A Young Columban Reflects on His Missionary Calling
"I have to be in Myanmar. I have to go. I have to take a risk. I know there will be a lot of frustration, difficulties and struggles, yet inside my heart I hear the voice of God gently saying, 'Go! You must go, you have to go.'"
These are the words of recently ordained Chilean Columban priest, Fr. Rafael Ramirez. He spent several weeks in Australia at the end of January on the way from Chile to his mission assignment, Myanmar. In Myanmar, Fr. Rafael will spend 2017 in the capital, Yangon, learning the Burmese language and then will move up to the north of the country to learn the Kachin language. He will then work amongst the Kachin people. They live in an area of civil conflict.
"Until I ran into the Columbans by accident, I had never thought of being a priest. A priest, no way, I would have said. Then after meeting Columban missionaries who had come from Fiji to a remote area of Chile and lived amongst marginalized indigenous peoples, I thought to myself, why not be a priest! Something happened inside. I began to think differently. I was being called by God.
I identify very much with the Columban co-founder, Bishop Edward Galvin. Something was calling him to China. Something had touched him deeply. He did not know what China would be like, yet he decided to go, to trust. He did not have an idea what the future would be like. Yet it was God's call for Edward Galvin to leave all and go to China.
All my university classmates have good jobs, good careers and bright futures. It is hard for them to understand why I am not with them. Why go to a difficult and dangerous place like the north of Myanmar, engaged in a civil war. It seems crazy to them.
Something happened inside. I began to think differently. I was being called by God.
Yet the calmness I felt with my classmates at university about my future has all been stirred up and changed. The calm waters of my soul have been stirred up. God has placed his finger into my soul, stirring up my life and nothing will ever be the same again. God is calling me to go to Myanmar. I have free will. I could have refused the call if I wanted to. Yet despite what others feel, I know I have to go, I have to be there. I accept the call.
When the apostles were called, they did not know what will happen to them. I do not know what it will be like in Myanmar. I am afraid but not paralysed. Maybe it will be very different from the way I think it will work out, but I have to see what God has installed for me in Myanmar. I will keep trusting in the Lord, keep moving forward."
Columban Mission magazine wishes Fr. Rafael all the best for his new mission in Myanmar and will keep him in our prayers. We thank him for his beautiful reflection.