Sunday, January 13, 2013

Knowing You . . . Knowing Me . . .

by Zosima Mecasio

“Zosing, I’m sure you have learnt a lot, not maybe of religion but of life.” Jane Russel, young, single mother of a twin, and a catechist said to me one day before I left the parish in Britain. It was a very profound statement, indeed.  I found differences in customs, traditions and practices as Catholics. I did not learn any new Catholic teaching but I encounter many points of growths in life.  I was enriched.

I had ahhhs, ohhhs and opps with shock or astonishment to see the differences in the ways we do things, in the way we think and in our values and priorities.  Allow me to share some of those experiences.

October, 1983, I and my companion Elena arrived at Heathrow airport, London. Outside the airport in the early morning the beautiful sun was shining.  It was a bright sunny morning but I was met with a cold breeze.  I was shivering in spite of the coat on me. Fr. Sean McGrath met us at the airport and upon arriving Hampstead Columban House we were suggested to have a rest. I remember I said I am alright. I am not sleepy. Guess what? I slept soundly like a log straight until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I think we were woken up for lunch at one in the afternoon.  Lunch at 1 o’clock!!  My orientation is lunch at 12:00 noon.

What about this. Late Fr. Paul Cooney, in charge to look after our needs, suggested buying a coat at a Second Hand shop somewhere in Manila. So, we went and I bought a coat I liked best. I was comfortable with it. Only to discover that the coat did not have enough air space after the thermal vest, the long sleeve blouse, the cardigan or pull over on me before the coat. Remember I have to put on gloves, scarf and hat.  I was completely wrapped and I felt so tight and uncomfortable with my breathing. I realized then that in clothing and even with shoes get the next to your size to keep properly warm and comfortable.

Here a difference in language terms. My first experience was in MUFRU (Multi-Faith Resource Unit) where I worked. MUFRU was an office set up at Selly Oak College, Birmingham for dialogue of the six major religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikh and Jain. My work was this and that and little bits and pieces. One day Yvonne, the secretary asked,” Zosing do you have the rubber?” I replied, no, sorry. Mid- morning, she asked me again. “Zosing do you have the rubber?”  No, Yvonne, I do not have it. I said. After lunch she asked the same question. “Zosing do you have the rubber?” This time I asked, what do you mean by rubber Yvonne? She said with patience it is the thing use to rub mistakes in typing. Embarrassed, I immediately returned to her the eraser.  The fact was I had it since morning. I borrowed it from her. To me, it was eraser – to her it was rubber.

Now, how do we celebrate special occasions like christening or baptism? Listen to this. I was invited to a christening of the third child of the family I stayed with for three months in the parish. I was expecting   many visitors invited. To my surprise only three couples with one or two children with them were there and I, who went empty handed. It was embarrassing. The three couples brought in a big platter each. The host prepared the drinks only.  It was a quiet and private celebration.

December 2009, Mindanao:  Zosing (middle) with participants of "come and see" 
This one, we were taught and brought up to be speck and span.  When we go out we comb our hair at least. We just cannot go out of the house immediately without looking at the mirror. This was what happened to me.  I was with a group of families on holidays. The holidays were organized yearly for families in the parish who cannot afford for a holiday. We were already in holiday place and we planned for our meals. Two of us were asked to do the marketing. Of course, I hurriedly went to the room to fix my hair and change my top. My companion was calling me from downstairs to hurry me up. She was ready with what she wore and with how she looked.

And, my unforgettable and touching experience of kindness. I was walking on the road in heavy rain and strong winds. At one stage my umbrella was blown into the road.  Seeing the oncoming taxi I thought that would be the end of my umbrella. Thanks to the kind taxi driver he slowed down and my umbrella rolled over to the other side of the road.  Then a kind woman picked it up and held it for me.

These are some of the many eye openers I met in my lay missionary years. It was a full scholarship in the school of life being sent as a lay missionary from the East to the West. It was not only a Masters Degree but a Doctorate.  To this thank you very much to the Columban Lay Mission Program of the Missionary Society of St. Columban.

The author was a lay missionary with the Missionary Society of St. Columban. She, together with two other companions, was sent to Britain in 1983.  From 2008 until 2010, she worked with the Columban Lay Missionaries - Philippines as vocations animator for Mindanao area. She has retired since.   

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