The Gift of Misyon
By Mary Joy Rile
The author started as editorial assistant in 2008 and got promoted to assistant editor with the transfer of Misyon office in Singalong in June 2017.
When I joined Misyon in November 2008 I only thought of a part time job. But the editorial assistant position was such a demanding, full-time job. I accepted the offer but honest enough to tell those in the office that I might not stay for long as I would rather practice my teaching profession. The editor at that time was Columban Fr. Seán Coyle, who told me, “At the end of six-month probationary period, I will have to decide for you to continue or not. I am giving you the same freedom to decide for yourself.” What he said captured me as I found in it the sense of freedom, consideration and responsibility combined. My career path had changed since then. I would have been ten years with Misyon if not for the two-year break when I transferred to Iloilo City in 2013. Nevertheless, my connection with the Columbans continued until my return in 2015. The Misyon office in Bacolod which started in 1988 was finally closed in 2017, along with the retirement of Father Seán. Transferring to Singalong, I joined Arlenne Villahermosa, the first lay missionary to hold the position of editor.
L to R: (Standing at the back) Charlie, Jayson Arcamo, Joy and Batman; (front) Bessie and Anne; (inset) Father Seán and Joy, Bacolod City, April 2013
The staff I joined in in 2008 included: Bessie Palma-Cordova (secretary), Charlie Jamilla (all-around house assistant), Jein “Batman” Pabalinas (webmaster), Ernesto Vicente (on-call artist), and Anabelle Badilla-Gubuan (assistant editor), who re-echoed to us her rich experience with the founding editor, Fr. Niall O’Brien, as she joined Misyon fresh from college in 1998. Recognizing our individual differences, we had to deal with each other well; sometimes not so well resulting to arguments. So, Father Seán also served as the father who would mediate in order to reconcile his children. The years went on with our hearts growing in understanding, love and concern for each other. We built a family among ourselves. On occasions like birthdays and Christmas, we celebrated in the office bringing our families along with us. Coming to Singalong, of quite a different structure, I found a bigger family with a number of resident priests and staff from different offices, not to mention the presence of Columban seminarians and lay missionaries who would come from time to time.
Columban staff and co-workers’ Team-building, Singalong St., Malate, Manila, March 2018
Misyon has provided me with opportunities for personal, social and spiritual growth. Through Misyon I encountered peoples from different places, both personal and online. I cannot forget the first time I met a missionary from a place I hadn’t heard before. Fr. Seán introduced us to each other, “Joy, this is Serafina Vuda, from Fiji”. Wondering where Fiji was, I replied, “China?” Serafina (may she rest in peace) was tall and dark-skinned; how was she supposed to be associated with China?! Fr. Seán turned red face in embarrassment. But Serafina, gentle and lovely as she was, quickly recovered me from shrinking by explaining where Fiji is located. My first lesson then was to find a cure to my ignorance. I was encouraged to read and research, to be prudent and sensible in dealing with peoples. My first interview and my first article for Misyon was about Serafina. She was of great help, coaching me on what to do. She was part of the Columban Lay Missionaries Leadership Team when I met her in 2008, until her death in 2014.
Serafina with Misyon staff, Bacolod City, November 2008
Misyon was originally designed to share stories of mission experiences of Filipino missionaries from different congregations assigned to foreign lands. We enjoyed the variety of stories, as well as the commonality in some of their sharing. It led us to that one mission of spreading the Good News using print media (Misyon magazine), and in later years, the social media (www.misyononline.com).
Most of the time I am in contact with Columban priests and lay missionaries. It is a privilege for me to know them one by one – learning from their way of living out Christ’s mission, as witnesses to the Word; how they stand as our model, as the human face of Christ in the world. Their generosity and passion for what they’re doing enabled a number of peoples to work for the common good and pass on the values to others.
I have always wanted to be a missionary in a foreign land, with Africa, India and Peru as my top three. Well, it did not happen the way I dreamt it. Instead, I have become a missionary through the help of the different organizations which provided me opportunities to serve since I was in college; the Teresian Association which I joined in for seven years and was very instrumental in my formation and in living a life with purpose, making me realize that mission does not necessarily mean going outside the country. Mission is lived day by day as you become a “salt” to the people you work and live with. My work with Misyon over the years has proven to be a potent way of living a life of mission. The opportunity of being in communication with a number of missionaries is like an expression of journeying with them. Reading the different stories of mission encounter has inspired me to collaborate and initiate even some little things in reaching out to the needy, and simply do something good. I may be distance apart from the missionaries but I surely learned from them through their written articles. My desire to do mission in a foreign land is somehow fulfilled through my work in Misyon, which is also international in a sense.
Columban missionaries and co-workers, Candoni, Negros Occidental, January 2018
Gathering stories, encouraging people to write, reading and affirming their stories, including suggestions for improvement in the articles, may seem a routine but it has made me grow through the years. Many of us who have supported and patronized Misyon have felt the same way. In fact, the testimonies of our dear readers have fueled us to dedicate our efforts for this good work.
Passion comes from the heart. It can be achieved if we learn to love what we are doing and care for those we come in contact with. A simple kumustahan can go a long way, only if we allow common interest and even differences to connect us together and bring us to another level of relationship.
There is the great influence of social media that bridges the gap between worlds – across countries, across borders and boundaries, across generation gap. It is a beauty and a joy working with peoples here and abroad through the use of the internet. I do not fully agree when they say that relationships in the social media are only temporary and shallow. Misyon has enabled me to communicate a more personalized expression of mission as friendships were built and deepened through online communications – from the simple invitation to write, to sharing our little adventures, to praying for each other’s intentions and keeping company in our life’s journey though at a distance. It was made possible because we allowed ourselves to take the risks of openness and even of transparency, sincere relations and taking responsibility. In Misyon, we don’t just read articles and choose what to publish. We care to know about our contributors; a practice that the founder himself started from the very beginning which the staff has sincerely carried out.
It is fair to say that every staff of Misyon, at different times, did his/her best to keep up the legacy that is more humane rather than simply dealing with a literary piece. I assure you, dear readers, that even the little editing done on every article has a story to tell. And mind you, it was kind of hurting to be edited for the first time, much more when my article was rejected, feeling as if the editor didn’t seem to understand my labor, my thoughts and my feelings. I had to experience it myself so I would learn how to become more responsible in dealing with each story, for each story is sacred. I had to learn humility and let go of my pride. Only then did I see the beauty there is in pruning and blooming. The growth of every staff as a writer and a more responsible editor lies on the drafts, revisions and reconstructions of every piece. I was not born a writer but Misyon has enabled me to develop it with the help of the editorial staff by coaching me, prodding me and investing their trust and patience in me.
Since this issue (November-December 2018) will be the last for www.misyononline.com, let me grab this chance to thank all our contributors through the years, those who granted us interviews, those who allowed me to write their stories, and most especially to the Columban Fathers for trusting me with this part of their Mission promotion. My life with Misyon has been a great deal of values – patience, generosity, gratitude, charity, mission and passion.
Let us hold on to the memory of Misyon through the years, not merely for the name but for the honor and vision of the Columbans who gave birth to Misyon, a mission awareness magazine that heralds the life stories of Filipinos and foreign missionaries who had touched the lives of many. Every story is precious. Every story we dare to honor. We cannot underestimate the power of a story inspiring countless peoples.
If I may call it “our gift to you”, the past issues of Misyon magazines since 1989 up to 2003, followed by the CD and online versions up to this last issue in 2018, are stored in the archives, which we hope to be made available soon in our new Columban website, columbanmission.org.ph. This is where we can draw some inspiration as we look back and reminisce the good old days, with stories scribed in Misyon.
As we come to this end of Misyon, we thank God for making things possible, and we congratulate ourselves with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” Again, Thank You and God bless each and everyone of us. I will be forever grateful for the gift of Misyon in my life.