A Voice for Justice

By Michael Javier

The author is a Columban lay missionary (CLM) from Jubgan, San Francisco, Surigao del Norte. He belongs to PH22, the first group of CLMs from the Philippines assigned in Chile in 2015 and has recently returned after a three-year contract.

Michael in Patagonia, south of Chile, 2017

Language is a basic skill we need to learn in order to communicate, to express our feelings and to understand others. But we are divided by many different languages. For a migrant seeking a good life in another country, how can you express yourself to the locals who do not understand your own language?

This challenge of dealing with language barriers reminded me of a migrant named Jamby, whom I met in Chile. Jamby is a 45 year-old single mother, a Muslim from Zamboanga City, Philippines.

Youth, Reconciliation and Pilgrimage

By Fr G. Chris Saenz, Chile, ‘00

The author is from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, and is a frequent contributor to Columban publications. He spent some time in the Philippines during his formation and was ordained in 2000. He is based in Chile.

Fr Chris Saenz with young pilgrims

‘Father, I am angry that my parents are divorcing.’  This could be an example of a young person’s confession.  I am often struck by the honesty and profoundness of what young people share.  It highlights for me what the sacrament of reconciliation means - a true desire to seek God’s saving grace in a situation that one would like to leave behind. 

The Power of Being Powerless

by Fr G. Chris Saenz

A Chilean Woman

Father Saenz, a frequent contributor to, was ordained in 2000. He is from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, where the Columban headquarters in that country are located. He spent part of his formation period in the Philippines. Here he tells an extraordinary story of welcoming new life.

Three or four years ago I was in Tasmania, Australia, for mission promotion work.  A school girl in St Patrick’s Catholic College of Launceston asked, ‘What is the hardest thing about working with people in poverty?’  The question stumped me a bit and made me think.  Generally, it’s the youth who ask the deep theological questions.  After reflecting for a moment, I answered her, ‘the feeling of being powerless to change the situation of the person in poverty’.

Floods And Snow

By Sister Victoria Lerin FMM

Floods were three meters deep after four days of ceaseless rain in Santiago, the capital of Chile, in June 2002. The worst hit areas were poorer sections of the city and nearby farms. Eleven people died and many suffered from diseases the floods brought in their wake. Farmers lost livestock.

A similar flood occurred in 1926, perhaps the worst in the country’s history. Chile has developed since then, much more in the cities than in remote rural areas. Those who buy the fine wines and fruit the country exports are probably unaware of the many poor people who live behind Santiago’s imposing commercial buildings. As a foreigner, I don’t understand the complexities of Chile’s business life but I don’t think that the well being of the people is an overriding priority of those engaged in ruthless competition for the world’s markets. The politics are like those at home – dirty. And the rich still get richer and the poor poorer.

What is it to be a Columban Lay Missionary?

By Arlenne B. Villahermosa

CLM Arlenne Villahermosa in Myanmar

The author, who is currently the Coordinator of Columban Lay Missionaries – Philippines, has worked as a lay missionary in Korea and Myanmar. She is from Talisay City, Cebu. At their annual meeting last year the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines reflected on these three questions.

  1. What was it like to leave my family, culture, and country for the first time?
  2. What about my coming to a ‘new land?’
  3. As I respond to this calling of being a Columban lay missionary through my ministries, how has this calling been deepened over time?

Family.  Relatives.  Friends.  Relationships.  The familiar. A good job.  Security.  These were the sources of my joy before I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries in 2000 and at the same time the reasons why it was difficult to leave for mission.  Ironically, however, these have become the sources of my strength as well and the inspiration to continue.  The past has made the present become possible and meaningful.

Interview with Ronnie

By Fr Chris Saenz
Ronald Daniel Perez Arbazua
Puerto Saavedra, Chile
February 14, 2014

Ronald Daniel Perez Arbazua, known as ‘Ronnie’, is a 69-year-old man who was born and raised in Puerto Saavedra in southern Chile. At the age of 15 Ronnie entered the Chilean Navy and served for eight years. After that he went to Santiago where he lived and worked for 23 years. In 1983 he returned to Puerto Saavedra upon the death of his mother.

In 1995, when I was a seminarian, I was sent to Puerto Saavedra, a Columban parish at that time. There I first met Ronnie as a chronic alcoholic. The few times I saw him sober he was timid and shy. The drink always made him aggressive and belligerent. Often, after drinking, Ronnie would enter the church. Sometimes he would cause a disturbance and twice I had to physically throw him out. I left Puerto Saavedra in 1997 convinced that he would never change and would die on the streets. 

It’s the small things that matter

By Fr G. Chris Saenz

The author is from the USA and was ordained in 2000. Part of his preparation for the priesthood was in the Philippines. He is currently Rector of the Latin America Formation Program of the Columbans in Chile and Peru and lives in Santiago, Chile.

The ‘small things”, as St Thérèse, the Little Flower would say, are an important aspect of spirituality and mission. But don’t get a romantic notion of what that means or how it looks. Often the small things can be a nuisance, an inconvenience and a pain in the neck. That is the moment we have to be alert to what God is teaching us through these small things. I learned such some years ago when I worked in southern Chile.

Fr Chris and friends on a pilgrimage in honor of St Teresa of the Andes

I was living in the rural countryside populated by the Mapuche, who are indigenous to parts of Chile and Argentina. One day, after visitations and meetings, I arrived home late, tired and hungry. With a cup of tea I sat down to watch the local news. Suddenly there was a knock on my door. What! Who can that be! My mind raced thus, completely upset by the intrusion. I opened the door to see Kata, a Columban lay missionary from Fiji who lived next door. ‘Sorry to disturb you’, she apologized, probably seeing discontent on my face. ‘There is a woman here to see you. She’s in our house.’ I told the Kata that I’d be there. With a huff and a puff I changed my clothes and went over. It was unusual for someone, especially a woman, to be out at this hour. I was surprised to discover that there were two women waiting for me, one being Maria who lived quite far away. They greeted me.

We from North America and Europe value being direct,‘getting to the point’,-so as notto ‘waste time’. However, in Chilebeing direct is not a value. It is considered rude. The women began with the usual general questions of how was I doing, my family, my health, etc. Having been in Chile for several years I was accustomed to this, but that night it was torture. I begrudgingly participated. After about 30 minutes the women finally got to the point. Maria explained that after shopping in the large city, two hours away by bus, they had arrived back here late and she had missed the last bus to her area.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

By Fr G. Chris Saenz

Father Saenz, ordained in 2000, is from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, where the Columban headquarters in that country are located. He spent part of his formation period in the Philippines.

I’ve learned that mission is one step forward and two steps back. This insight hit me on the night of 11 September in our Columban Parish of Santo Tomás Apóstol in La Pintana, an area in the southern part of Santiago de Chile. At 2am I received a frantic call from our parish coordinator, Elizabeth, screaming and crying, ‘Father! They broke down the gates! They broke down the gates and now they are invading the parish!’ This is the story.

Columban priest John Boles
Columban priest John Boles defends his church during September disturbances in Chile.

Night at the Riots

By Fr John Boles

Fr John Boles is from England and is currently Rector of Student Formation and Parish Priest of Santo Tomás Parish in Santiago, Chile. He belongs to the Columban Region of Peru.Fr Chris Saenz describes in this issue the 2011 riot in La Pintana. Here Fr Boles describes last year’s.

Ever think you might get tear-gassed? Here are a few survival tips: Have a wet handkerchief or surgical mask handy, to cover your nose and mouth; smear a little toothpaste under your eyes - it helps; don’t rub your eyes after being gassed, it’s better to let them stream; once you’ve reached safety, suck a lemon. Its recuperative qualities are remarkable.

Columban priest John Boles
Fr John Boles with members of the "Parish Defence Force".