Feel at Home

frosted cookies in the shape of a heart
Good Energy

By Kim Sun Hee

Finding and determining any new ministry involvement always comes with an interplay of many emotions such as nervousness, excitement and even worry. Whatever decision to take would involve change, adjustment, and a new direction. The key phrase I kept reminding myself of was “to step out of the box and face new challenges” and that was what motivated me when I decided to choose Malate Parish, Philippines, as my ministry. My experience so far matches well with that key phrase since I moved into my new ministry.

Malate Church (Our Lady of Remedies Parish) in Manila, Philippines
Malate Church (Our Lady of Remedies Parish) in Manila, Philippines

I have already been in the Philippines for more than seven years, but working in Malate presented me with a lot of new experiences. Among them, the most gratifying and fresh experience for me is the working relationship with the priests in the church. I used to work in non-Columban parishes before. From my experience working in those parishes, I would spend a lot of time introducing the Columban Society, explaining my identity as a lay missionary and what we do. Often my presence was seen as that of a volunteer, and it took time to make people understand that my presence was more than a volunteer but rather, a commitment, a vocation. As an outsider and foreigner, I could enjoy close friendships with the parishioners, but it was not easy to participate in the activities in the church, especially without the support of the parish priest.

In contrast, here in Malate has been a different experience from the beginning. On my first Sunday, I was introduced by the parish priest as a new lay missionary in the parish. After the Mass, some parish volunteers greeted me saying “welcome to the Malate Church.” This small gesture, which was probably formal and/or routine to them, came to me as a profound gesture of hospitality, as well as being recognized as being a Columban lay missionary.

As a missionary in Malate church, I not only participate in the social service programs but also in all activities in the church. In addition, I have the full support of the ordained Columbans in my ministry, which is the driving force that enables me to go the extra mile in my contribution to the Columban mission priorities. The livelihood project currently being planned is a result of the support and partnership among the Columbans in the Malate church.

To be invited to the different liturgical celebrations among the parish and privately among Columbans in my ministry, attending the regional activities as a member of the Malate community and sharing meals together, whether it is a special day or an ordinary day are activities that may sound natural and ordinary in the ministry, but I know that not every lay missionary would experience them as being “at home.” All of these can be credited to the intentional effort to work in partnership among Columbans in my ministry. Because of my presence, the language too has evolved to become more inclusive. What was once a “priests meeting,” is now a “team meeting.” It feels great to be included!

“Feel at home” is what the priests always say to me. They have told me to let them know of anything I need without feeling that I am demanding, especially if it is related to my safety and security. All of the facilities and resources here are for the use of all of us so I should feel free to use them whenever I need them. I realize anew that these three words “feel at home” are comforting words as they warm my heart.

I sincerely appreciate my Columban family in my ministry who have become my mentors, my companions, and my friends, providing me the opportunity to have a mature and meaningful experience on my mission journey. Indeed, my experience in Malate is an affirmation that partnership is our way of being on mission. May we continue to be a source of good energy to each other.

Columban lay missionary Kim Sun Hee lives and works in the Philippines.