It was a great joy for me to be invited, two years ago, to return to Santiago, Chile, to celebrate 40 years of the Columban Sisters' mission in that beautiful country.
As a teenager I browsed whatever reading materials were left around my home: Sunday newspapers that my father enjoyed; novels that my older brother and sisters considered worthwhile; and religious magazines that my mother read at the end of her busy days.
Fifty years ago I was pastor of an "old Christian" community on Amakusa Island in the far south of Japan. By "old Christian" I mean that a Jesuit missionary, Fr. Luis Almeida, founded the parish in 1566. Then the Tokugawa daimyo government expelled or executed all missionaries.
When I was sixteen years old, my father was diagnosed with cancer and died ten weeks later. Soon afterwards, I dropped out of high school to manage the family farm in order to support my mother and four younger siblings.
In my early days as a missionary in Fiji, I worked mainly among the Hindu Indo-Fijians around the town of Labasa. I was often invited by head teachers of primary schools to explain to their students the meaning of Good Friday and Easter Monday, since both were public holidays.
I remember how I silently uttered a prayer to bless me in my desire to become a missionary when Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines in 1985. Years later when I watched a movie about Mother Theresa's life I started to feel remiss about something.
Ana Flores Huaman is a Columban lay missionary with nearly eight years of experience, and this is her story. I first knew Ana when she was accepted into the Columban lay mission sending program in Lima, Peru, in 2007.
Shwe Mya was a dignified 40-year-old mother of two children. Her oldest son had been sent to a Buddhist monastery when he was six years old because Shwe Mya was too poor to feed him. The younger daughter lived with her grandmother whose village was very far away from Myitkyina.
"What do you know about Ireland?" I asked the third grade class that was excited to have just learnt that I was from there. "St. Patrick was from there" responded a girl in the front row. "So did that mean that he was Irish?" I inquired, my tone betraying an element of doubt.
My name is Sr. Young Mi Choi, and I live and work in the parish of Cristo Liberador, (Christ the Liberator), one of twelve parishes which comprise the district of San Juan de Lurigancho in the eastern part of Lima, Peru, in the foothills of the Andes.