From the Editor

How do we live for Christ?

By Arlenne Villahermosa

At this present age and time, with the advancement in technology and social media, we ask ourselves, “How do we live for Christ?”

When the founders of the Missionary Society of St. Columban said YES to the call, they did not know where it would lead them yet, with faith, trust and love in their hearts, they sailed on, going beyond their fears and limits, responding to the needs of the people, and constantly being open to be lead to something new, some place new. They lived for Christ. So did the Columban Missionaries who have gone before us and many others who simply lived the Word in the silence of their hearts.

Arlenne at a feeding program for the Elderly, Korea

When I was in Korea for my first mission assignment, I met an elderly woman who later became a close friend of mine. She was living alone and had to depend on the generosity of others to survive. She always greeted me with a smile – one that would make a stranger feel at home and welcomed. One day when I was still new to the area, while climbing up the hill from a long, tiring day, she saw me from afar and with arms wide open met me half-way up the hill and gave me a big, warm embrace that lasted forever, without any word spoken. It felt so good. It uplifted my tired self. She welcomed a stranger (me), with open arms. I felt like I was being hugged by Jesus with her small loving arms. On another occasion, one winter morning when the temperature was below zero, I met the same person on the road. She was carrying some stuff. When she saw me, she called me and gave me two (2) beautiful winter clothes she had received from the bazaar. I was hesitant to take it and told her that she needed them more. She insisted that I take them saying, “I am from the place. You are new and you need it more.” From the little that she had, she freely and joyfully shared her blessings.

Arlenne with Kachin women preparing for a meal for St. Columban's Day celebration, Myanmar

In Myanmar, there is a village where people set aside a handful of rice grains each time before they cook. They save this in a container. Once a month, usually on a Sunday, the parishioners would gather in the Parish Hall bringing with them the grains of rice they had saved. These collections would be gathered together as one and re-packed to be given to those who were most in need. Whatever was left would be given to the Catechists who also depended largely on the generosity of the parishioners and the allowance they received from the parish. The parishioners knew how to share with others from whatever they had, building a caring community.

Columban Fathers Patrick Madden and Patrick Conneally with some teachers in Banmaw, Myanmar

In my encounters with people who knew the Columbans, the first thing they would share was how good the Columbans were as missionaries. The Columbans nurtured their faith, educated them, ate with them, visited their homes, played and prayed with them, stayed with them in their difficulties and accompanied them in their journey. The Columbans walked with them.

These were instances wherein I witnessed and experienced how people lived the Word they received - welcoming a stranger, sharing from their hearts with whatever they have, building a caring community and walking with them.

Columban Fr. Sean Martin at a coconut harvest, Philippines

We are called to respond to the challenges and needs of the present time, from what we have and where we are, inviting us to see the face of God in the people we meet each day, the poor, the victims of violence and those in dire situations. We are also invited to see the face of God in the opportunities that come our way, the gift of the present moment, the beauty around us…

In December 2017, Philippines had been ravaged by typhoons. Many families lost their loved ones. Their properties were destroyed, and family members were traumatized by the experience. The people and the places affected need our immediate caring response. We are called each day to make a difference.

We don’t have to wait for new year to make resolutions and start doing something we care about. Each day is a new day, a new opportunity for us to truly accept and appreciate who we are, what we have now and the world that we are living in. When we take this into heart, we will be able to respond in freedom, open up ourselves to possibilities and allow the Spirit to lead us to where she may want to take us. Then we will be able to follow the footsteps of those who have gone before us, who lived their lives for Christ.

Members of RP11, the 11th group of Filipino Columban lay missionaries, assigned to Korea, 2002-2005
L-R: (front) Cristina Simpron, Arlenne Villahermosa; (back) Necita Fetalvero and Cristina Camacho