Gathering for an outdoor Mass in a Philippine village. Photos: St Columbans Mission Society
Feel at home is what the priests I work with always say to me. They tell me to let them know of anything I need without feeling demanding in any way, especially if it is related to my health and security. Beginning a new ministry always involves many emotions - nervousness, excitement, doubt and expectation. Whatever decision I make, it means change, adjustment and new directions. What else can I do but step out of the box and face this new challenge? This was my motivation when I decided to choose Malate Parish for my new ministry.
I have worked in the Philippines for more than seven years but Malate has presented a raft of new experiences. The most gratifying among them is the Columban priests here. I have been in non-Columban parishes in the past, where I needed to spend considerable time and energy introducing St Columban’s Mission Society and explaining my role as a Columban lay missionary. Often people considered my presence in those parishes to be that of a part-time volunteer. It took time and effort to convince them that I was there because of a vocation I had received to be a Columban lay missionary.
As an outsider and a foreigner from South Korea, I enjoyed my relationships with the people of the parish, but it was not easy to be recognised as an official member of the parish team and participate in the activities in the Church as such, especially without the support of the parish priest.
In contrast, my experience in Malate has been different right from the beginning. On my first Sunday, I was formally introduced as the new lay missionary in the parish. After the Mass, parish volunteers and parishioners greeted and welcomed me to the Malate Parish community. This small act, which was probably a routine part of parish life, felt like a profound gesture of hospitality to me.
Lay missionary, Kim Sunhee. Photos: St Columbans Mission Society
Being invited to different liturgical celebrations in the parish, being there as a Columban missionary among other Columbans, and attending many and various local area activities as a member of the Malate community may not sound so special or out of the ordinary, but these things mean a lot to me and tell me that I am “at home”. I know that not every lay missionary will associate these activities with the feeling of being “at home”, but they speak to me of our efforts to work in partnership as Columbans on mission. Because of my presence, the language, too, has evolved to become more inclusive. No longer is it a “priests’ meeting”; rather, it is now a “team meeting”. It feels great to be counted!
Feel at home is what the priests always say to me. All the facilities and resources here are for all of us to use. Those three words “feel at home” are comforting and warm my heart. I sincerely appreciate my Columban family members who have become my mentors, companions and friends. They have allowed me to have a mature and meaningful experience on my mission journey. Indeed, my experience in Malate is an affirmation that partnership is our way of being on mission. May we continue to be a source of good energy for each other.
Columban lay missionary Kim Sunhee from Korea, is working on mission in the Philippines.
Listen to "Feel at Home"
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