Thursday, July 23, 2009

Parish travel in the Philippines

I work in Santa Cruz parish in the Southern Philippines. It is situated between two towns, one of which, Tambulig, is in the diocese of Pagadian;, the other ,Bonafacio, is in the diocese of Ozamiz.. We have over 1800 Catholic families with 800 of those families living in six areas. Each of the six areas has its own church and its own primary school but is close enough, within a 15-minute drive or a 30-40 minute walk, to attend Sunday Mass in the little village of Liloan where there is a large church and community center.

The other 1000 families live up in the hills and grow coconuts, rice and bananas. They have twenty community churches, two of which are at the edge of the forest where tribal Filipinos live. The communities in the hills organize their own liturgies on Sundays and for the annual fiesta. They have their own prayer leaders, choir leaders, Eucharistic ministers and volunteer catechists, who teach religion for an hour every week in the other schools in the parish.

I try to visit these communities at lease twice a year – once when I have Mass and confessions in each school and once for the fiesta. The problem is getting up to these communities as there are no all-weather roads, just trails that have been leveled out by a bulldozer and a grader. Each rainy season the water pours down from the hills and makes deep canals in the roads. When it is raining the roads are impassable. In the dry season, I can drive in the parish truck to the foot of the hills where I am picked up on a motorcycle by someone from the community. Sometimes I just have to slush my way up through the water. When I feel like complaining, I remember the people who have to make the same trek each and every time they need to go shopping.

Submitted by Fr. Damien McKenna, July 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Fascinating Adventure

Mission has become a fascinating adventure, peppered with challenges that introduce me to a new people in a new culture in a new society. I'm pleasantly surprised every day.

The journey has its difficulties, but it is possible to walk with cheerful enthusiasm if we are willing to open our hearts to receive all the new things that God is giving us. There is always a fresh story that motivates me to continue, good news that renews my hope and strengthens my spirit and missionary vocation.

I enjoy the beautiful adventure of the mission that God has offered to me as a token of His love and trust. I live happily and am grateful for the welcome of the Filipino people, for the gift of their smiles, their meals, their liturgical celebrations; their sorrows and joys. Each experience shows me that God is alive among His people, among my friends and companions in the mission, and that God "hears the cry of His people and goes with them wherever they go."

Antonio J. Salas Villagómez is a Columban lay missionary in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, the Philippines.