Fiesta Mass in Honor of St. Columban
The generosity of God's love and that of the Columban Fathers who have gone before us starting with Galvin, Blowick and companions up to those who are still with us at present is what inspired me in my call to mission.
The generosity of the Columban Fathers that I have witnessed during our exposure in Mindanao during my orientation program inspired me. They came to help build the churches in Mindanao, educate the people and help build communities. When the right time came, they turned over the parishes to the local church without frills, without any claim attached to the parishes, but with joy and thanksgiving.
In Myanmar, during the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Columbans in Banmaw, a Columban priest asked an elderly woman, "How come the people in Banmaw give special treatment to the Columbans when, in fact, there were missionaries who came before and after them?" The woman simply answered, "Because the Columban Fathers love us." This answer has stayed with me. With love comes generosity in spirit. With "grande animo" (great spirit), the Columban Fathers did the work entrusted to them.
Now, times are changing, and it is still our hope that the Society continues to respond to the needs of the times with joy and generosity of heart. With "grande animo," to follow Christ by committing ourselves to Him and the values of the Gospel, drifting with love and in the love of God. This is very much the spirit of the Columban Society, to go where the Spirit leads us in crossing boundaries of culture, creed, race, gender and age.
What we are today, we owe a great deal to those who have come before us—those who have embraced us and welcomed us to the Society, those who mentored us and journeyed with us so that we are who we are today, what we are today. Starting with Society co-founders Frs. Galvin and Blowick and all those who have come after them, including all the Columbans at present, be it those in the leadership role, formation or simply companions on the journey, we owe them our gratitude. Their generosity in sharing what they have has led us all here. They have their own temperaments, personality styles and dynamics, but they have given of themselves, trusting in God's goodness, to make sense of the whole. They have been generous in responding to the invitation to share the love of God for and in His creation. We too are invited to acknowledge each other's goodness with gratitude in our hearts. This is what generosity (in poverty) is all about— sharing from whatever we have.
The Columbans have been generous in responding to the call of Vatican II regarding the laity's participation in the church. It was not easy for the Columban Fathers to start what was then called the Columban Lay Mission Program. They didn't know what to do, but went ahead, trusting the Spirit to work with and through them.
Now, the CLM is thriving in mission. From out of their generosity, I am grateful. To all of you, thank you from this Columban lay missionary. You have all journeyed with me in different capacities and time, especially during my most diffi cult moments—you have been sources of strength and joy.
When our founders said yes to the call, they did not know where it would lead them, yet in their "grande animo" they sailed on. Today, I believe, we have the same invitation—to be generous in our response to God's invitation to have love, mercy and compassion and be grateful as we walk and work in the mission.
Pope Francis, in answering his critic regarding "Amoris," mentioned that we need to ask ourselves, "In what spirit are we giving?" It is my hope that it will be in the spirit of gratitude, generosity and joy that we continue our life as missionaries. After all, it's Christ's mission that we are sharing. We would not have been able to do the things we did and are still doing without God's love and goodness bestowed on us. May we then continue to share God's generosity to others whom we meet along the way.
Arleene B. Vallahermosa is a Columban lay missionary.