Facing My Struggles
God is always leading us in every step of our journey. But there are times that we do not recognize His presence because of situations that separate us from Him. This is what I remember every time I find it difficult to understand the things happening in my life. There are questions in my mind, and no answers can give me satisfaction. But when I responded to the call of being a lay missionary, I slowly understood why I was sent here in this desert, an isolated place where no trees grow and only brown chocolate-colored hills surrounding the area.
Let me start my story by sharing with you this thought: It's in Christ that we discover who we are and what we are living for.
I was always involved in catechism classes in public schools when I was in college. Sharing my knowledge about Jesus with the children is my passion, and I find it very fulfilling every time I see their eyes glow when I start to tell them stories about Jesus. My experience as a catechist back then gave me enough reason to continue up to this very moment, because I know that it is what God wants me to do: to fill their hunger for Christ.
That is the reason why I chose to be a teacher even though I finished another course. Truly, I believe that God has His own way of leading us to His plans simply because all my desires came from Him. And these desires can give us true happiness in life. They are His gifts so that we can use them to accomplish our mission.
As I reflect on my experience here in my mission area in the desert of Alto Hospicio, Iquique, Chile, children are also longing for Jesus Christ. Every time we have our catechism, the children are excited to hear stories about Jesus Christ. I taught them with animations and songs to introduce Jesus to them and so far, they are enjoying our class and giving me good reflections and opinions. But the most important part of my mission is to let them understand the meaning of the Eucharist so that they will give due respect to said celebration and hopefully receive Him in the form of bread and wine.
But the sad part of the story was the way parents were taking the whole thing. They know that it's their obligation to receive the Sacraments, but they don't take responsibility in accompanying their children in the process of receiving the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. They really don't know that it is their duty and responsibility to understand faith so that they can guide their children in the right understanding of what we believe in as Christians. There are some parents who really are willing to learn and to understand the Christian faith though.
Really, it is quite challenging for me to share Christ in this situation. It dawned on me that they do not really know the true essence of why they have to receive such Sacraments. These parents really affected their children because after receiving the Sacraments, children are not visible anymore in the church.
Based on my own observation and from what I have heard from the people here, some think that the church is controlling them. With all the rules coming from the bishop and priests in their local church only a few people attend the Mass every Sunday. Some are present only when they are having a death anniversary or wedding anniversary. But for ordinary days, rarely do they participate in the Eucharist.
Now, the big challenge for me as a missionary is to let them understand that the church is not about rules, but it is about their relationship with God. They should know that God is not merely calling us to go to church, He is calling us to be His Church, to give hope to the world and continue the mission our Lord Jesus entrusted us with here on earth.
They need to learn that God loves us no matter what and who we are. And every time we go to Mass, God is gathering us together like one big family giving thanks for all His blessings, forgiving us for all our sins and guiding us to whatever will come our way in the future. He wants a relationship not dictated by rules made by humans, who may see Him as demanding and authoritative, but more of a personal approach that experiences Him as loving and forgiving. To sum it up, the people here need spiritual formation for them to have a personal relationship with God. There is a big call and a big challenge on my part as a missionary as I was able to see these problems. People here seem to have a wrong image of the Church and of God.
Pope Francis once said that "Being a catechist is not a title, it is an attitude abiding with Him and it lasts a lifetime. It means abiding in the Lord's presence and letting ourselves be lead by Him." We are all living witnesses to God's word and we should be aware of the connection and the importance of the Gospel in our daily life. But with the kind of world that we have right now, it's not easy to do these things. It takes a lot of prayer, deep faith, patience, humility, unconditional love and most especially the grace of God to be able to make a difference in a world tarnished by selfish acts.
I know it is not easy to accomplish my mission, but with God's grace, I can make a difference to the lives of these children and hope that one day they will experience God in a special way, as I experience Him every day. Now my prayer as I do my catechism with the children is that God will grant me the serenity to accept each child as God created them, the courage to lovingly guide them in His footsteps, and the faith to grow in God's grace.
Gilda Comayas is a Columban lay missionary living and working in Chile.