Ondoy is the local name of the typhoon (hurricane) that is still pounding over the Philippines. Indeed I forgot how scary a typhoon can be, even if we are safe here at the Euntes Center. The center has been smartly built on a hill, several feet above the sea level. But you get wet even if you stand near a window, given the violence of the rain and of the winds.
I can’t believe how fortunate I have been with my journey so far! I landed in Hong Kong just after a typhoon caused some damage. Houses in Hong Kong are solid, therefore the damage only consisted in few trees eradicated. Then, I landed in Manila in between two typhoons. The rain was heavy but the winds were not that strong. Unfortunately, many houses in Manila can be blown away in a moment!
And then I left for Zamboanga, constantly flying between two layers of clouds. Generally, this part of the island of Mindanao is not hit by the typhoons with full force. They say that only the “tails” of that huge formations of clouds, heavy with rain, reach Zamboanga. But it is no fun anyway!
I remember my first (and only!) shipwreck under a typhoon, when a huge wave pushed my small boat several yards onto the Sibuco beach. I was terrified but safe, because tha boat rested on the white sand instead of capsizing and being sucked back into the Pacific Ocean.
I really kept the Lord very busy protecting me during my years in Sibuco, my mission!
Let us keep all those who are suffering now in the Philippines in our prayers.
I am now in Zamboanga City, in the island of Mindanao, south Philippines. I had problems connecting in the past days, so you might have been frustrated trying to know …where is Fr. Sergio?
I spent few days in Manila, at our parish “Mary Queen of Apostles.” You would not believe how many are the members of the parish. They are about 120,000, more than a Diocese! Unfortunately, continuos rain prevented me to go around and take pictures.
But we could go to Tagaytay, where PIME has an International Seminary. I was the first Rector in 1999. I totally forgot how heavy rain can be in this period in Tagaytay. It was really scary. Fr. Steve Baumbusch is the present Rector, with Fr. Piergiacomo Urbani as Spiritual Director. It is a great team, really! The community is not very large, just 11 seminarians. Perfect number for a very alive and committed group of young men preparing for missionary priesthood in PIME. Seven of them are from India, two from Myanmar and one from the Philippines. I interviewed all of them and the stories of their vocations are very interesting.
I am now in Zamboanga City, where officially PIME has its Regional House. I have so many memories of this place! My mission – Sibuco – is not too far, four or five hours by truck and then by boat. I used to come here every three or four months to rest, eat some good food and try to call my parents.
But here – in May 1992 – they killed one of our missionaries, Fr. Salvatore Carzedda. The memory is still very alive with me. From the airport, we passed by the exact point where they shot Salvatore. My heart missed a beat.
Monday we will start the retreat and – sorry – but I will not be able to write anything, being totally available for the particpants of the 2009 Euntes course. Euntes – as you may know from the August issue of PIME World – is a PIME endeavor to help our Asian brothers and sisters develop missionary spirituality and awareness.
How to Be A Missionary: Giovanni’s Top Tips
Tip #12: Go with the flow
Being a missionary takes flexibility. You do a lot moving around from place to place, not sure of the conditions you will be encountering. Will these people speak the language that I learned, or some crazy dialect? Will I like the food? Will I be able to get internet!?
Missionaries need to work with what they have and with what the people know. Remember that story about St. Patrick using the three leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity? He used the simple means that God provided him with to teach people an important lesson. He was flexible enough to recognize that the tools he needed were right in front of him.
We too need to be flexible in our daily lives, but that is not the only way we need to be flexible.
Flexibility with the Lord is also a must to be a missionary. We might have these huge plans and some great vision about how we plan to impact the world. Our plans might be good or even great, but is our plan God’s plan? The path might be winding, and you might even feel like you are going in the wrong direction, but Jesus will lead you to His goal. We need to focus on the cross and follow.
It is good to have a plan for success, but make sure you listen because God might want you to take the scenic route.
Fr. Sergio’s journey continues – with a visit to Guanzhou (Canton), China.
I know you’ll enjoy this report – particularly the part about the “exotic” meal he ate!
In the past two days I rode many public means and I must say all of them were great, efficient and always on time.
Last Wednesday we took the Hong Kong subway to the border with mainland China, Shenzhen. In theory it is the same country, but you have to take into account long lines at the Immigration for all those (Chinese incuded) who cross the borders. Despite heavy burocracy, they were quick and efficient.
In Shenzhen we took immediately a high speed train that, in just over an hour, took us to the Great City: Guanzhou! New high-rise buildings, beautiful roads and bridges give Guanzhou (Canton) the look of a modern city of 10 millions, incredibly busy. I expected the usual “socialist style” architecture, but there isn’t much like that visible today. The appearances are extremely important!
Two PIME missionaries reside in Guanzhou, Frs. Fernando Cagnin and Mario Marazzi. They work with Hui Ling, a Chinese association caring for disabled. I picked up their stories with my small recorder and in the next PIME World issues I am sure you will read the details of their experience. I was so impressed by their work, their perseverance and courage! Hui Ling is definitely much more than I thought.
Chinese culture tends to keep disabled at home, hidden, as if they are a shame. Taking care of them (children and adults) is definitely a way to “evangelize” a monolithic culture! I was impressed too by the way my two fellow missionaries live. Fr. Fernando has an incredibly small room as both his office and his bedroom. And chapel too! We celebrated Mass on his desk, in private.
Fr. Mario, at 81, lives in one of Hui Ling’s small communities, called “family-home.” In each of them, there are about 6-8 members – all mentally disabled – with a “mother.” She is normally the mother of one or two disabled children, and takes care – with some help – of the whole “family.”
You know, missionaries too love to have some fun! Let me explain. We are aware that people do not eat certain kinds of things. So we do not tell them what they are eating. Only afterward we let them know “hey, you just ate iguana, dog, snake meat!” They are all perfectly edible food, but our cultures see them in a different way.
So, Fr. Fernando took us to a local restaurant. Chinese demand that food is fresh, and normally there is a part of the restaurant where they keep ….fresh food. I mean, alive or just butchered. I took my pictures, thinking “no way I am going to try any of those, I am no fool!”
Then, he ordered for me a delicacy. A soup (soups are considered ancient remedies for almost everything!) that tasted like a bland beef soup. Good, I appreciated it and did not see anything strange lying at the bottom of the bowl. Well, there were some vegetables (I suppose) that did not look familiar. They looked like onions, just a little “rubbery.” So, I started digging until I saw something that froze me. I pulled out five small scorpions. From MY soup!!!!!
I am sure they have some therapeutic purpose, but all I know is that before dinner I was fine and after dinner my stomach simply closed! Thank you, dear brother priest!
The following day, early in the morning, we celebrated Mass in Fr. Fernando’s office/bedroom. A simple Mass without congregation, but I re-lived the same feelings I had when I celebrated Mass in Rome’s catacombs!
Then we took a bus to Macau, where we arrived after a couple of hours. After a long line at the Immigration, we eventually reached the center of this nice city. On a hill, there is an ancient Church (St. Paul/Sam Po), built by the Jesuits more than four hundred years ago but destroyed by several fires. What you see now is the way it was left since 1835. Just the façade!
The familiar feeling was clear to me: it looked like an old European city! In fact, there is still much Portuguese around in terms of Churches, stone crosses, squares, fountains, houses, etc. Compared to the rest of China, Macau is the only province where they preserved signs of a foreign presence of the past, especially religious signs!
Now I am back in Hong Kong. Monday morning I will meet a good number of PIME members of this region and I hope to get even more stories and pictures.
I forgot to tell you that they gave me a Chinese name:
FO = the word used for science
JAAK = where the water gathers; grace, kindness, to benefit the people [this character also exists in the name of Mao]
TIN = the land.
Fr. “Fo Jaak Tin” seems to be enjoying his adventure, don’t you think? Stay posted for more updates!
Fr. Sergio isn’t the only PIME priest traveling these days.
Our North American Regional Superior, Fr. Ken, has taken trips to Mexico and St. Louis in the last month, and currently he is attending a conference in Italy. There, along with PIME priests from all over the world, Fr. Ken is participating in a Plenary Council.
From Fr. Ken today: (I just love the internet!)
Italia − Plenary Council Bulletin
Today we finished the first week of work of the PIME Plenary Council, 2009, at the PIME House in Ducenta, Italy, with the approval of a group of proposals in six different areas: Evangelization, Life in the Circumscriptions, Initial Formation, Continuing Formation and Health, Collaboration with the Laity in Evangelization and Means of Social Communication.
Fr. Ken goes on to describe the work of the council, which relates directly to the mission of our priests. This portion struck a chord with me:
The work of Evangelization…is a way of looking deeply into one’s personal ministry and that of the community according to the charism of PIME, and of the local Church.
Of course these comments are intended for the missionary priests and brothers of PIME, but there’s a “take-away” for each of us. “The work of evangelization is a way of looking deeply into one’s personal ministry and that of the community….”
Is that how we think of “evangelization?”
When I hear that word, I think of conversion, of telling people the Good News and expecting some kind of change in them. I don’t relate it with any kind of introspection on my part. And I don’t give a whole lot of thought to the “community” I’m evangelizing, either. I often figure that I’ve got the message they need to hear, and they should listen to me. I don’t often consider that perhaps I should consider my audience, to “meet them where they are.” (And I call myself a communications professional!)
Even dictionary.com has only this meager definition:
evangelize: 1. to preach the gospel to.
2. to convert to Christianity.
I think the PIME Missionaries have even more in mind than that.
If we want to preach the Gospel, we might consider getting better at living it. If we hope for conversion, we should start with ourselves.
…is Fr. Sergio?
As mentioned here, our Fr. Sergio is on a “world-wide” mission trek. He left Detroit on Monday and safely made it to his first stop – Hong Kong.
Father has obliged his demanding editor with a great email account of his journey so far. He writes:
I arrived yesterday night (Tuesday Sept 15) at Hong Kong after a long flight from Detroit to Tokyo and a shorter one from Tokyo to Hong Kong. The second flight was a little bumpy, near Taiwan, because the tail of a typhoon (that’s how they call the hurricanes in Asia) was still active. I missed the typhoon by a few hours!
Frs. Gian Battista Inselvini (Italian) and Fr. Raja Duggimpudi (Indian), both PIME, were waiting for me at the airport. I saw many wearing masks and we had to fill a form in which we declared whether we had “swine flu” symptoms.
The impact with the hot and humid air, just outside the airport, was almost …..breathtaking! In the sense that I really I had the feeling I was breathing …more steam that oxygen! In fact, humidity is 100% and the temperature was 90 degrees F.
I was so happy to see again Fr.Raja, who is one of my first students when I was rector at our Tagaytay PIME Seminary. He is a very bright young priest who speaks an excellent Italian. but you should hear him speaking Cantonese (the Chinese dialect spoken here in Hong Kong)! He sounds – to my Western hears – almost like a native!
That makes me proud!
After five hours of sleep, with the airconditioner at full power, I woke up somehow refreshed. I celebrated Mass with the rector of the House, Fr. Filippo Commissari (a long time missionary in Hong Kong). Then, while Fr.Raja was trying to get a visa for me to China, I went out with Fr. Gian Battista to see a Chinese meat and fruit Market. I have been to several places in the world, and I believe markets are the best ones to observe the local people.
People were all friendly (I am always with somebody speaking Chinese!). It seems to me that Chinese do not mind crowded places, where you have to make your way (politely) pushing here and there. I think Americans would hate that closeness!
Tomorrow, with Fr. Raja, we will take the train to Canton. There, we will meet Frs. Cagnin and Marazzi (PIME) working with the mentally disabled of Hui Ling community. Friday we will take a bus to Macau and on the same day we will take a boat back to Hong Kong.
Before he left, Fr. Sergio seemed a little nervous about the trip. Now, all I hear in his voice is excitement!
Please keep Father in your prayers as he continues his journey. Enjoy the photos!
To be a missionary!
We are kicking off our new “Be a Missionary” Blog Campaign at PIME. How have YOU been a missionary? Come on, you know you have! Don’t see yourself going across the world and serving others? Don’t worry, you can be a missionary without ever leaving your city or your comfy chair for that matter. You can be a missionary by helping the poor, telling someone at the grocery store about your faith, commenting on our blog, or just giving someone a smile. And of course you are also a missionary when you pray for those in need.
Don’t worry, I will be here to help you along the way with helpful tips on how to be a missionary.
As in Tip # 32: Relate with others
When I said “share your faith in the grocery store” I didn’t mean go down an aisle and ask everyone if they know Jesus. What I mean is be kind, don’t run people over with your cart, give a person a coupon for something they are buying, or help a person reach the bottle on the top shelf. Meet people were they are at. After you open the door and make a personal connection with someone then you can begin to introduce them to Jesus. Relating with a person could happen very quickly or it could take years. The thing is not to push Jesus on people, but to be Jesus to others. That is what it means to be a missionary.
OK, now it’s your turn. Write in with your missionary story at email@example.com – we would love to hear from you. Or of course you can simply leave a comment here.
Giovanni Vitale II