In the Spirit of Gratitude, Generosity and Joy

In the Spirit of Gratitude, Generosity and Joy by: Arlenne B. Villahermosa
The generosity of the Columban Fathers which I witnessed during my exposure in Mindanao when I was still in the Orientation program inspired me in my call to mission.  The Columban Fathers came.

The first group of Columban Fathers to arrive in Mindanao

to help build the churches in Mindanao, educated the people and helped build the communities.  When the right time came, they turned over the parishes to the local church without frills, without any claim attached to the parishes, but only with joy

Columban Fr. Colm Murphy, who served in Banmaw for many years,  Bsp Raymond Sumlut Gam – Bishop of Banmaw Diocese, Fr John Jangma Yung Wa  and some parishioners during the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Columban Missionaries in Banmaw in 2011

anniversary of the arrival of the Columban Missionaries in Banmaw, a Columban priest asked an elderly woman how come the people in Banmaw give special treatment to the Columbans when in fact there were other missionaries who came before and after them.  The woman simply answered, “Because the Columban Fathers love us”.  This answer stayed with me until today.  With love comes generosity of spirit.  With grande animo (great spirit) the Columban Fathers did the work entrusted to them and they continue to do so until today, responding to the challenges that present themselves with joy and generosity of heart.

Frs. Michael Lung Wa, Columban Eamon Sheridan and Paul Awng Dang

 Banmaw, Myanmar 2011


So it was with St. Columban, the Patron Saint of the Columban Missionaries.  With grande animo, St. Columban left us a great example of how to follow Christ by committing himself to Christ and the values of the Gospel taught by Christ, living out that commitment with love and in the love of God.  This is very much the spirit of the Columban Society, to go where the Spirit leads us in crossing boundaries of culture, creed, race, gender and age.


What we are today, we owe to those who have gone before us – those who have embraced us and welcomed us to the Society, those who mentored us and journeyed with us so that we are who we are today, what we are today.  We owe them our gratitude for what they have given to us with and in their generosity, starting with Bishop Edward Galvin and Father John Blowick and all those who have come after them, including all the Columbans at present, whether they are in a leadership role, formation or simply companions on the journey.  Their generosity in sharing from what they have has led us all here.  They have their own temperaments, personality styles and dynamics but they have given from themselves, trusting in God’s goodness to make sense of the whole.  They have been generous in responding to the invitation to share the love of God for and in His creation.  We too are invited to acknowledge each other’s goodness with gratitude in our hearts.  This is what generosity (in poverty) is all about – sharing from whatever we have.

The Columban Society has been generous in responding to the call of Vatican II regarding the laity’s participation in the church.  It was not easy for the Columban Fathers to start what was then called the Columban lay mission program.  They didn’t know what to do with it, but went on ahead trusting the Spirit to work with and through them.  Now, the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM) is thriving in mission because of their generosity. I am grateful to all of you. Thank you for what I have become today as a Columban lay missionary.  All of you have journeyed with me in different capacities and at different times, especially during my most difficult moments – you have been sources of strength and joy.

Mission sending and contract signing of Columban lay missionaries, Evangeline Ucol, Lily Faunillan and Jennifer Lunor (PH 24), on August 14, 2017, Cubao, Quezon City

When our founders said “YES” to the call, they did not know where it will lead them, yet with their grande animo they sailed on.  I believe we have the same invitation today – to be generous in our response to God’s invitation to love, to mercy, to compassion and to be grateful as we walk and work in the mission.  Pope Francis in answering his critics regarding his Encyclical “Amoris” has mentioned that we need to ask in what spirit are we giving.  It is my hope that it will be in the spirit of gratitude, generosity and joy that we continue our life as missionaries.  After all, it’s Christ mission that we are sharing.  We would not have been able to do the things we have done, and are still doing, without God’s love and goodness being bestowed on us.  I pray that we will continue to share God’s generosity with others whom we meet along the way.