My Special Journey
By Father Ver Aro MSP
My appointment to the Western Province of Papua New Guinea was the start of my journey ad gentes – ‘to the nations.’ It was a kind of pilgrimage that led me to embrace the value of a very special vocation, to proclaim the Good News to a people and culture where Jesus’ words are unknown by most and when heard are often considered absurd.
I started to learn the local language, familiarize myself with the people I was serving, get acquainted with their culture and love the community. I also caught malaria. After only five months I was uprooted from the area because of an urgent need elsewhere. My superior transferred me to the Diocess of Vanimo in Sandaun Province.
The bishop placed me at Leitre Catholic Station. It was one of the old missions established by the SVD missionaries, developed by the Franciscans into a parish and then turned over to the Passionists. Now the MSP missionaries administer it. This mission opened my eyes to my ad gentescalling. It challenged me to become a true witness to my faith. I believe that my priesthood is not only for those who are already Christians but most especially for those who have closed the door on Christ. Through this, I have become an all-around priest: pastor, doctor, engineer, builder, mechanic, carpenter, hunter, cook and much more.
Many would say that missionaries are workaholics. However, this doesn’t apply to all. It’s not the works we do on mission that matter but the deepening of our relationship with God. This connectedness with God implants in my heart an attitude of self-giving and self-sacrifice. If this is absent I can’t survive the desert of sickness and the flood of the ‘missionary syndrome’ – loneliness – that can sometimes overwhelm a young priest on the frontiers.
In my mission experience I have the opportunity to share my faith without hesitation and also to respond to the call to transcendence. The remotest places give room for me to grow in my prayer life. It teaches me to hunger and crave for my God. In the company of the invisible God I find the tremendous joy and peace of my calling as a priest. He is my strength and source of energy to sow the seed of his love.
However, mission is also a call to be sincerely faithful and dedicated to the needs of the times. The call to obedience sometimes creates surprises. Recently, I was appointed Director of the Spirituality Formation Year of the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Port Moresby. I was tempted by the comfort of the stability in my bush parish to stay there, but there was a call to enter a tougher part of my journey where the Lord would ask me to let go of even more of myself. I’m convinced that my role in mission is not to find comfort or green pastures but to help the local Church grow in maturity and in self-reliance.