Vocation Story of Marea Lyn Almirañez

by Marea Lyn Almirañez, Columban Lay Missionary

Columban Lay Missionaries's photo.My vocation story started in my early childhood years when I met Jesus (The Eye) hanging on our bed room wall. Every night my parents sat in front of the image praying to Him for thanksgiving and asking for guidance and good health. They said that Jesus was called “The Eye” because He knows everything and sees everything. This was the first catechesis I got from my parents. I remembered one night I looked at him and silently asked Him, “Who are you? Why are you always looking at me?” 

My parents are both pious. They helped me to know God by telling us stories from the Bible. My father was a painter in San Sebastian College – Recoletos Manila. During his break time, he usually made canvas of Jesus and Mary and put these images on the walls of our house. I saw the image of Jesus not only in our bedroom but also in other corners of our house. Eventually, He became my invisible friend.

Time passed. I went to school, met people and made friends. I started to talk to Him just like my parents did every night. Every time He looked at me, I felt He was inviting me to talk to Him. I talked to Him when I was happy, sad, frustrated or disappointed. Also, I shared my secrets with Him because He would not tell these to others. This conversation became my habit.

San Sebastian Chapel, Manila, April 29, 2016: Parents of Marea

I became a church goer. Every time I saw young men serving at the altar during Mass, I had a desire to be like them. But they didn’t accept women as altar servers then. When I entered college in San Sebastian College – Recoletos Manila, I saw some students (men and women) were active servers in our chapel. The desire of serving Him was intensified. So I joined Campus Peer Minister, the extension arm of the Campus Ministry Office. I became active and enjoyed serving in the Mass as well as assisting in recollections and retreats. I found joy in doing this kind of service.

Ate Fe, staff in the Campus Ministry Office at that time asked me what my plan was after graduation. I told her that I wanted to be a campus minister just like her because I enjoyed doing this work. She encouraged me to apply at Mother of Life Center, a graduate school for professional catechists. After a series of examinations, I was accepted and underwent a live-in formation. At Mother of Life, I learned many things and was formed to be a catechist. This was my first job. I was invited to teach in two parochial schools in Pasig. This was difficult for me because I had no experience in teaching. I realized that serving God was not always happy and joyful like what I experienced during my college years. There are struggles and difficulties involved in serving and that’s the reality I have learned and needed to accept. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being with my co-catechists. Later, I resigned and worked as library assistant at Mother of Life. I stayed there for two years and later accepted the job as office support staff in San Beda College Benedictine Foundation, Inc. (SBCBEFI). I stayed in the foundation for two months and transferred to the Campus Ministry Office of San Beda College (SBC). I enjoyed being with my co-workers in the Campus Ministry as well as other workers in San Beda College. Also, I enjoyed facilitating retreats and recollections.

"The Eye"
Monaliza Esteban, my classmate in Mother of Life was on the Orientation Program of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM) during my second year in SBC. She invited me to apply to the CLM but I declined her invitation. I thought that time that I was already doing mission in my own country. I stayed in the Campus Ministry for two years and went to Singapore to help my sister. After only two months, I came back home to the Philippines. I became a resource speaker in retreats and recollections in the Campus Ministry of San Beda College. At the same time, I was still an active volunteer facilitating retreats and recollections in San Sebastian College. After a year, I accepted the job in San Beda College Alabang as Pastoral Associate in Catholic Benedictine Formation Office (CBFO). There I got to know Violeta “ate Violy” Villaraiz, a Mother of Life graduate and a returned Columban Lay Missionary from Korea. She became my close friend and big sister in that school. Indeed, I was happy to be a Pastoral Associate but I felt something missing. Then, ate Violy encouraged me to apply to the CLM. 

 At first, I was hesitant to apply to the CLM because I was afraid to be a missionary. For me, it is a very challenging call and I felt I was not fit to be a missionary. Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge because it was the second time I was invited to join the CLM. I attended the “Come and See” and later the accompaniment program until I took a series of tests and had my interview with the Admission Board. I was accepted and underwent the CLM Orientation Program. 

CPE Graduation, December 2015, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Quezon City
During my Orientation Program, I learned many things. It quenched my thirst in learning new things. I discovered a lot about myself (during pastoral work, Clinical Pastoral Education, group processing, accompaniment and recollection/retreat), social issues and mission (during studies and exposures in Columban Ministries particularly in Negros and Mindanao Exposure) which I didn’t experience before. These were not easy experiences but I felt joy in this kind of call. Here I found satisfaction in life. The experiences I encountered were meaningful and fruitful. I found myself renewed and my relationship with God deepened in a different level. Thanks to Jesus for guiding me in my journey. He knows everything and sees everything. He really knows me. He led me to the path where I found my heart’s desires. He gave me some people who helped me to know myself, life and my vocation. I am happy to be a Columban Lay Missionary and I want to share these blessings I’ve received through mission and become a living witness of God’s love.

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