Looking Toward the Future

June 25, 2012

Conversations with Columban Seminarians

L to R: Columban seminarians Rafael, Jhon, Jorge, Gonzalo and Columban Fr. John Boles

Rafael Ramirez Salazar is from Temuco, Chile, just over 500 kilometers south of Santiago, and is in his seventh year of the ten year initial formation program.

All of us have a call from God, and each one is different. I feel that I have a call to mission, in particular to Asia. Since I was a child, the Asian way of life has fascinated me, probably because I saw it as so different from our way of life in Chile.

Asia seemed to me like another world, one that has been shaped by very different religious and philosophical systems, and one whose history over thousands of years has had little or nothing to do with our history in this part of the world.

My preference would be to enter into dialogue with people from a country who, I think, are more in touch with nature and lead a simple life, quite unlike that of the major urban centers of the world. My mission would be to share my experience of God with them while in turn they shared their experiences with me. Therefore, our dialogue would be an experience of mutual enrichment. I would like to become part of their lives and, in some way, walk the path of life together.

I feel that both God and the mission call me. I cannot identify precisely the source of this call. It comes from deep within me, and I experience it as one call to mission. I don’t think it is simply my own desire or curiosity. There is definitely more to it than that. It exercises a mysterious power over me; it draws me on. It’s more than just motivation, more than invitation; it’s an interior force with power to shape my life.

Jorge Vargas Saboya is from Lima, Peru, and is in his seventh year of the ten year initial formation program.

For me the heart of mission is meeting with others who, like me, have their own particular ways of seeing life and God. This meeting with others does not necessarily need to be with people from another country or culture. However my Columban experience has opened up for me the possibility of friendship and dialogue with people from other cultures.

I have lived in a mixed nationality community; I have studied in Chicago, Illinois, where I had the opportunity to meet young men and women from many countries. I would like to go on mission to a people of another culture in order to broaden my horizons, to share, to be enriched and to enrich others with all that is my experience and vision of life. For me, the preferred place to meet others at a meaningful level is their home.

I look forward to spending my life doing this, but I am not focused on any particular country or part of the world. I feel that I can be missionary anywhere. A Peruvian priest once said, “Personas que viven a Dios las encuentras en todas partes,” you find Godly people everywhere.

For me, the differences between cultures are of minor importance in comparison with what we have in common. The fact that all of us are sons and daughters of God is far more significant than all the differences that may divide us. However, I am aware of the need to recognize our differences in order to enter into a dialogue of life.

Jhon Velarde del Carpio is from Arequipa, Peru, is in the fourth year of the ten year initial formation program.

For me, being a missionary feels like an enormous challenge that involves my whole being. I do wonder what it will mean for me in years to come but, for now, I want to live intensely what the call to mission offers me. It is difficult to guess, much less to know what mission might mean for me in 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years time. Also, not knowing where I will be seems to be part and parcel of Columban mission.

I am aware that I might be asked to go on mission to China where I probably would not be able to work as a priest, or to Pakistan where I would be working with just a few who struggle for the right to be who they are in the face of hostility from other religious groups. However, these and other local circumstances in other parts of the world will surely change over the years.

At this moment, two loves motivate me: the life project of Jesus of Nazareth and Columban mission, which is to live for the Gospel. I feel ready and willing to go wherever I may be sent and to take on whatever missionary task assigned to me. For now I have no fixed plans for the future.

Gonzalo Borquez Diaz from Santiago, Chile, is in the sixth year of the ten year initial formation program.

My missionary interest initially was focused on China; my dream was to go there on mission. Now I realize that perhaps that may happen but might not. In fact, being a Columban seems to include much uncertainty about the future, so I feel that it is important to live the mission here and now. However, I continue to dream of living out my mission in Asia.

I want to be with God, walk with God here and now, and that is for me being mystical. I want to see God present in each person, in each moment of my life.

It seems to me that being a Columban is like walking along a ridge with a great chasm on either side. Then, at some stage one has to leap either left or right and trust in God. Faith is, in a way, a leap into the abyss. Such trust in God’s love guides the heart of mission spirituality.

However, a Columban needs to be clear about where he comes from, where he is in his life at the present moment, and where he is heading. Abandoning oneself to God does not imply forgoing the responsibility to know oneself.

Not only does a Columban missionary leave his country but also is expected to leave himself, to move beyond his own needs and preferences. To be part of this missionary enterprise it seems to me that one cannot afford to be focused primarily on what one may want or prefer, and this is a permanent challenge for the missionary. At the end of the day, no one place is home.