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A Day in the Life of a Columban

Fr. Chris Saenz, Director

From the Director

By Fr. Chris Saenz

In my 20 years of mission in Chile, my family and close friends rarely asked about my daily life in the mission. What they saw were the broad strokes of global travel, exotic places, different cultures, colorful cuisines, etc. There general impression was that I lived as a tourist. Also, their basic assumption about my daily life was that I just waited in parish house until someone knocked on the door asking for a sacrament or some pastoral need. They would be surprised that a missionary’s daily life was not so different from their own.

Life of a Columban MissionaryYes, as a missionary, I was able to travel to different places around the world and experience things most don’t have the time or resources to do. Yet, that was only a very small percentage of my life. The majority of my time was dedicated to the places I was assigned. For example, my first assignment in Chile was to a small, rural, coastal town called Puerto Saavedra. It was picturesque place that was popular with tourists in the summer. Once a friend visited me there and commented, “I can see why you want to be here, such an easy life of beaches and sun.” As if I spent my days sitting on the beach, sipping margaritas, and soaking up rays!

On the contrary, my time was spent with the daily operations of the church. Believe it or not, we missionaries have to pay bills, deposit money in the bank, buy food for the house, have the car fixed, search for an electrician to repair the wiring in the house, etc. In addition, my daily life was performing small acts of public relations of short visits and small conversations. I would pass by houses to visit the sick, or talk to a person to see how they are doing, or try to convince a person to be a new catechist or lay minister. These mall things had to be done but were the backbone of mission. If houses, cars, and buildings were not maintained, we couldn’t perform our ministry. If people were not visited, or conversed with, there would be no life in the church. As one can see, sitting on a beach all day was not an option.

It sounds ordinary but, as one person told me, “what we think is ordinary is extraordinary to the other.” No matter who we are, or what we do, our “daily small task” can make a difference in the world. Throughout my missionary life, I was greatly surprised how the greatest conversions and changes came about by a simple daily task such as stopping by a house to say “hi” to a person. That is mission.