Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Beginning

by Juliet Bacamante

Life After Columban Lay Mission…is a Time for New Beginning

Anything that I begin is always difficult.  And life after Columban was more difficult.  It is difficult because I said goodbye to Korea with a heavy heart.  It was not easy to say goodbye to the ministry that I love to do.  There was a feeling of fulfillment when it comes to mission work, however the good feeling was clouded by confusion, chaos, anger; I was burnout, I was in crisis.
A Time to Stop…A Stopover with my Family
I did not know what to do; the best thing is to do nothing.  I went home to Digos, Davao del Sur.
I felt the need of having more space.  So I built my dream house; my retirement house.  Managing the construction of my small house, right in front of my parent’s house was a good break and a good diversion. 
It was funny, as soon as I moved to my home; my 92 year old father followed me.  He occupied the guest room without my invitation.  I thought he would last for a week because we disagree in most of things but I was wrong; he would go back to his house everyday for a visit.  He volunteered to be the care taker of my house while I am away.  He lived in my house until his last breath (two months before his 97th birthday).  Now I am thankful to my father for his initiative to spend time with me before he joined my mother in heaven. 
A Time to Renew
Few months of rest at home were enough.  I applied at East Asian Pastoral Institute, EAPI, in Manila.  I was lucky to be accepted and granted a scholarship.  I had been very thankful for the all out support of EAPI.  I maximized the chance, I took all the courses. I even repeated some of my favorite modules.
As soon as I finished my MA degree I was asked to work as an assistant to the coordinators of Sabbatical and MA program for six months; it was like an extension of my good time at EAPI and at the same time it was a good work experience.
My three years and a half at EAPI was a time for healing, a time for reflection, a time for updating,  a time for renewal. 
A Time to be in Crossroads
After the renewal at EAPI, I was ready to go back to mission.  I was open to any places; I was ready to go anywhere.
There were two possibilities that I prioritized.  One is to work in our diocese in Digos.  I talked with our bishop and he mentioned possible works that I can do.  The second possibility is to go back to Korea.  Two months before I finished at EAPI a sister introduced me to a diocesan priest who was looking for a Filipino staff to work in a migrant center in the southern part of Korea.
After prayer and discernment, it looked like local mission can be done in the future, so I chose to go back to Korea.  I got some big question marks from my friends for my decision.  “Why Korea? Are you crazy to go to mission on your own?” they commented.  My answer was “why not?”
A Time to be Back on Foreign Mission (part I)
I got one year missionary visa.  The Korean priest sent a returned ticket.  The day before my flight I got a call informing that the migrant center needs me only for three months, during the transition period: the migrant center will be turned over to a certain religious congregation. 
I had no regret taking the risk.  It turned out good.  The three months was extended for another month, then another month… I worked in that migrant center for nine months.  They gave me good accommodation and a just salary as a missionary worker, plus bonuses: bonus 1. A returned ticket and financial assistance for the funeral of my father.  bonus 2.  They gave me time to find mission work in Korea. bonus 3.  Financial assistance to start working in another place.
A Time to be Back on Foreign Mission (part II)
I got an e-mail from an EAPI alumnus who has been working in Japan.  She informed me that a migrant center in Tokyo needs a Filipina staff.  I did not respond to her e-mail because I just presented myself to work as a volunteer in a migrant center in Seoul.  I already made a verbal arrangement with the Filipino in-charge.  Unluckily, after six months I found myself in a wrong place, unluckily, the slot in Tokyo was already taken.  It looked like Tokyo was not for me. So, I prepared to go back to the Philippines.
A Time to be Back on Foreign Mission (part III)
A redemptorist priest suggested to delay my decision to go home.  He introduced me to a diocesan Korean priest who wanted to make a program for the Filipinas in his parish but he did not have time to do it.  To make the story short he invited me to work in his parish.
Working in a parish is a new venture.  It is full of uncertainties; no contract, no agreement, no policies and guidelines, no salary…the parishioners provide for my everyday needs….
Juliet (R) with Bishop Vincencio Ri of Jeonju Diocese and leaders of the Filipino Community 
My role as a missionary in this parish is to help build Basic Christian Community, BEC.  Majority of the BEC members are the Filipina immigrants who are married to Korean farmers.  The Filipino OFW’s are also active members of the BEC.  Being with them as they build their community is a privilege.  Being with them in their community and personal journey is a privilege: it is a privilege to listen to their stories; to be with them in their joys and especially in the lowest moments of their life’s journey in the foreign land. 
Another interesting role is to give the homily (reflection) when the Korean priest says the English mass to the Filipino community.  He is the second Korean priest who is open and trustful to give a female lay person like me, the chance to stand and speak in the pulpit to give homily. (The first one was the one who invited me to come back to Korea –part I.)
I would like to mention my part time job.  A job that supplies my personal allowance, I called it ‘English ministry’.  The English subject that I hated as a student became my point of entry to the Korean people and culture.  I teach few hours a week to all levels: from kinder garten to senior citizen (adult education in a social welfare center), Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, from all walk of life.  Now English is fun: every day I got dozens of hugs from the small angels, teaching with kids is therapeutic.  I teach free talking class with the adults.  We talk about life experiences and cultures, we sometimes talk about faith; it is more of a sharing.  Through English, I encountered good Korean people.  Through English I could say I am immersed with the Korean people and culture.   
Korea, 2012, at the entrance of Nejangsan Mountain
The countless enriching mission experiences in this small parish keep me going.  Yes there are many challenges: I cannot have all that I want.  I still have prayers not answered, and it is not easy to be alone in facing difficulties, and yet, at this moment I am at peace, happy and thankful for this privilege to participate in the Mission – in my own little ways.  I believe that working in Korea as a missionary is a blessing and a calling.
More than two years had passed, I am still here in the small parish in Korea, the priest who invited me has already moved to another place.  Lots of new changes in the parish now: new priest, new sisters, new pastoral council… I do not know what lies ahead… I have to trust… there is time for everything…
Juliet Bacamante, a teacher by profession,  was a Columban Lay Missionary  assigned to Korea between 1998 and 2004 .  She worked there primarily with Filipino and other migrant workers. 

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