“I feel and believe that the Spirit helped me to consider looking for congregations beyond my territory. It is the same Spirit who strengthens me and continues to lit my burning desire to serve.”
THE SPIRIT INTERCEDES IN OUR JOURNEY
by Elbert Balbastro, a Filipino Columban Seminarian
After three years of working in South Korea, I went back to the Philippines with all the good memories of my journey. I was ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. Having been exposed to the plight of migrant workers and had experienced the difficulties of working away from home changed my perspective in life. Those experiences moved and bothered me leaving an empty hole in my heart. “I will figure it out in the Philippines,” I told myself. I felt the Spirit guiding me to a certain direction but it was not yet clear to me where I needed to go.
A couple of years after my return, I was faced with the reality that my heart wanted to bring my experience as a migrant to mission. I asked my former parish priest for a recommendation letter. He asked, “Why do you want to join a missionary society when there are lots of missionary work in the diocese that needs to be done?” Looking back, I asked myself why I joined the Missionary Society of St. Columban when there was no Columban presence in the island where I lived. Upon reflection, there was an attraction for me to serve in another country. I felt the need to reciprocate the service done by foreign missionaries here, as a sign of gratitude. I was, however, initially committed to the idea that I will only inquire to congregations present in the island.
I started sending messages to different congregations via mobile and email. I also visited their respective community houses and stayed with them for a few days. In one of the congregations, the vocation director was unable to accompany me because he was out of the country. In another one, the vocation director did not contact me anymore on what I should do after the first meeting. I admit that those responses left me doubtful on whether I should pursue my missionary call or not. I prayed, “Lord, are you really calling me to this vocation? Please send forth your Holy Spirit to guide me in my discernment.”
Keeping my momentum after that lukewarm response was difficult but I trusted that the Spirit will lead me well. One day, I looked at some of my pictures on Facebook taken from South Korea, and remembered a congregation named Columban Missionaries. When I was there, I heard that they run migrant centers as part of their ministry. I was hesitant at the beginning because I didn’t know how to contact them or where to go. I looked them up and found their contact number online. After the initial contact and consistent visits to the Columban Vocation director, I decided to join the Columban missionaries.
As I recall this experience, I realized that The Holy Spirit plays a big role in my life especially in my discernment process. I feel and believe that the Spirit helped me to consider looking for congregations beyond my territory. It is the same Spirit who strengthens me and continues to lit my burning desire to serve. It is also the one who converted my doubts to motivation when I was asking myself whether to enter the seminary or not. By then, I came to the conclusion that I would rather learn that this is not the life for me rather than being plagued with regrets and what-ifs because I gave up along the way.
In every journey we take, the Holy Spirit intercedes. I realized that I cannot come up with good decisions without the aid of the Holy Spirit. In addition, I also believe that in order for the Holy Spirit to intercede in my life, openness, acceptance and the willingness to let go in order to be directed to the right path are necessary. Sometimes there is resistance because we want certainty and our pride hinders the Spirit to work in our lives. I always rely on the Holy Spirit when seeking the will of God in my life. I know that if I listen to the movement of the Spirit in my life, I will always complete my journey.
Elbert (standing: middle with eyeglasses) with fellow seminarians