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Small Steps

Winding path through a forest
Embracing My Calling

By Song Janju F. Javier

Every first Sunday of the month, the diocese weekly newsletter advertised the Come & See gathering for prospective participants in the Columban Lay Missionaries. Most of those who attend the gathering do so after seeing the newsletter’s promotion. It was in October 2021, amidst the peak of the pandemic, that I first participated in one of these gatherings. As face-to-face meetings were restricted, the gathering took place over Zoom. I vividly remember the unfamiliar feeling of sharing through a monitor. My journey towards identifying with the calling of a “Columban Lay Missionary” and embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage was not solely prompted by the conventional methods mentioned above — browsing the sections about the gatherings in the diocesan bulletins. There was a personal and special story behind it, and I wish to share this part with you.

I was lost, not knowing where to go and how to live, having lost sight of life’s ultimate purpose.

About five years ago, I left Seoul, where I had lived with my parents for a long time and established my roots in my hometown of Chuncheon. Personally, it was a time of struggle, returning to the midst of the world after failing to fulfill the purpose I had set for myself in life. I was lost, not knowing where to go and how to live, having lost sight of life’s ultimate purpose. I longed to seize even the smallest opportunity to move forward, no matter what it might be.

Person holding a small leaf against a scenic background During that period, my mother suggested that I meet a nun whom she occasionally met and had consulted. Although I initially declined a few times, I eventually went to meet the nun upon my mother’s earnest request. There, I encountered Sister Margaret, a nun who resembled my grandmother — white-haired, petite yet strong, gentle, and had the appearance of a clear soul. Sister Margaret encouraged me to continue conversing with her in English, despite the challenge and difficulty of conversation in English. As our conversations progressed, I found myself peering deeper into aspects of myself that I had not seen before. The tasks I engaged in with Sister Margaret sometimes made me feel ashamed of myself and at times brought sadness, yet they were transformative.

Throughout that winter, I met Sister Margaret once or twice a month for conversations. Sister Margaret referred to herself as a member of the Columban Sisters and provided me with the name and contact information of the priest in charge of vocations for the Missionary Society of St. Columban. She also recommended that I reach out and consider attending the lay missionary gatherings affiliated with the Columban Mission Society.

Thanks to the unique connection with Sister Margaret, I am grateful to have been participating in the Columban Lay Missionary Come & See gatherings for nearly two years. This journey has led me to discern my vocation and to be invited to identify a missionary calling. Looking back, I cannot help but think that Sister Margaret was an angel sent by God to call me back from my wanderings and uncertainties.

This journey has led me to discern my vocation and to be invited to identify a missionary calling.

Like many who dream of becoming missionaries, the title of “missionary” carries significant weight for me. I have come to understand through life’s experiences that becoming the person we envision is far from easy. Our lives are filled with various aspects — challenges, adversity, humility and joy — that help us realize that the path to our desired life is not straightforward. As I engaged in these prospective participant gatherings, I did so not with the goal of becoming someone, but with the intention of approaching this journey with an open heart. Sometimes, I attended these gatherings seeking solace after a challenging month, while at other times, I listened to the stories of others, offering small comfort. In the beginning, I was focused on sharing my story, but as time passed, I became more comfortable and open-minded, able to lend an empathetic ear to others’ stories. Through consistent attendance at these gatherings, peace gradually settled in my heart, and with a growing sense of certainty, I took small steps towards embracing my calling.

After attending these gatherings for a certain period, I realized the need for a resolute commitment to a missionary life. I even proposed the idea of a pilgrimage program for this purpose to Anna Noh, who guided the gatherings in her role as the coordinator for the Columban Lay Missionaries in Korea. Later, when the situation of Covid-19 began to improve, I was delighted to hear about the upcoming Columban Society Invitation to Mission program in Taiwan. Through this mission exposure program in Taiwan, I hope to take another step forward on the path of Columban Mission in my life. In this brief yet profound journey, I pray that this precious time allows me to draw closer to the Lord.

Song Janju F. Javier shared this reflection.