Inside Outer Mongolia
By Fr. Wens Padilla, CICM
In a unique event in modern history the Vatican was asked by newly-freed Mongolia to send missionaries. It is a credit to the CICM’s that they were chosen to go and a credit to all Filipino missionaries. Fr. Wens Padilla was chosen to head the team of three. Wens has been in Taiwan and featured in Misyon before.
A Dream Becomes a Reality
MONGOLIA was not a “dream mission” for me when I entered the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) knowing that what was related to Mainland China and the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, where our first CICM missionaries did mission work, has long been wiped. It was wiped out as a CICM mission field and priority after our last European confreres came into my dream- screen, catching me unawares, on April 1992 when I got my nomination that I was chosen as one of the members of the first CICM team to come to Mongolia. I was then in the Philippines still grieving at the death of my father at whose funerals I officiated on January 10, 1992, our team of three missionaries landed at the Ulaan Baatar International Airport.
Starting from Scratch
It has already been more than a year since, and my confrere-companions are here in Mongolia. Our mission is to establish a Catholic Church Presence in this non-Christian nation which doesn’t have any local Catholics. We really had to start from the scratch and we didn’t have any church structure to enter into or depend on. For us this meant that we had to do things on our own. It was really a new beginning for the three of us who were a bit spoiled by the convenience and luxury of the former missions we had come from: Robert Goessens (a Belgian) in Japan for 37 years; Fr. Gilbert Sales (a Filipino) in Hong Kong for three years; and myself (a Filipino) in Taiwan for 15 years. We plunged ourselves into all sorts of house chores we were not familiar with, like cleaning and furnishing our apartments, marketing or shopping, cooking our meals, washing our dirty laundry and the like. It was a struggle to survive from the very beginning. However, though we are still in the same situation at the present time, those chores have now become familiar and routinary to our daily life.
Hospitality in the Tent house
Our adaptation to the Mongolian reality, though difficult in many respects, was smooth. We are still in the process though! Each Day, we learn something new about this unique country and its people. Visiting the vast steppers with livestock grazing on them is alluring and eye soothing. The countryside offers mind-freshness and tensions-relief. The people are simple and kind, especially when you make friends with them. And though they are poor and wanting in many material necessities, they give the best hospitality to any visitor who comes into their “ger” (Tent House). They have high hopes that their lot will get better with the new economic changes (privatization process and market economy) and with the newly sworn government administration led by its re- elected president.
Not an Easy Language
One of the frustrating challenges in our integration to this country is the language. The language of Genghis Khan is not an easy language to learn. It is almost a year now since we started our lessons and we are not at ease yet with its strange buzzing sounds. It will take us some more months of hard study and practice before we become fluent in it. It is with this reason that we are not engaged yet in any missionary project to give more time to our language courses.
Thirty Degrees Below
Talking about the weather, one hears about the harsh and bitter Mongolian winters. It could really be depressing and isolating but we survive our first winter without too much ado. With lots of courage and determination we stood nose diving temperature that reached 30 degrees Celsius that at the end a -10 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius had already become normal for us. It was not so bad after all, and thanks to centralized heating system (that fails once in a while) the apartments didn’t turn into freezers.
Papal Nuncio Arrives
If there is anything significant that we have achieved so far with regard to our purpose of being here in the past years, we could only say that, “FINALLY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOW PRESENT IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF MONGOLIA”. With the coming of the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency Most Rev. John Bulaitis, to present his credential to the Mongolian president, we gained more confidence as to our stability. April 9, 1992, GOOD FRIDAY, has become for the Church here a crucial moment, a special concession in the Vatican- Mongolian relations as the Nuncio and the president exchanged mutual support and assistance between the two nations. This event on this significant day is symbolic of the seed dying to come forth to life.
Small Christian Communities
And was we carry on, we are energized and inspired by the small community of around thirty people that we are now have for Sunday Liturgy. Although most of these are expatriates working in the embassies, international organizations, and factories, we are hopeful, our number will increase in the days to come. The seed was sown and it has to grow. As matter of fact, as a small group of catechumens has already started. The lessons are given with the help of a translator. There are five of them at present and they also join us now for the Sunday Masses. This brings to eight the Mongolians attending our liturgies. The three others are friends we have.
So, Dear Readers, with a bit more of your prayers and support, we hope that God’s Kingdom also becomes a reality among our Mongolian sisters and brothers. Till here, and if you want to be in touch or hear some more about us, keep us posted with the following: