A Farewell and a Beginning
Last year, in December, I had the opportunity to attend the mission-sending Mass for Hazel Jean Angwani at Santa Rita de Cascia Mission Station in Bontoc, Montain Province, Philippines. Twenty of us, including Columban priests, lay missionaries and co-workers traveled from Manila to Bontoc in three cars. Our group included two lay missionaries who had returned from Pakistan, and one who will be joining Hazel in Pakistan.
The Mass began with a procession. Hazel walked down the aisle of the church, arm in arm with her parents. I saw pride in the eyes of Hazel’s mum but sadness in the eyes of her father. It was a powerful picture of the parents bestowing their blessing on Hazel and on the life she had chosen. they were giving her away to Columban mission and to Pakistan. As a mother myself, I could imagine the sadness her parents felt when Hazel told them that she had been assigned to Pakistan.
Giving the homily, the celebrant, Fr. Michael Tokoyen, said that Bontoc had received missionaries from other countries, and that it was indeed an honor to be sending one of its own parishioners to be a missionary to Pakistan.
After the homily, Hazel declared her personal mission statement:
To find meaning, fulfillment and value in living, I, Hazel Jean P. Angwani will:
- Lead a God-centered life around the principles of love, joy, integrity, honesty, service to others and trustworthiness.
- Remember the lessons learned and blessings given, remembering people who supported me in spirit and in prayers.
- Revere admirable characteristics in others such as being compassionate, committed, caring, principle-centered, moral and balanced, and attempt to implement similar characteristics in my own life.
- Recognize my strengths and develop talents as a person who is responsible, trustworthy, honest and hardworking.
- Humble myself by acknowledging that I can be too stubborn, to not listen sometimes, reactive and short-tempered most of the time, and by constantly striving to transform my weaknesses into strengths.
Envision myself becoming a person who is:
- Courageous enough to pursue what is right and just.
- Humble enough to admit my mistakes and accept my flaws.
- Loving and caring.
She was then presented with a Bible, a mission cross and a candle. the Bible will nourish and strengthen her faith. In reading, reflecting and and praying God’s word, she will continue to grow in her willingness to serve the poor and marginalized of Pakistan. the cross symbolizes the greatest love ever known and that is God’s love. It is also a sign of the mission to which she is called. the candle symbolizes the light, hope and healing of the world. It is also a reminder to Hazel that the Lord’s light is the most powerful light ever.
Hazel’s parents prepared lunch at their house, and her mother shared how she felt when Hazel had spoken to her about her last will and testament: “Columban missionaries are normally buried where they die. So if Hazel died in Pakistan, she would be buried there. If the family wanted to have her body returned to them, they would have to facilitate its transport.”
At first Hazel’s mum did not want to hear any of this. In fact, she cried while hearing what Hazel was saying. But realizing that Hazel’s heart was set on going on mission, she listened and asked that if anything happened to her, she wanted her ashes brought back to the family. then, together with her husband, she she warmly thanked all of us present and the Columban community for our support of her daughter in her mission endeavors.
Mavic Mercene is a Columban lay missionary working in the Philippines.