Rowena Dato Cuanico

Some Reflections on the Community at Mass

By Rowena D. Cuanico

The author, from Samar, is a former Columban Lay Missionary who served in Fiji and the Philippines. She is a frequent contributor to Misyon and other Columban magazines.


Weng with her Fijian friends

I often go to Mass at a chapel located in a shopping mall in an affluent part of town.

People are dressed nicely in fashionable clothes and shoes, carrying fashionable bags. They come mostly with their families. Some also come with their well-uniformed nannies and caregivers in tow.

Sometimes I would wonder why nannies and caregivers have to wear their uniforms. Is this to set their employers apart and bestow on them some status or prestige? Or is this to distinguish these nannies and caregivers from the rest of the congregation and assign them their place in society? I feel sad that even in a faith community where there should be ‘no more Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man’, you can still identify their positions in society simply because of the uniforms some have to wear. I can't help but wonder,  is this how far we still are from the Kingdom of God whose dawning we have come to celebrate?

Update from Columban Lay Missionaries

By Rowena D. Cuanico

There are always exciting happenings at the Columban Lay Missionaries – Philippines, reasons for us to celebrate, rejoice and give thanks.


L to R Sherryl Lou Capili, Nanise Mounga, Joan Yap

PH 19, comprised of Joan Yap (Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay), Sherryl Lou Capili (Silang, Cavite) and Reina Mosqueda (Los Baños, Laguna) have completed their nine-month orientation program. After their commissioning Masses in their home parishes (9 May, 1 May and 8 May respectively) they will go to Taiwan for three years, the first of which will be spent learning Mandarin. As PH 19 implies, Joan, She and Reins belong to the 19th group of Filipino Columban lay missionaries to be sent on overseas mission.

‘His First Love . . . And His Real Love’

By Rowena D. Cuanico

Fr Patrick McCaffrey was born in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in 1944 and ordained in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, on 20 December 1967. He went to Fiji in 1968 and moved to Pakistan when the Columbans opened a mission there in 1979. In 2000 he was transferred to Britain where he worked mainly with Muslims, some of them refugees from the Middle East, in Bradford. He also celebrated Mass regularly there with Pakistani Catholics. He moved back to Fiji and later was again assigned to Pakistan, where he died suddenly on 18 May this year.

Rowena Cuanico, from Samar, is a Columban Lay Missionary who worked in Fiji before taking up her present assignment as Coordinator of Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines.

Everyday Life With Muslims

By Rowena Cuanico

Since 1 June the author has been Lay Mission Coordinator  in the Philippines.

This Filipina grew up around Muslims, but only learned about the people and their faith as a Columban lay missionary.

As a child in the Philippines, there were about 30 Muslim families, mostly traders, who lived in my hometown. Two of these families were family friends, but I never had the courage to learn more about Islam and the lives of my Muslim neighbors.

I had uneasy feelings about Muslims, largely because of the ongoing conflict between Christians and Muslims on the island of Mindanao, the Philippines’ large southern island where about four million Muslims live.

A Renewed Community Of Prayer

By Rowena Dato Cuanico

Rowena ‘Weng’ Cuanico, from Northern Samar, has completed six years as a Columban lay missionary in Fiji and is renewing her commitment for another three years. She tells how a prayer group there comes back to life, thanks to moments of inspiration and a lot of hard work.

As a Columban lay missionary in Fiji, I worked for some time with the Indo-Fijian community in St Pius X Parish in Raiwaqa. I had spent two wonderful years in Holy Family Parish in Labasa working mostly with Hindi-speaking communities, so I was excited once again to accompany Hindi-speaking Catholics in Raiwaqa.


Fiji Archbishop Petero Mataca marked Doreen Lal with the sign of the cross during her rite of entry to the catechumenate
 during her baptism ceremony

How To Peel Carrots And Win Hearts

By Rowena Dato Cuanico

Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico, who has written in these pages before, is one of three lay missionaries from the Philippines currently in Fiji.


Rowena Dato Cuanico

After waiting for nearly eight months for our first mission assignment, I heaved a sigh of relief and excitement as the plane touched down at Nadi International Airport, Fiji, on 29 October 2000. ‘Lord, this is it,’ were the only words that I could muster and say to myself as everything that I wished, hoped and prayed for was finally becoming real. I hardly slept on the ten-hour flight from Seoul since during the night. I was awakened at least four times by the captain’s voice telling us to fasten our seatbelts because of turbulence. My drowsiness, fatigue and anxieties vanished quickly as I and five other lay missionaries from thePhilippines were greeted by the bright and glorious splendor of that Sunday morning and by the smiles of friendly faces. Perhaps, the big smile on Father Charlie Duster’s face and his warm handshake said it all in his Bula, Welcome to Fiji!

‘Hidden’ Women

By Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico

Rowena Dato Cuanico is a Columban Lay Missionary from the Philippines on her second term in Fiji.

When Beth Briones, another Columban lay missionary from the Philippines, and I arrived in Holy Family Parish, Labasa, on our first term, we spent our first six weeks at Holy Cross Catholic Community (Sector 11) in Naleba. This was to help us understand better the culture of the Indo-Fijians as well as improve our fluency in Fiji-Hindi. Being new, I felt very excited in getting to know the community. Since their names were foreign to me, remembering them and pronouncing them correctly became a challenge.

The First Time I Danced the Meke!

By Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico

The following articles are by two Columban lay missionaries who have lived in each other’s country. Rowena is a Filipino lay missionary in Fiji. Paulo was a Fijian lay missionary in the Philippines. Read on.

I love to dance. So, when I arrived in Fiji in October 2000 as a Columban lay missionary, I became fascinated with the meke, a traditional Fijian dance that tells the stories of ancient legends.