My Old Missionary Bag

A Gift of the Columban Spirit

By Fr. Jude Genovia, SSC

In the summer of 1995, I had to leave for Japan as part of my First Mission Assignment (FMA). This cross-cultural assignment outside the Philippines marked the realization of the next phase of my vocation discernment.

A significant aspect of this cross-cultural journey occurred during my departure preparations. Brendan Lovett, our Vice-Rector and Theology professor, asked me if I needed a luggage (obviously, he noticed I needed one). Upon my affirmative response, he invited me to his office, which was also his bedroom.  Delving into a cabinet, he pulled an old yet well-maintained bag.  Brendan told me that it was one of the bags he brought when he got appointed to the Philippines. I was not only touched by his generosity but also impressed by his willingness to share something that held sentimental value for him.

I deeply appreciated the bag Brendan gave me as a gift, and I perceived it not only as a generous gesture but also as his way of sharing the missionary spirit inherent in being a Columban.  The bag became a reminder for me of the cross-cultural dimension integral to being a Columban missionary. Over the past 28 years, it has served as one of my dedicated missionary bags. In a literal sense, it has accompanied me on numerous journeys. Metaphorically, it has captured many of my experiences –  joy and pain, strength and weakness, success and failure, ups and downs, comfort and discomfort, to name a few. This bag has become a symbolic storage of the diverse aspects of my missionary journey thus far.

I hope Brendan will be happy and proud to know that the bag he gave me has been put to good use, even if he may have forgotten about it. Now retired and residing in Dalgan Park, I hope this narrative will refresh his memory. Certainly, this narrative serves as my way of expressing my heartfelt gratitude to him.

This bag is a testament of how the Lord has sustained my missionary life for 25 years. As I approach the celebration of my silver anniversary of Priesthood ordination on December 29 later this year, I see parallels between the bag and myself – we both age and are conditioned to advance in years. The older it gets, the more its potential strength and capacity are tested. While limit can be restricting and disappointing, accepting and embracing them can be a freeing experience. This old bag, though limited in what it can carry, remains useful and serves as a constant reminder that the road I travel is indeed “a road less traveled.”

The bag I received from Brendan has helped me look at my own missionary journey with immense joy and gratitude. There is no certainty when and where my missionary journey ends, yet this old bag gives a glimpse of my ultimate destination. Who knows, someday and somewhere, I may pass this bag to a young Columban missionary. Who knows, it might find a place in a Columban Mission Museum.

Beside Father Jude is his old missionary bag
Fr. Brendan Lovett, SSC
Silver Jubilee celebration of Fr. Rolly Aniscal and Fr. Jude Genovia, 23rd November 2023, Malate, Manila