What is it to be a Columban Lay Missionary?
By Arlenne B. Villahermosa
CLM Arlenne Villahermosa in Myanmar
The author, who is currently the Coordinator of Columban Lay Missionaries – Philippines, has worked as a lay missionary in Korea and Myanmar. She is from Talisay City, Cebu. At their annual meeting last year the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines reflected on these three questions.
- What was it like to leave my family, culture, and country for the first time?
- What about my coming to a ‘new land?’
- As I respond to this calling of being a Columban lay missionary through my ministries, how has this calling been deepened over time?
Family. Relatives. Friends. Relationships. The familiar. A good job. Security. These were the sources of my joy before I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries in 2000 and at the same time the reasons why it was difficult to leave for mission. Ironically, however, these have become the sources of my strength as well and the inspiration to continue. The past has made the present become possible and meaningful.
There was pain but there was also inner peace when I decided to leave for mission. It was difficult to leave my family, love ones and the life I was enjoying but there was a greater force, a peaceful joy that moved me to go with the Missionary Society of St Columban on cross-cultural mission as a lay missionary. The future was unknown and I had no idea what it would be like to live outside the confines of home. But there was a holding space – a space where I could be and allow my family to be, separate yet connected, allowing us more space to spread the love we have had through the years to others. It was time to spread the wings of love and joy to a bigger home. The same God who was with me continues to accompany me in the journey and stays with my family and loved ones wherever they may be.
Arlenne in Korea with an elderly woman
Experiences in Korea and Myanmar have made me realize even more the beauty of my own land, my family, friends and culture. However, these have also opened my eyes to more beauty in the differences between cultures and the diversity of life in the world. Learning three new languages, at different times, was both exciting and frustrating especially when I thought that I had progressed in my pronunciation only to find out that I wasn’t understood. But the kindness and compassion of the people humbled me and taught me to be more patient and forgiving. I don’t have to be perfect to be understood, I only have to love to be able to reach out and language will follow.
Arlenne on Pilgrimage, Mindanao, November 2013
When on mission overseas the temptation to compare different cultures and ways of doing things is strong and can bring more harm than help if not examined and used in a proper context. It took me some time to be able to appreciate ‘the otherness’ of others. But when I did, it felt like home. I was at home. My own family I grew up with taught me what it’s like to be at home. We are different from each other but amidst our differences we live, laugh, cry, argue, enjoy, accept each other and stay together. Mission has taught me that if I can acknowledge and accept the differences in other cultures and live with them in joy then I am at home in a bigger world. I feel one with others. I experience a bigger God and the vastness of His love.
Arlenne in Myanmar, Jubilee Celebration 2010
Thirteen years on mission have taught me that I am but a tiny part of the whole of creation. As Lynn Twist once said, ‘I don’t have a big role or a small role. I only have a role which I have to play.’ I am an extension of God’s love and I continue to be so with the role entrusted to me, as I also allow others to be God’s extension of love to me, to others and the whole
My Vocation Story
By Michael Javier
Michael left for Chile in May with the two other members of PH22, Lorna Cañete and Gilda Comayas for a three-year term as Columban Lay Missionaries.
When I was a child I liked to be involved in religious activities in our barangay, maybe because I saw that my grandparents were very active in the church. Some people and even priests asked me at times if I wanted to become a priest someday. My response was usually just a smile.
When I went to Cebu City for my college studies I joined and became an active member of Singles for Christ (SFC). I thought that that would be enough for me in serving my brothers and sisters in Christ but when I left Cebu and went to Taiwan to work, my faith and sense of service in the Church became stronger. I volunteered in the church. There were religious sisters working in the same parish who noticed my presence and asked if I wanted to become a priest. I told them that I was discerning. So they recommended a spiritual director to talk to and who could guide me in my discernment.
We talked and he explained to me that I needed to discern well to see if my calling was to the priesthood, to family life or to be a lay brother. I was very grateful for what he told me because it helped me a lot in my discernment.
In the long time that I was a volunteer in the parish I'd already met some Columban Missionaries but I do not have the time or courage to ask what their works were. All I knew was they were Columban priests. I did not know there were also Columban Lay Missionaries who worked with us in the Church.
Michael and his grandparents
When I learned that Beth Sabado from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, was one of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLMs) I found time to ask what their works were and how to apply to become one. When Beth was assigned in Hong Kong, I asked the same question of Joan Yap, from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, and she explained the process. So from that time on my mind told me that I would try to join CLM.
Then I left Taiwan because my contract had been completed and went back to Philippines. I wanted to return to Taiwan but my placement agency did not allow me due to reasons beyond my control. So I decided to work in Bohol as a customer representative for a local brand of wine. But I worked there only one month and a half because I kept thinking that this was not the life I wanted. So I contacted the CLM vocations and they welcomed me in their accompaniment program.
Then I applied and was accepted in the orientation program. During this I learned a lot about mission, social issues and knowing myself more and learned some of the works of the Columban Missionaries. Now I am ready to bring what I learned and my whole self to mission and become a living witness of God's love and mercy.
Two young women began their nine-month orientation program as Columban Lay Missionaries in June. Here is a brief profile of each taken from the blog, and edited, of Columban Lay Missionaries – Philippines. ‘PH23’ indicates that they are the 23rd group of Filipino Columban Lay Missionaries. The first 19 groups were named ‘RP1’, ‘RP2’ etc. After that the teams have been known as ‘PH20’ etc.
MAREA LYN ALMIRAÑEZ
31 yrs old, Sta Rosa, Laguna
Marea, who is 31 and from Sta Rosa, Laguna, graduated with a BS in Computer Science from San Sebastian College - Recoletos Manila and earned a Masters in Religious Education from Mother of Life Center, Novaliches, Quezon City. She loves to read inspirational books and regards facilitating retreats and recollections as her special skill. Marea, described by her family as responsible and by friends as jolly and caring, worked as a pastoral assistant at San Beda College Alabang, Muntinlupa City. There she met Violeta Villaraiz who had spent three years as a Columban Lay Missionary in Korea and who introduced her to CLM. Marea is the youngest of 7 children.
27 yrs old, Alamada, Cotabato
Febie is 27 and from Alamada, Cotabato, graduated with a BS in Accounting and Financial Management from Notre Dame University (NDU), Cotabato City. Described by her family as loving and caring and by her friends as humble and compassionate, Febie considers listening and counseling as her special skills. Becoming a missionary has long been a dream of hers and joining CLM is a step towards realizing that dream. She was working full-time at the Cooperative Bank of Cotabato and part-time at Notre Dame Center for Catechesis, situated on the NDU campus, prior to joining CLM. She is the fourth of five children.