From the Director - Lord to whom shall we go?

Columban Fr Gary WalkerI am in my last year as the Regional Director of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand. I finish up on St Columban’s Day, November 23, 2017. Naturally I am thinking of what I will do after this job. I must admit, that in my life as a Columban missionary, the appointments I have received have turned out well, much better than I could have anticipated.

At present there are a few Columbans returning to the ANZ Region to retire. No doubt each one of them has been doing a lot of thinking about their retirement. There will be hurdles to cross, not only because of the retirement issue, but the actual 'returning home'.

It isn't always an easy transition. For those who have lived in another country for many years, including missionaries, the experience leaves its impression and changes them whether they know it or not.

While everyone is happy to be home and united with family and friends, there is often a relief when visits come to an end. As the Latin phrase says, ‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis’  ‘Times change and we change with them’.

Living different lives and coping with different realities takes its toll. I remember hearing stories of Columbans going home from countries like Chile, then under the Pinochet regime and the Philippines under the Marcos regime. They had experienced fear, violence and uncertainty. They were changed and their families had difficulty understanding that change. Today we have very few missionaries living in dangerous situations, thank God.

While some Columbans choose to stay in the country where they have spent most of their lives, there are others returning home permanently. The transition can be a challenge. The Columban Society offers them assistance to make the move. There are courses where those returning can share their sense of dislocation with others who have experienced the very same hurdles.  

It is important for all of us to recognise the richness of living and being confused in another culture; to learn that there are many different ways to solve problems and deal with situations. It requires change and stretches anyone who embraces the challenge.

I ask you to pray for the Columbans who are returning home and for those who have chosen to retire in the countries where they have been on mission for many years. May they enjoy peace and tranquillity in this new stage of their lives.

God bless them.

Fr Gary Walker SSC

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