500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines: Gifted to Give

We, Columban Lay Missionaries, yearn to find and celebrate God’s loving presence among people everywhere and in all of God’s creation.

500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines

Columban Lay Missionaries: Gifted to Give

gifted to give

by Lilibeth Sabado and Mavic Mercene

Perhaps one of the most monumental and revolutionary developments of Christianity is the Second Vatican Council. From Vatican II, the laity’s right, duty and role in the sanctification of ordinary lives has been mandated.

The Missionary Society of Saint Columban has been blessed by the many generous lay men and women who have worked with its priests on mission.  It continues to welcome laity as partners in mission and pledges itself to help them individually and in groups to fulfill their missionary vocation.

The 1970 General Assembly of the Columbans, the first after Vatican II, stated that the lay missionary movement may well be the beginning of something bigger.

The next General Assembly in 1976 clearly recognized that the missionary vocation is shared by lay people as well as by priests and religious.  It proposed, that the Columban Society initiate an experiment which would encourage qualified laity to participate in the Columbans’ missionary work.

In 1977 the Columbans began to explore avenues for greater cooperation with laity in cross-cultural mission.  In the beginning, the focus was on involving specific lay missionary organizations, but soon the invitations were extended to any suitable person. Subsequent assemblies challenged each of the 17 countries where Columbans work to initiate the recruitment of lay missionaries. 

This cooperation flowered in a commitment to partnership with laity in mission through what was called the Columban Lay Mission Program.  The Program evolved gradually through meetings with lay missionaries and was formally approved by the Superior General and Council in June 1994.  In October 2006 this development was affirmed with a shift from lay missionaries being part of a Program to calling themselves the ‘Columban Lay Missionaries’ (CLM).  

Being a Columban lay missionary makes it possible for the mission given by Christ to every baptized person to be lived out with grace and humility. This has offered an opportunity to dynamic young Filipino Catholics to reach out and share their Gospel with the world. 

The Second Plenary Council in the Philippines (1991) made the important point that: “the aid of the church in the Philippines to the Church in foreign countries in dire need of the personnel should be stepped up through a more concerted effort to strengthen the missionary thrust of religious orders, lay mission groups, dioceses, and in particular the Philippine Mission Society”. (No. 19).

Thus far, some eighty Filipinos have become Columban Lay Missionaries in other countries. This includes a young family with their two-year-old daughter who were assigned in Ireland in 1996. At present, there are 19 Filipino lay missionaries working in Taiwan, Myanmar, Ireland, Britain, the US/Mexico border, Fiji, Pakistan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. 

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Mission sending mass of two lay missionaries from the Philippines to Pakistan

Over the years, Columban lay missionaries have gradually taken on greater responsibility for leadership among themselves and for the sending and receiving of lay missionaries to and from countries across the globe.

We, Columban Lay Missionaries, yearn to find and celebrate God’s loving presence among people everywhere and in all of God’s creation. We strive to be God’s witnesses in ordinary life and to receive witness to God from others. The encounters of everyday living challenge us to a deeper discipleship and lead us every day to a renewal and enrichment of their Christian faith.  We are grateful.

It is our fervent prayer that the Columban Lay Missionaries may continue to be hope to the hopeless, comfort to the poor and the marginalized and gentle friends to our Mother Earth.

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The Columban lay missionaries in the Philippine Region with Frs Tim Mulroy (center) and Cireneo Matulac (far right)