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|Missionary Sisters of St Columban|
In the May-June 2007 we published an article by two young Filipino CICM priests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fr Andrew Labatoria from Zarraga, Iloilo, and Fr Edito Casipong of Victorias City, Negros occidental. They and all the CICM missionaries in Haiti are safe, though their Provincial House was destroyed by the 7.0 earthquake that devasted the country on 12 January.
We republish the article here.
We also carry a 'backgrounder' on the history of Haiti by Columban Father Bobby Gilmore in Misyononline Forum.
PULONG NG EDITOR
The first book I ever read, when I was 7, was Treasure Island. A map guided Jim Hawkins and his friends to the hidden treasure. God drew a map with clues that guided me to discover the treasure of my vocation during my teenage years.
The first clue was Sister Gemma in my second year in kindergarten. She spoke about the need to support missionaries and asked us to speak to our parents. My classmates brought in the equivalent of a peso but mine gave me the equivalent of five, a lot of money for them as my father worked as a carpenter on a construction site. Sister Gemma gave me a little calendar with a picture of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of Missionaries. I didn’t know at the time that the saint would influence me greatly years after my ordination, even though I still don’t like the name she gave herself, “the Little Flower.”
I worked as a Columban missionary in Japan for thirty years. My first parish was a small one in a place called Shingu. Each Sunday when I looked down at my small congregation and began to preach I could see one lady up front who looked up with great expectations in her eyes, waiting for my words...Then as I went on and on...and on, I noticed a body change. She began to list to one side, like a sinking ship and I noticed both her eyes were closed. Then there was Mrs Okada whom I had baptised as an adult. She had a note book and was busy writing down every word I uttered. Then there was this big man in the very last seat who when the Gospel was read, promptly sat down, put his two hands on the seat in front of him and went to sleep even before the sermon began!
No matter how well life is going, or how difficult things are, there is always a certainty that changes are possible. In my own belief, I know that the one constant is that God is here. There are many churches, books, magazines and speakers that try to help us see that God is present in our lives. Practices and rituals help to remind us of God's presence. Daily prayer, church on Sundays, and a walk through nature is a means that help us to grow in our appreciation of God's presence in our lives.
Being aware of God's presence is only part of it. Our communications and interactions with God, remain important. In scripture, it is very common to hear of the people asking God for a blessing, either for themselves or for the people they love. God's blessing is a gift.
Since 1929 Columban priests have served the people of Our Lady of Remedies parish in Malate, Manila. This was the first Columban parish established in the Philippines and it remains in their care today. Malate is thus, the ‘oldest parish’ in the Columban world.
Today, 25,000 people live within the parish boundaries; 15,000 of these are the ‘urban poor’ who live in the squatter slums, which abound in the areas behind the main streets of the city. Here narrow lanes and alleyways snake through overcrowded dwellings. Here people live cheek by jowl and every inch of space is used. Water comes only from a pump in the narrow alley or from a hose, perhaps once a day. Sanitation is scarce and people live mainly on the street. Here tuberculosis, chest infections and malnutrition are rife.
Year 2007: The year I wrote ‘Letter to My Brother Kokong’ that was published in Misyon in November-December that year. I had no idea what could be next; all I knew was that the story had never really ended. The letter only concluded with a sad, haunting plea asking my brother to come back.
Being used to God acting rather slowly and thoroughly when it comes to a big ‘request’, I found that the year 2008 would unexpectedly bring an answer and end the ‘fight’. We felt God was rather swift with His answers. But how can anything go wrong with God? We felt exalted and at the same time humbled by His divine justice.
And so this time my article is no longer addressed to my brother, but outside.