My missionary journey in Ireland was the highlight of my entire career and my greatest accomplishment in life. Giving up a good and secured career to be a Columban Lay Missionary to cross boundaries of culture, race and creed was the most excellent decision I had ever made. With full trust and confidence I kept holding on to His promise to be with me every step of the way no matter what the situation it maybe. True enough! God provided me everything that I needed more than I expected... I am so blessed indeed. God’s love and goodness unfolds every circumstance and moment.
My journey in Navan Parish where I was assigned was very challenging, enriching, at the same time fulfilling. The countless encounters I had with the people of diverse culture and background made me value cultural diversity and sensitivity. Being with the people is the essence and the heart of my mission. I became who I am because of the people I met and worked with. I found more fulfillment and inspiration to passionately do my ministry because of their love and support. It still lingers in my mind and heart that the only motivation I had when I decided to go overseas mission was to share my God given gifts, the love and the goodness that I have experienced in my life’s journey. Instead, I found a grand exchange of gifts.
Life in mission has not always been easy. God’s unwavering love and consolation abound even in the midst of tribulations. One of the memorable experiences I had was when I got to visit the orphanage. That was December and during that time the children were busy preparing for the carol service. I went to the chapel where the children were practicing songs for the Christmas carol, and I watched them from a distance. I am amazed with their talent in singing and how these children played their instruments beautifully. What a gift! One of the girls caught my attention. Even from a distance I felt my heart wanted to reach out to her. She was very skinny, and there was sadness in her eyes. While singing and playing her instrument she kept on looking at me, and I looked at her too with a sincere smile and I raised my thumb to signify my approval and appreciation for her talent. Then her expression changed into joy. After the practice she approached me, and we engaged in a heart to heart conversation. I came to know that she was abandoned by her mother when she was a child... It was a humbling experience.
Before I left that place, she gave me a very tiny stuffed toy she made and a card with an inspiring letter as a sign of her gratitude and the friendship. Her story touched me. She narrated that when she saw me smiling at her she felt accepted, appreciated and loved. When I went to rest that night, I was reflecting and asking myself, have I done something great that would change her life? Our witnessing presence is a powerful tool to convey the message of goodness and love through that simple gesture of smile and kindness.
The countless beautiful stories of the heart in mission whether successes or failures gives me strength and vigor to move forward with strength, courage, confidence and strong determination to continue my missionary endeavors. That Columban missionary spirit will continue to flourish and bloom where it is planted because it is rooted in the heart of a missionary and will never depart. My missionary experience is like a dappled sunshine mark spots of different shade, tone or color from the background but it portrays life at its spectrum of magnificent colors that creates a distinctive beauty that shines in dappled light.
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Virgie T. Tanate lives and works in Ireland.