Reflections of Monaliza "Mona" S. Esteban
Columban Lay Missionary
I was born and raised by a Christian family. Luckily as a kid, I was taught to do the practices, observe the beliefs, memorize prayers, songs, and other teachings of the so called Catholic Church which engulfed my family even before I was born. In short, I was made to recognize the dogmas of the religion without knowing and understanding how and why. The gauge of being a so called religious was then to accept unquestionably those teachings. As a kid I obeyed, but at times breaking the rules came as a challenge and it was often committed…….But I didn’t know it was already the foundation of my vocation.
Fortunately, whether it was meant or by chance, I landed in a school where I had the opportunity to re-visit, understand, and perhaps evaluate and study what was fed to me during my younger years. It is quite ironic, however, that we were doing and practicing all those ceremonies, masses, memorized prayers, and other so called religious activities while at the same time we were having our academic discussions of the teachings and doings of the church. However, the opportunity to question everything till the very foundation of my belief was indeed great. As an adult, I came to understand and reflect that with those things I didn’t even notice my vocation was being nourished. I believed God used all these to see what and where I will be at present.
Gone were the days of academics and opportunities just to sit and reflect or discuss the world outside….
I started to work and mingle with different personalities from all walks of life. Whatever, difference they may have however, they can just simply be delineated as the rich and the poor both spiritual and wealth possession as the gauge…In the school where I worked, this is truly obvious. Most of the time I have to do things in order to assist these kids who belong to the so called poor but rich and rich but poor. Reflecting on it, I am already doing such mission. But then, the fulfillment was not met. I felt something is missing that God wants me to search on. Something that we have to work on together I believe.
I started to search for that “something”, “something” to fulfill my dream as a missionary. With God’s grace I met the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM). To be candid, this was the first lay missionary community that responded to my call. I then started my accompaniment year while working in a Catholic school in Bulacan. Eventually during my 2011 birthday retreat I finally accepted God’s invitation to have my orientation year in preparation for a cross cultural mission.
It was during this year when I got the chance to experience many things being discussed during my academic years. I never imagined myself doing things I only see on movies or heard from some experienced personalities…
I have witnessed rich families attending masses together on Sundays taking the opportunity to be together, bond, visit parks, and just enjoy the day as a family. In contrast, I have seen poor families attend masses on Sundays and part their own ways after because they do not have the luxury just to spend their time together. This simple scenario made me ponder on the role of the church - us! At the same time it reminded me of famous writers and thinkers in history who have made the pronouncement that the church or religion is just but an “opium” meant to pacify the poor…I remember once in my life I have been in a place where the so called church is remote to the vocabulary of the people around. Reflecting why, I came to the realization that indeed, how can these people be devoting their time attending masses, prayer meetings, fellowships, or other religious activities when their very concern is their hand-to-mouth existence? How can these people spare their time to religious people going to their houses for prayer or bible studies when after listening to whatever knowledge or teaching about god they have nothing to eat? In a page in my life I had been asking myself what could be my role with this kind of our society. Thus, now I came to the understanding of having experienced all these in my life. Personally I was certain that this was not just an experience but something to learn on…it was an incident that made me ponder of my role as part of the church…
|Mona (R) with Sun Hee, a Korean LMassigned in the Philippines|
With the generosity of the CLM, I was given the chance to minister to patients at the same time be ministered by them through the Clinical Pastoral Education. My experience in the hospital taught me not only how to listen to them but to listen also to my own self. Being with them every day for more than two months was such a great challenge too. I saw myself in different aspects of personalities with the different patients. Thus, I realized how God revealed himself to me through these people… It was a very painful process but rewarding in the sense that after having been expressed all my deep seated struggles and issues, I am relieved! This part of my orientation has helped me a lot to see and be aware of my own self especially issues which unconsciously and consciously affect my personality and relationship with people and God.
Taking up the challenge going south (Mindanao) was one of the illumination I received. At times I felt like St. Paul traveling from one place to another but our difference was that he did the proclamation of the Word of God while I was just an observant… My time spent with every community / family has given me an overview of how to be in a diverse culture… a foretaste to be a missionary. My respect to every culture has always been a great challenge - the language that summoned me to learn in order to understand them, the practices and ethnicity that I have to abide with as a visitor to that place, and the test to accept the unacceptable in my vocabulary…
|Mona with team mates Marj and Liezl in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur|
Living out my life I always thought that only ordained and religious people can do the so called- missionary work. But my orientation journey allowed me to see deeper what and how is to be in mission and to be a missionary. It provides me as well an opportunity where I saw the important role of laity in our society and in the world…
Looking back at my life’s journey, I realized God has always been good to me despite of my weak points. Those experiences helped me to discern well with my vocation. God was so creative in such a way that I was able to understand his plans for me. That I believe I didn’t choose this alone which I always thought but we did it together. Yes, He showed me my strengths and weaknesses to be my provision that I will be carrying with me through my journey going to the Island of Fiji as His partner in the mission. I thank Him for I realized He had not been sleeping after all, He is in fact on the same journey with me.