50 Years Ago When I Was A Little Girl
By Sr. Evangeline Canag, FSP
I am sending you...
From far away Rome, I heard John Paul II’s impassioned commissioning of the young people during the 10th World Youth Day in Manila: “To each one of you Christ says: “I am sending you....’ These words are addresses to you. The Church addresses them to all young people around the world today, though they are being addressed especially of the Philippines and to the young people of China, of Japan, Korea and Vietnam....”
A far away memory...
The Holy Father’s charismatic words awakened something in my memory. I was nine years old then when I heard something like that, not quite, but similar, it happened this way: While in the elementary school, my friends and I used to pass the convento every time we got to school. We would make a short visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, go up the convento to see the “friendly, big white priest” of the Mill Hill Missionaries and ask for stampitas to augment our collection. The priest used to be in two’s, the parish priest and his coadjutor. The younger priest was handsome buy we liked the older one better because he looks like a doting “lolo.”
On one of those days three of us went up the convento only to find the “lolo” sick. The priests’ rooms were always open and we kids could go in and out ad we wanted. There he was, lying weakly on his bunk. Not in a mood to talk and joke as he used to do. “I am sick,” he said, “Go to Father...”(the young Coadjutor). We found the young Father sitting at his working table. “Come, come,” he said. “I’ll show you something.” Actually he was already looking at it. A picture of a beautiful lady flanked by three boys, hand some as our assistant priest. Pointing to the lady, he said, “This is my mother”. Then he threw a nostalgia look into the far horizon even as he gathered the three pf us into his embrace. Silence. We playful kids joined respectfully his embrace. I looked up at his eyes and saw nostalgia but not sadness. Then it happened: from the depth of my being, came a voice, a whisper. “Someday, I will be a missionary!”
Years have passed since the. Right now. I am in Rome, serving as a general councilor in the congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul. I would have liked to be a missionary stationed in the frontier, in Africa, or in Papua New Guinea perhaps, proclaiming the Gospel with the means of social communications. But obedience puts me here in Rome and this is my mission land. What did I understand then in the office of the convento of the little town of Leon, Iloilo? At 9 years old I could not have verbalized it. But now I can put it this way: That handsome young priest left his beloved family in Holland and perhaps comfortable life in order to proclaim Christ, among us, poor people, sharing our life, our problems and our joys. Why? There must be something greater that the goods of this world. Something more beautiful, eternal and true. I heard an implicit appeal to go and preach the Gospel. And my heart answered “YES!” Since then, every day I gathered fragments of that something great beautiful and true, And my love and veneration for missionaries grows more than ever because they continue to lay down their life for the Gospel. While I write this, no news has been had for the 7 Saverian Sisters captured by the guerillas in Sierra Leone. Thank you, God, for having given me the courage to say YES. Thank you Holy Spirit, for having inspired the Holy Father to hurl the challenge to our youth “to confess Jesus Christ”, assign, Christ says: “Come with me into the ‘Third Millennium’, to save the world!... ‘You can be certain that he will not let your down: He will be with you always!”