My Time Building Bridges as a CCAO Volunteer

Rick Elefano
November 20, 2012

Rick Elefano

My two-month engagement at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO) has been quite beneficial to my faith life.  Not only did I get to learn and know more about the missionary spirit of the Columban fathers, but CCAO got me to witness and participate in its works and how some other advocacy organizations and working groups get to support the Church’s social teachings on peace, justice and integrity of creation.  The visit to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Capitol Hill was of special interest.  I certainly feel most privileged to have met two of the Columban’s seasoned missionaries to Pakistan – Frs. Tomas King and Finbar Maxwell – and being with them and the team to some advocacy meetings and learning from them the condition and situation of the Catholic communities in a conservative Muslim country.  Maybe this is especially so, because I lived and worked at one time as a ‘missionary’ in the country of Islam – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What I treasure too is the Columban missionary’s approach to their work – what Fr. Finbar called ‘a dialogue of life,’ to distinguish it from a dialogue of words.  This is to describe their missionary attitude towards people in Pakistan on how they would strive to build bridges of caring and trust, of peace and solidarity.  It is what another Columban priest describes in an article how missionary work is simply accompanying the people in their journey to God in Christ, who has been with the people even before the arrival of the missionaries.

Through the CCAO I was able to realize the extent of the Columbans’ engagement in bringing the Good News to people of different cultures and creed – the constant striving to bring to life the social teachings of the Church viz-a-viz the realities of life of the people in difficult and oppressive situations, whether it be poverty, religious discrimination, human rights violation, socio-political inequality, etc.

Going through the Columban Mission magazines helped me a lot to know about the Columbans and their mission.  The Center has facilitated this to a point where I can truly and knowingly celebrate in joy and thanksgiving the presence and work of the Columbans in the world – priests, lay missioners, seminarians, associates and interns.

Seeing the Columban priests and lay missionaries living and working in mission countries revives in me that same missionary spirit that once drove me to join the Redemptorist congregation in the Philippines.  The spirit still exerts a pull in me.  The concern is more that ‘the spirit is willing, but . . . .”

Just as in other work settings, the Center brought me into relationship with people, opening up for me opportunities to understand better the American culture, continue nurturing the human virtues of teamwork and productivity, share insights and viewpoints on faith, and even envision a better possibility of living a missionary life, etc., all graces to a life that has been a blessing through and through – something to be always thankful for.

While I I feel I am just beginning to get the hang of it, my short stint of two months is up.  I wish I could do more.  But I am only too aware of my limited abilities and imperfections.  My sincere thanks to Amy and Chloe.  And best wishes to my colleagues, Xi and Lauren.