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First Mission Assignment

Impoverished district of Lima, Peru, that is built on a mountain side.

By Fr. Bernie Lane

At the beginning of August 2022, Larry Duerme from the Philippines, and Jeongrak Lee (Vera no) from Korea arrived with us in Lima, Peru. Then, during the second week of October, Tu Hkawng (Matthew) arrived from Myanmar. His arrival was delayed due to problems and delays in receiving his Visa to enter Peru.

Peruvian hats in the airLarry and Jeongrak are in Cochabamba, Bolivia, studying Spanish at the “CLIMAL” Institute (Linguistic and Intercultural Center), formerly the Maryknoll Institute, and living with Bolivian families. Matthew is taking virtual classes from the Institute and living with the Davila family who have been friends of the Columbans for many years.

Their arrival, and that of Ambrosio, Pepe and Jose from Korea in Chile, represents the beginning of a new chapter in our mission history in Peru and Chile (the Region of South America), with another Society First Mission Assignment (FMA) Program. FMA is a community program. It is a stage of formation for Columban students, but it is also another instance of ongoing formation for all of us as missionary disciples of the Lord, and members of the Missionary Society of St. Columban.

May we have the willingness, availability and spirit of fraternity to “walk together” with Larry, Jeongrak and Matthew during their FMA here in Peru. The program during these two years includes some time in Chile as well, when we will have an “exchange,” when the group from Chile will be visiting Peru.

Their FMA assignment and presence among us here in Peru, and that of Ambrosio, Pepe and Jose, who are in Chile, happens in this time of “Kairos,” hopes and new possibilities for the Church in Latin America and universally. Pope Francis calls us as Church-People of God to take on the challenge of forming ourselves personally and communally as missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus and His Gospel, as a synodal Church in mission.

We Columban missionaries— along with the people with whom we walk in our apostolates, programs and projects—are challenged to both form ourselves and form others in the three fundamental areas proposed in the preparation for a Synodal Church: Mission, communion and participation.

We are challenged to be proactive participants in the project of Pope Francis to reform and renew the Church, advancing on “the path of pastoral and missionary conversion.” (Evangelii Gaudium #25) We are challenged to make our the Society a “dream” with “a missionary option capable of transforming everything.” (Evangelii Guadium #27)

Larry, Jeongrak and Matthew come with their “missionary dream” and enrich us with their personal stories, cultures, life experiences, Church and vocational journeys. They make our community and missionary experience more diverse. In a recent gathering at the Central House in Lima to celebrate Fiji’s Independence Day, we were fourteen Columbans of nine nationalities—an expression of the universal missionary Church, and the Missionary Society of St. Columban today.

Welcome Jeongrak, Larry and Matthew. Together with Ambrosio, Pepe and Jose in Chile, may you have a good FMA experience here with us and the peoples of Peru and Chile as companions and disciple-missionaries in the Lord’s mission.

Columban Fr. Bernie Lane lives and works in Peru.