My Columban Experience
By Annabelle "Belay" Gonzaga-Esguerra, RP13 - Pakistan
Before joining the Columbans in 2003, I was the school physician of a private elementary school here in Baguio City. I have just passed the Medical Boards about one and a half years prior. I was already a member of the campus ministry at our school, a Catholic charismatic group where I was a member of the youth group, choir and prayer ministry group.
My most significant Columban experience was when I was introduced into the lay missionary life and I was inspired by the countless men and women who are selfless enough to share themselves in mission, to take care of the Catholic faithful outside the country.
One of the Columbans who inspired me the most was Finbar Maxwell. He is one of the Columban fathers who took care of us in Pakistan. His simplicity and sincerity and his jolly disposition was beyond compare.
The Columban experience changed me in a way that I believe I have been enriched with having been a part of the family, and until now, with the countless communications that we are having, even if we're far apart, the hands of God is never too far to reach us.
If I haven't been a lay missionary then, I would probably become a pulmonologist or a cardiologist then since that is what I have wanted since med school. When I went home after the mission, since I wanted to start residency right away and Internal medicine was already filled up and I couldn't wait for months for it to re-open so I took what was the only available during that time which is Anesthesiology, so that is what I have committed myself to do.
|Belay, in pink, at the height of covid-19 pandemic|
If haven't been a lay missionary then, I would not have met my husband whom I have met during our Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the Makati Medical Center as a lay missionary. I would have missed the opportunity to be with a loving, faithful and responsible man who is continually bringing our children and our entire family to Christ.
God has journeyed with me throughout my life even after I left the missions. I have experienced countless struggles since--with love and life, with the difficult people that I have encountered and worked with in the hospital, my diagnosis of myoma and bleeding for months, diagnosis of not being able to have children but then eventually God gave us kids, failing the specialty boards but then eventually passing succeeding examinations, work-related issues, until finally the burn-out that I have experienced this pandemic and with the management that we have had in the hospital and in our department. In all of these God was and is always with our family, we have even submitted our entire family for family missions with the Columbans but since we're still in pandemic, none can be done. But we are relying on the goodness of the Lord. We think that He is guiding us to the missions as a family but we don't know what God really wants for us right now since everything is at standstill. So we will wait patiently for whatever unfolds in God's time.