Arlenne B. Villahermosa

What is it to be a Columban Lay Missionary?

By Arlenne B. Villahermosa

CLM Arlenne Villahermosa in Myanmar

The author, who is currently the Coordinator of Columban Lay Missionaries – Philippines, has worked as a lay missionary in Korea and Myanmar. She is from Talisay City, Cebu. At their annual meeting last year the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines reflected on these three questions.

  1. What was it like to leave my family, culture, and country for the first time?
  2. What about my coming to a ‘new land?’
  3. As I respond to this calling of being a Columban lay missionary through my ministries, how has this calling been deepened over time?

Family.  Relatives.  Friends.  Relationships.  The familiar. A good job.  Security.  These were the sources of my joy before I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries in 2000 and at the same time the reasons why it was difficult to leave for mission.  Ironically, however, these have become the sources of my strength as well and the inspiration to continue.  The past has made the present become possible and meaningful.

Remembering the Columbans

By Arlenne B. Villahermosa

The author, a Columban lay missionary who has served in Korea and as coordinator in the Philippines, is from Talisay City, Cebu, and is now based in the Diocese of Banmaw in the Kachin State, northern Myanmar (Burma).

L to R: Sr. Ashwena, Arlenne, Sr. Mary and Columba

‘Because the Columbans love us . . .’ This was the reply of a Kachin woman to a Columban priest when asked about the elaborate celebrations in honor of the Columbans when there were other missionaries who came before them.

The people in Banmaw have never forgotten what it was like to be loved by them.  They have remembered well with gratitude in their hearts

This gratitude is shown in their prayers, in their stories and in the way they celebrate the feast of St Columban every year.  During my first experience of this in Banmaw in 2009, when it coincided with the thanksgiving for the harvest, I was struck by the simplicity and generosity of the people expressed in many ways.  I could only give a deep sigh of gratitude to God because all words fell short of what I personally experienced that day.  What could the Columbans have done?  Or was it the people - or something beyond them?

Call To Mission

By Arlenne Villahermosa

Arlenne, from Talisay City, Cebu, has worked as a Columban lay missionary in Korea after which she served a term as coordinator of our lay missionaries in the Philippines. She is now in Myanmar (Burma), a country with which the Columbans have had ties since 1936.

‘Arlenne’, with a prolonged hold on the second syllable, was the way people at home called me when I was a child in order for me to do something. And then it was followed by ‘Marika’ (Come here) if it was my mother who called or ‘Dali diri’ (Come here) if somebody else. I would answer immediately saying, ‘O,’ which meant ‘Yes’, and then went to the person who called me. 

Being an obedient child, I always followed what I was asked to do, sometimes willingly, and other times not so willingly. 

This was one of my earliest memories of being called as I am, by my name.

Witnessing To The Flame Within

Four Columban lay missionaries now in their third year in Korea share their reflections as they began their mission there.

Cristina B. Simpron

They say ‘You don’t have to be rich in order to give. All you have to do is to be good; the person who is good can always find something to give.’ When I remember these words, which became the inspiration of my vocation, I also remember other lay people working in the church. I have seen their dedication, the simplicity of their lives and I admire them very much. They are catechists and parish workers whom I have been privileged to help. I can say I have a passion for working with young people.  They have given me the capacity to learn many things about life and love. I believe in the capacity of young people to be agents of love, peace and transformation in society and the Church.