It all started as a simple idea. I remember Columban Fr. Dom Nolan and Lourdes de Guzman both of Mission Awareness asking us if we would accept some donations for a garage sale. They must have heard that lay missionaries and staff used to have an auction during their Christmas party as a way of raising money for some projects. We were reluctant at first. We would need plenty of items in order to mount a garage sale. And we would need a lot of preparations. It was unchartered territory. But during the community meeting of lay missionaries we decided, with much faith and courage, to take the challenge.
The core group was composed of Kyung Ja Lee, a Korean lay missionary, Marivic Mercene who works at the lay missionary office and two staff members from the lay missionary house, Marifi Saysay and Rose Eufre. Appeals for donations were made through emails, text messages and posters in Columban Houses. The first items to arrive were the donations of Lourdes. Then came Fr. Dom’s collection of nearly 300 CDs! Donations from Columban Fathers started to come in bags and boxes – from more CDs to clothes, to books to suitcases. There was a suitcase that clearly bore marks of wear and tear of constant travel. There were donations from Columban Sisters, seminarians, returned lay missionaries, as well as from families and friends. The level of excitement was building up.
A week before the garage sale, it was frantic at the lay mission house. Billboards advertising the garage sale were displayed at three strategic places including right in front of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The Sunday before the garage sale, flyers were distributed at the Cathedral. Sorting out and pricing the items took nearly four days. The night before the garage sale, it was crunch time. As we were putting the items for sale on display, we could hardly believe how many items had been collected. Tongan and Fijian lay missionaries, Lusio, Nanise and Sai, had to move boxes and boxes of clothes, shoes, bags, and CDs. Au Luceno flew from Hong Kong straight from a meeting. Extra help to prepare the place came from Marivic’s husband, students at the Formation House and some friends.
Nearly four months after Fr. Dom and Lourdes first asked us the question, the garage sale made its spectacular opening. Neighbors whom we hardly see came. Members of religious congregations who live in the vicinity also came. Columban Fathers, Sisters, students, returned lay missionaries, family and friends ‐ they all came. They all came not only to support us but also to reconnect and to simply enjoy the fun.
A few months later, questions were being asked again if there would be another garage sale. We still had some left over items from the first garage sale, and we have already experienced how generous people are to donate items. But in September 2009 Luzon was hit by successive typhoons and flooding. There was massive appeal for donation for the thousands of typhoon victims. We decided to postpone the garage sale in deference to the appeal for help for the typhoon victims.
In January 2010 appeals for donations were again sent through emails and text messages. Posters were displayed at Columban Houses. Donations began pouring in again – from golf clubs to laptops. We started to clear the lay mission house of extra furniture and equipment. We thought we only had a few items, until the afternoon of the garage sale. The items included three big boxes of children’s toys and boys that were donated by the niece and nephew of Columban lay missionary Beth Sabado all the way from New York!
The day before the garage sale Columban lay missionaries Irma Cantago and Marifi spent almost the whole day baking cakes. Columban lay missionary Rowena Caggauauan and her niece came to provide extra help. The students at the formation house provided some extra muscles in moving boxes of clothes, books and bags. Workers doing some repairs at the lay mission house also helped. Again, Marivic’s husband, children and niece were as reliable as ever. Columban lay missionary Au Luceno took a break from her studies to lend her support as did Columban lay missionary Lani Tamatawale.
And they came again – Columban Fathers led by the Regional Director Pat O’Donoghue, Sisters, returned lay missionaries, students at the formation house, family of Filipino lay missionaries, friends, and neighbors. And so they came again – to show their solidarity to the cause, to reconnect, to hunt for bargains, and to simply have fun.
As I look back at the experience I realize that the garage sale was not simply a fundraising initiative. The amount collected would seem very small – about $3,260 from the two sales. We were not simply turning trash into cash. But what is most amazing about the sale is that it brought people together. It is not only a lay mission project but it has become a truly Columban, neighborhood and family affair! And for the spirit of solidarity and friendship that the garage sale has brought into the community, we are truly grateful to God for this.
Rowena Dato Cuanico was a Columban Lay Missionary from 2000-2011. She spent eight years in the Fiji Islands (2000-2008). She served in two Columban Parishes and has worked with the Mission Awareness Team. She also served as JPIC Coordinator of the Columban Missionaries in Fiji. She returned to the Philippines in 2008 and served until May 2011 as Regional Lay Mission Coordinator of the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines.