easter of 2010. 

“If Christ would Come and Walk this Earth once Again”
(title is adapted from a song)

He would be May on a wheelchair, desperate and in agony yet would get up to greet the new day;
He would be Jean bedridden anticipating for the body of Christ everyday;
He would be Kathy, a refugee hoping to have a life and future in a land foreign to her;
He would be Joyce, weeping mother for her two drug addict sons pleading people to pray for them; 
He would be Bobot, an OFW working hard to give good education and good life for her son;
He would be Aideen busy grandmother gathering round friends to pray and listen to the word of God;
He would be Hannah beaming with smile infecting others, looking forward for her communion day;
He would be Trish and Marie, two elderly women gladly waiting for their time to come home to the Father’s house;
He would be all those who believe in Easter and become source of life to others...

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