Misyon Online - November-December 2012

Pulong ng Editor




I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sr Rhea Lei quotes American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1802 – 1887). One of his poems, Christmas Bells, has become a very popular Christmas carol in the USA, with different musical settings. Here is one of them.




Christmas with Jesús

By Fr Alo Connaughton

The author is one of two brothers who are Columbans. His older brother Father Sean worked in the Philippines for many years, in Zambales and Manila. Father Alo spent his early years as a priest in Chile.

The first thing I need to clarify is that the Jesús I’m talking about is from Madrid and his family names are Galeote Tormo; and of course his name is pronounced ‘heSUS’. He is a doctor who got his degrees in medicine from the University of Salamanca; and he is a Franciscan priest. He has 17 years of medical practice in rural Bolivia behind him, seven of those as a hospital director.

Were they difficult years? He remembers especially the tension involved in carrying out late-night emergency caesarean sections with the help of two local assistants he had trained and using power from a gasoline generator. In all these cases, day or night, he had to do everything himself, including anesthetics.

In the remote area where he worked these were matters of life or death; no other help was available. When help did become available and Bolivia began to supply its own doctors and medical staff to rural areas Father Jesús decided to respond to a request by the Franciscan superiors for volunteers for Thailand.




Following in Father Pat’s footsteps

By Siobhan McCaffrey

Fr Pat McCaffrey, from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, died suddenly in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. He had served first as a Columban missionary in Fiji before joining the pioneering group of Columbans that went to Pakistan in 1979. Later he spent some years in Britain, based in Bradford, where there are many people of Pakistani origin. He was involved with Muslims there and celebrated Mass regularly with Catholic Pakistanis. He returned to Fiji but was to spend his late years in Pakistan. Here his niece writes about her visit, with her brother Niall. This article was published in The Far East, the Columban magazine in Australia and New Zealand.

My uncle, Columban missionary Fr Patrick (Pat) McCaffrey, died in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. His sudden and untimely death meant that no family members from home in Ireland were able to attend his funeral. My brother Niall and I therefore decided to make a pilgrimage to Pakistan over Christmas 2010 to follow in our Uncle Pat’s footsteps.

We arrived at Karachi airport in the early hours of 19 December 2011 and were met by Columban Fr Tomás King. He was to be our host, driver, guide and interpreter, along with Annette Menzes, a good friend of Father Pat’s. We then travelled to the parish of Matli in the Sindh Province where Father Pat had ministered from 1984 to 1994. It was here that he had initiated a housing scheme for parishioners from outlying areas to build their homes on church land in the town. We visited many of these homes that ranged from sturdy brick constructions to basic one-room mud huts.



Joy in Service

By Vissia Hernandez

The Missionaries of Charity is a Catholic religious congregation founded in 1950 by an Albanian-born, Indian Catholic nun who dedicated her life ministering to ‘the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for’ from the slums of Kolkata, India, to missions across six continents. In 2003, she was beaitified by Pope John Paul II as Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In addition to the religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow, to give ‘wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor’.

I was a bit hesitant and concerned as I began my interview with Sister Ligaya MC in the Missionaries of Charity’s Formation House in Tayuman St, Tondo, Manila. But an hour later, I came away blessed from a most inspiring encounter.

In June 1990, a car accident in Pakistan left the newly professed missionary from Davao severely brain-damaged. That Sister Ligaya miraculously survived and continues to faithfully and (like her name, the Tagalog for ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’) joyfully serve the poor, the sick and the dying, are testaments to the Lord’s Divine Mercy and the industrial-strength faith and devotion of her MC Sisters and their beloved foundress.

In her blue-edged, white sari, Sister Ligaya serenely blends with almost a hundred similarly-swathed Sisters and postulants in the Formation House. But the moment she speaks, the extent of her 22-year old injuries becomes painfully evident. Every strangled word is accompanied by spasms, involuntary jerky movements and urgent gasps for air. I apologized and wanted to call off our interview immediately, but she assured me she was fine and wished to go on. And so for an hour, we conducted our interview: partly in guttural whispers, partly in jerky mime, and several times, with Sister Ligaya patiently writing down her answers in my notebook. This is her story.




The Emptiness Within

By Sr Rhea Lei Y. Tolibas TC

Life has its own amazing and extraordinary story, from the day we’re born until the day when we are gone but as Longfellow’s poem goes, ‘the grave is not its goal’.

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life has an innate search for meaning, satisfaction, and for true happiness. This is the emptiness within that most of us are perhaps unaware of in a way that we are being misled to look for these in worldly desires and satisfactions such as material wealth, power, lust and possessions. But behind all these is the deep yearning for God.

When I was a child, simple things could make me happy: when my father came home from work with something for me, when my mother bought me a new dress, when my sisters gave me a candy. These brought a simple, temporary happiness. I never knew what happiness could really mean. I was thinking true happiness is only for those who are well off, who never suffer. I grew up in a poor family. I hated poverty, since it made us suffer, made my mother cry often, made my parents sacrifice so much. As children we never knew how to play as other children did. We needed to work hard and to sacrifice even if sometimes we could play.

Few of us like to suffer. We see suffering as pain, with no happiness or satisfaction. We don’t know how to embrace it with joy.




Vocation ‘re-Creation’

By Mary Joy Rile

I was awakened one morning in awe by a flashback of my childhood dream of becoming an astronomer. I loved the study of the planets, the universe, and all heavenly bodies in my elementary years. Then followed my recollection of Fr Vinnie’s sharing the day before on the birth of the universe with the Big Bang Theory, leading to our own births. In a sense we all have the same birth through the call of God when he declared Jesus to be the Savior of the world. Was the universe truly working on births and dates and on how we all started to live in it?

We’re used to reading vocation stories where people tell us how the Call started, what the manifestations were and how they live the Call. But Anne Gubuan, the assistant editor, and I were to see vocation from a different perspective when we went to visit Fr Vincent Busch in Ozamiz City. The encounter started with corn being popped, coffee being brewed and a few jokes. It then went on to Fr Vinnie’s many stories, each seemingly different from the others but all coming together to weave a cohesive web.

Fr Vinnie shared that creation is a gift from God and mission is about expanding your point of view to include all creatures. He portrayed this on the recently released Christmas cards made by Subanen Crafts. His book Ang Damgo sa Mindanao (The Dream of Mindanao) with few words but many illustrations expresses the great concern of Mindanao. How he interconnected each painting in the book was very interesting.

I was glad to learn as well of his Creation Mandala. Drawn in abstract style, the symbols intrigued me because of the meaning behind every piece. I was to know from Fr Vinnie that a circle is a mandala in itself! The designs and his poetry, the meaning behind each painting and even the size of a mandala fitting the drawing were striking. He showed us his first mandala though when he created it he didn’t know the Sanskrit word, which means ‘circle’.




Woman - behold thy Son

By Gloria Greganda

The author, from Calamba, Laguna, returned home this year after having worked for 25 years in Hong Kong. This article first appeared in the Mabuhay section of Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly of the Diocese of Hong Kong.

I am always struck by the thought of what Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced as she watched her Son being crucified. I always imagine her pain. Her anguish over her Son’s suffering must be really incomparable.

This reminds me of when my daughter gave birth. As I watched her suffer the labor pains, I wanted to take away her pain and bear it myself, so she would not suffer—how much more Mary, whose Son died before her very eyes. Truly, a mother’s endurance is worth admiring.

In the world we live in, many stories have come and gone, stories about mother and child, some very touching and moving, some painful and some inspiring.

As migrant mothers, we too have our share of ups and downs whether in work or in personal life.

Bangon Cagayan

By Erl Dylan J. Tabaco

The author, a Columban seminarian, writes about the disaster that hit his native Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, last December. He has appeared a number of times in Misyon, most recently in the January-February 2012 issue, Revitalizing the Church: Bringing the Gospel to the Deaf.

While on my way to the airport for my afternoon flight back to Manila, I saw a big streamer with the words ‘Bangon Cagayan’ (‘Arise Cagayan’). This mirrored the sad faces of many in Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) where severe tropical storm Sendong (international name: ‘Washi’) had struck a number of barangays (administrative districts) in the city during the night of 16-17 December last year. It took the lives of hundreds of people and caused much damage to infrastructures and property.

On the other hand, the streamer encouraged people to remember that there is always hope amidst despair. I recalled my own experience that night. In my 25 years I had never experienced that kind of catastrophe. It was beyond my imagination.






November – December 2012


May the God of Peace make you holy and bring you to perfection. May you be completely blameless, in spirit, soul and body, till the coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ~

The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8): the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s glorious return.

~ PORTA FIDEI, Apostolic Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI for the Indiction of the Year of Faith ~
German stamp in honor of Pope Benedict XVI 2007


It is an error to isolate oneself from men . . . If God does not call one to solitude, one must live with God in the multitude, make him known there and make him loved.
~ Raissa Maritain, Poet and Contemplative (1883 – 1960) ~

Video on Jacques and Raissa Maritain