Christ at the Center
My name is Iowane Naio, and I am from Fiji. I joined the Columban Formation Program in 2014, and I studied for two and a half years in the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji before moving to the Philippines in 2016 to continue my theological studies. At the moment, I am in Lima, Peru, for my First Mission Assignment Program. I arrived here in Lima in June 2019 and then went to Bolivia to learn the Spanish language. I spent five months and two weeks in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and was able to learn enough Spanish to start my mission. It’s just two months now since I came back to Lima and began to immerse myself among the people here in the community of the “Sacred Heart” in the parish of Holy Archangels.
The people in this community are not that well-off financially, but they are really friendly and very accommodating. I just love the simplicity of their lifestyles and their way of being in Church. Some of the chapels here are quite small and very simple, and they are still developing. I noticed that they really treasure every little thing they have, and they always try their best to get together and glorify God in the best way they can. I felt that it was a graceful and enriching experience to spend Christmas with the people. My experience with them brought me to a deeper reflection on the experience of Mary, Joseph and the Magi in the stable during the birth of Jesus. I could see some resemblance, in the experience of people in this community and of Mary, Joseph and the Magi. Like Mary, Joseph and the Magi, these people are always prepared to receive Jesus at any place regardless of the condition. Their central focus is to encounter Jesus, whether in the Eucharist during Mass, liturgies, devotional prayers, Sacraments, holy water after Mass or even receiving a blessing from the priest after Mass.
Reflecting on the way they live and express their faith really inspires me to reflect on my own journey of faith. First of all, they reminded me of the actual meaning of being Christian, that Christ should always be at the center, regardless of anything else. Secondly, these people also helped me to realize that, to be “Church” can be very simple, just like the Holy Family in the stable in Jerusalem.
All I need to be “Church” is: firstly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who constantly guided Mary, Joseph and the Magi and secondly, to have a mutual understanding and love for my fellow companions in this journey, just like Mary and Joseph, and also the Magi among themselves.
Lastly, to be “Church” today, I need to be a man of hope just like the Magi. This will enable me to persevere in constantly seeking Christ, in the people I encounter regardless of who they are and the situations they are living in.
I am really blessed to be in this culture which is full of God’s mysteries, because I am confident that my experience with the people here will help me not just to be a better person but to be a better Columban missionary as well. As Columban himself said, “A life unlike your own can be your teacher.”
To conclude, I would like to thank you all, my families, friends and benefactors, for the unending prayers, generosity and sacrifice. Without all this support, it would be quite difficult for us to carry out this lovely mission of God. Please, let us continue to pray for each other in order to allow Jesus to be in the center of our lives and everything that we do. I will be working here until 2021, and I am sure that the people here have a lot to offer me. I just have to be humble and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, who was already and always will be at work in this community of the “Sacred Heart.”
Originally from Fiji, Columban seminarian Iowane Naio is currently living and working in Peru.