By Sr Angela McKeever SSC

A few days before Christmas I went to visit the women prisoners in the local jail. Usually there are 25 or more in the punishment cells but, possibly because of the season, only seven were incarcerated that particular day. The charges against them are mostly of drug and alcohol abuse, and fighting. Their faces are familiar to me and most of them responded to my greeting.

Bargaining With Faith

Columban Father Saenz is from the USA. He did some of his studies in Manila and has contributed to these pages on a number of occasions before. Misyon’s editorial office is in Bacolod City where the cathedral is dedicated to San Sebastian, patron of the diocese.

In 1995, while on my First Mission Assignment as a seminarian, I was assigned to San Sebastian parish, Puerto Saavedra, in southern Chile. According to history, San Sebastian was a lay martyr in the early 4th century. He was a Roman military officer who became a Christian and refused to declare the Emperor Diocletian as divine, becoming an early ‘conscientious objector’. Sebastian was sentenced to death, tied to a tree and shot with several arrows. In Puerto Saavedra there is a wooden carving of his image, brought to Puerto Saavedra some 100 years ago by Italian Capuchins, depicting this death. There a great devotion grew and on San Sebastian’s feast day, 20 January, thousands of pilgrims come to celebrate and pay their ‘mandas’.

Why I Am A Columban

By Fr Chris Saenz SSC

Father Chris Saenz is based in Chile and has appeared in these pages before.

He spent part of his formation as a seminarian in the Philippines.

Several times I have recounted my vocational story on ‘how’ I became a Columban.  Now I would like to share ‘why’ I am a Columban. I was ordained a Columban missionary priest in 2000.  Since than there have been many experiences that invite a reflection on the ‘why’ but I will share one concrete experience:  September 11, 2001, as a Columban priest from the United States living in Chile, my mission.

There is ‘the United States’ September 11’ and there is ‘Chile’s September 11’.  On September 11, 1973, the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.  Pinochet had the backing of the US government.  Thus, September 11 provokes great tensions between pro-Pinochet and anti-Pinochet people.  Often there are protests and clashes in the streets.  However, in 2001 it was a quiet day as the Chilean people mourned for the victims in the United States.

On The Road To Conversion

By Sister Marivic P. Ching SGBP

Sister Marivic is a member of the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd, known as the Pastorelle Sisters. This is one of five congregations founded by Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) . The congregation’s website, which has an English version, is

I Chose you’:  the words which best expressed my sentiments after struggling with God in my prayers in this new mission. When Sister Marita, Provincial Superior, told me to go to a mission in Chile, I had mixed emotions that were hard to articulate. To be the first Filipina Pastorella in Latin America, and particularly in Chile, in a community composed of Sisters from Italy, Brazil and Peru, was for me quite a challenge. With the grace of God, I agreed to be a member of the Chile-Peru Delegation. I remembered Abraham in his old age, called by God to go to a nation that he had never known or seen before, and, like him, I obeyed.

Inspired By St Bernadette

By Father Chris Saenz SSC

Father Saenz, who spent part of his formation in the Philippines and has written for Misyon before, is Vice Director of the Columbans in Chile and Rector of student formation there.

Father Chris on his ordination day

Q. How and when did you experience God calling you to the priesthood?

A. I first received my call to the priesthood when I was about 20 or 21. I was working for UPS and going to college part-time, studying engineering and computers. I had attended the US Merchant Marine Academy, but was expelled because of low grades. I hadn’t attended Mass since I was 14. I was living from one weekend to the next, looking for the next party and taking nothing seriously. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

Healing The Sins Of Evangelization

By Fr Chris Saenz SSC

Father Saenz, a Columban from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, was ordained in 2000. He had part of his formation in the Philippines.We are now observing the Year of the Eucharist. His article shows how a debate over the role of the Eucharist helps heal wounds caused by ‘the sword and the cross’ in Chile and Argentina.

Ever since childhood I was always taught that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, were the cornerstone of our Catholic faith. During my training as a priest, it was reinforced that the Eucharist is the center of our faith, the most sacred Catholic celebration. Jesus Christ’s body, broken and shared, brings healing to his people.

She Welcomed Me In Their Home

By Father Cireneo Matulac SSC

Father Cireneo is a recently ordained Columban priest.  He spent two years in Chile as part of his first missionary assignment.  Below he shares with us a story of a little girl he came to know in a barrio in Chile.

It was the beginning of fall in southern Chile.  I was visiting families I knew in Puerto Saavedra, especially those of the children I’d taught catechism a few months previously.  While walking from house to house in the barrio, I recognized this little girl of about seven from my catechism class.  She recognized me too and greeted me.  She welcomed me into her home, a small shack, which I hadn’t visited before.  It was fortunate that I came then because I was looking for shelter from the cold rain that was beginning to pour down.

At the center the fire was lit.  I sat in the corner trying to warm myself.  The cold wind entered through the gaps in the wooden wall.  There was no wooden floor.  The floor was of hardened soil.  In another room I saw a big bed in which, I reckoned, the whole family slept.

Life In The Cordillera Of Chile

By Sr Sally Oyzon SSC

Sibaya, 2, 658 meters above sea level, is a four-hour drive over lowland and mountain deserts from the city of Iquique in northern Chile. It is in one of four inland pueblos in which I ministered in the 1990s. A once thriving community, Sibaya is now sparsely populated. The 35 or so families are those with children up to Grade Six and older ones whose adult children have moved away. As in otherpueblos in the Chilean Cordilleras, the people are of Aymara descent.

Letter To My Torturer

During the dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile thousand of victims were tortured. But once Pinochet was arrested, Tito Tricot, a victim of the regime, got the courage to confront a man who had carried out Pinochet’s orders and he wrote him this letter.

I have often wondered what has happened to you. Maybe you take your grandchildren to the town square on Sunday to listen to the local band. Have you ever wondered how many children never got to know their parents because you killed them? I do not think so, because you were a raging animal when you beat me and forced me to take off my blindfold. “Don’t you ever forget my face,” you said, “because I am the one who is going to kill you.”