Yesterday marked a pretty awesome day in my life, and wow what an amazing experience it was! This may get lengthy, but I want to make sure I try my best in capturing the key moments from yesterday that really made it apparent that it was a day led by the Spirit.
As a program for Circles of Discernment, we had decided that we wanted to put on a missionary outreach project, and so, Sr. T and I were in charge of putting it on. Sure, I had participated in many outreach projects before, but never anything quite like this. And so, what was the missionary outreach project? Go door-to-door, lead a bible study and bless the homes of the community. Wait, what? Are we allowed to bless homes?
So, Sr. Terezinha and I did not necessarily know what the details were or where this outreach would take place…but as she was sharing our missionary project idea with our brother-in-christ Priest, Fr. Elgar, he said, “Go where your heart is. Go to Yagyagan!” Sr. Terezinha had experience doing this in Brazil and in the other countries she ventured off to, and so she was sharing this with me, and with the others. Inspired, we went ahead and prayed for guidance!
And so…with this Yagyagan community in mind, after a month of solid preparation after our holiday vacays, Sr. T and I put together a schedule for the day, an agenda for time spent with the communities, I got 3 liters of water blessed by Father Elgar, shared with him the plans for the day, collaborated with the teachers at the elementary school, checked out some of the homes that we would be sending off some missioners to, shared with the community members the coming of the missioners, conducted individual and group orientations with the missioners, sent a whole lot of text messages for correspondence, organized sending off packets and material, and at 7am, we hopped into two taxis, and off the ten of us went! 🙂
Planning Stages…visiting the homes! or rather, some of the places you had to hike through to get to their homes! 🙂 for the two weeks leading up to our mission day, i got to venture off into the lands. haha…outside of baguio city!
|where the heck am I? (that’s what i kept thinking. haha!)|
|just keep walking.|
This was a first-time experience for all of us, and I was just so excited that this community that we have fallen in love with, would be shared with the other Cabrini collaborators. It was definitely a day I had been looking forward to!
We gathered at the school and had an opening prayer and blessing led by Sr. T, and then we were sent off. As we sang the “Our Father” in Ilocano, I already felt the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit fill the place. There were nerves, anxiety, but also a whole lot of excitement, and this energy was apparent. Tears started to formulate in my eyes, ’cause I was like, YES! This is happening! Ah, it was such a great feeling. I knew that Jesus was with us, and we were going to be sent off to do exactly what He did – visit families and share life and love with those he encountered.
Originally, I had prepared four groups and we were all set, but then another community leader wanted a group to bring to her community, so we split up one of the groups. After looking at the group of missioners, I had to think quickly… Ok, who could lead a group? I thought, ok, I know who I can send off – Norlyn – one of college students I went to World Youth Day with. I thought, it would be a great opportunity for her to really take ownership and it would push her out of her comfort level a little bit. It was perfect! Teamed her up with another missioner and I knew they could handle it. We were all set.
I ventured off into one of the communities with one of the college students I live with, Bible study, faith sharing, house blessing, and it was great! I had four other kids from the community with me. They were some of the kids I taught last year who were in the 6th grade, but have since moved to high school, and they insisted that they wanted to stay in my group, so that was great. 🙂 Even though they are SUPER duper shy, they still insisted that they stay with “Ate Crystal’s group.” ha! It was pretty amazing. Walking up and down the mountain from home to home, more and more people kept joining our group, and then I got a text from Sr. T saying, “Crys, there are some boys from the parish to go with you.” So I texted back, “Sister, I’m down a mountain. I have no idea where we are?” Haha, the next thing you know, as we were leaving one of the homes, the guys caught up with us after asking the community where the group was. Pretty cool!
|Bible and Holy Water. 🙂|
|awesomeness in prayer.|
|my kids! 🙂|
We were joined by two 20-something CICM seminarians, and two high school boys who were pretty active at the parish. Awesome! Our group kept growing, and I started passing around the materials to the guys so that they could have a shot at leading and facilitating the Bible sharing and House blessing. It was pretty cool because I was reflecting on how important it was for all of these other youth to step out and lead the group. And they delivered! I knew they would. One of the seminarians said, “Can we add some things?” I said, “Of course! This is just an outline. Do as the Spirit guides you!” It was great.
We then had to split up again, and I made sure to split up the two seminarians so that they would each be able to facilitate a group instead of one having more opportunities than the other. It all worked out perfectly! I was really happy throughout the whole day, and as I shared with Sr. Terezinha, it was joy. A heartfelt joy.
We reflected on the Gospel of the Day which was on Jesus curing the leper. In the communities, we talked about how Jesus not only heals us physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. We talked about how there is a blessing in being able to share our burdens with others, and we also reflected about the love and healing that Jesus can provide us.
From the Gospel reading, I was thinking about how greeting the family members in each home was like encountering Jesus, and how the mere touch – the hug, the kiss on the cheek, the hands… was really powerful. Some of the community members were crying during the sharing, and they were really touched that our group visited them. If anything though, I feel like we, Cabrini, were the ones who were touched and we left with joy and love in our hearts, and such a better understanding of the unity in the Body of Christ. Yes, they are a poor community, but their spirits were rich, and they have touched my heart so deeply and strongly.
All of the groups met up at the barangay hall for Mass celebrated by Father, we shared some of our reflections during the homily, and it was such a beautiful celebration! I also learned that there was another group of youth from the parish that met up with our Cabrini group on the other side of the mountain. The numbers just kept growing. It was pretty remarkable. Also, Sr. T and I were really thankful that we were able to change the time of mass in the community, just to accommodate for our program. So nice! Fr. Elgar commented during the homily, “Wow. it seems like you all had an AMAZING experience, like Sister Crystal would say. an AWESOME experience!” haha, I think it’s pretty funny how they know me that well, and they are clearly aware of the way I tend to express myself. 🙂 The community also shared their gratitude and thanks, after Sister and I took some time to thank all those who collaborated with us and really helped make this a successful program for the Yagyagan community.
I remember there was a moment during the day, when I was leaving one home and walking to another, and I was thinking, “I was made to love. I was born to do this.” THIS. Mission. Visiting families. Joining with others who had the same desire to share faith and love with others. Encountering Jesus in strangers. It was a moment – a revelation if you will, where I thought to myself, “whoa, where did that come from?” Bible in hand, it was all confirmation.
One of the gifts that I received that day, was when we all gathered at our last home for lunch, and one of the seminarians put his hand on my shoulder and said, ” Thank you for showing me what a missionary is.” I replied and said to him, “Thank YOU for coming and joining.” It is a blessing to be able to do ministry with young religious, and I especially loved that our ages did not matter to the communities. They trusted us, and they were just entirely grateful.
During one of the days of our preparation, Sister T and I had to split up. I went to the elementary school, and she went to another school to check out the ministry that we can start up there, and we met up at the church with Fr. Elgar. She shared with me that after she was telling him some of the plans we had for the community, he answered, “I am not worried about what you Sisters decide to do, because whatever you plan and say, you do it.” I like that. During the homily he was giving examples of some things that may happen that make us wonder why certain things happen. One of the examples he gave was, “Sometimes we wonder why the Sisters are so demanding (pointing at Sr. T and I)! But we know that it is because they love us and want the best for the community.” It’s TRUE! Everyone laughed. 🙂
I am so entirely grateful for the entire team that said YES to join in on this mission day…for their willingness, openness, and for their positivity. It was a growing experience for all of us, as we ventured into homes that welcomed us. Moreso, I am just so grateful that we have the freedom to do this, especially given the realities that there are definitely countries and areas that would give an outright NO and prison sentences to anyone who even dared speak the name of Jesus in a public place. This day, I experienced challenge, and trust, and surprises, and it showed me that the more effort I put into something, the more faith and prayer and trust I place in it, whatever I want to do, grounded in Love, guided by the Spirit, failure will never be an option.
And with that, I continue to reflect and embrace Sr. Terezinha’s words of encouragement and affirmation for me, “Catalan, you’re a missionary ready for the world!”
|the team. cyrill and sr. t not pictured.|
Thank you, Holy Spirit for guiding our steps on mission yesterday! The result? A whole lot of joy and excitement, and hugs, and love, and a whole new program that we will begin with the parish: Missionary Sundays. What a blessing! 🙂 Thank you for the prayers!