On Tuesday 16th April, an intrepid group of six people left Britain for a 10 day mission exposure visit to the Philippines. There they will encounter a new culture and witness to the mission presence of the Columban priests and lay missionaries, listening and learning, to support and enrich their faith journey, an experience they will bring to the communities where they live and work in Britain.
John, Katie, Marina, Catherine, Joe and Stephen began their ‘Invitation to Mission’ (I2M) journey in January, when they met for the first time at one of two preparation days. Listening and learning to the cross-cultural experience of others, as well as exposure visits to mission places in Birminhgam, began to open minds and hearts to a new understanding of mission.
Joe O’Brien shared the following reflection on the second preparation day and overnight stay in March.
“We are starting to get to know each other and becoming easier in each other’s company. Even so, I am at the same time a little on the edge as I am constantly challenged and seek to find my place in the team and what God has planned for me. I am a natural introvert and was filled with dread when we were told what the Columbans had planned for us on the Friday night….
I was to go to Fatima House with Katie, a fellow participant and Nathalie, a Columban lay missionary, to meet with female asylum seekers who are supported to live in the U.K. by various charities whilst they deal with an impossible legal system. Sharing a meal is always a great ice breaker and gave us something to chat about whilst we all put each other at ease. Four very interesting and strong women shared of themselves in a way that took me away from my shyness and into an experience that was very educational and very humbling. I can only speak English but one of the women had six languages and the discussion was lively around who spoke the most and who was best at them.
I was struck by a feeling that although we were from very different places with different stories, the same things seemed to be important to all of us. How we fitted into a group, what we were good or not so good at and how special other people could be.
I learned to be open to what others wished to offer to share with me without me having expectations, agenda or questions. I also learned that ‘mission’ is not something we take to far flung places but can be something we do for God and our fellow humans right on our doorstep.
I have a sense that in the Philippines we will be on Holy Ground, amongst people whom God loves, and that I might catch glimpse of him in their sharing. I pray for them and us as we travel towards Easter and our time of fellowship.”
John reflected on his visit to the Passionist community in Sparkhill with Catherine.
“Fr Martin said to Catherine and I that we live, in the Western world, as in a dream. This really made me think of how little I know about how difficult life is for the greater numbers of people in other parts of our world and the daily struggles they face. If they present to us here seeking asylum, they are often rejected and ignored – judged to be ‘less’ than our ‘more’.
Shall we wake from this dream? What does Jesus ask of us? Ask of me?”
The group are now in the Philippines and will be sharing reflections on their experiences via this website.