A piece of bread . . . blessed, broken, and shared
Supper at Emmaus, Hendrick Terbrugghen, c.1621I had an experience that has made a strong mark in my heart until this very moment. It is this experience that has encouraged me more to serve other people. It has left a deep impact on my life that I will always be grateful for. While this happened 13 years ago during my last year in college, it is still very vivid in my memory. Every Sunday afternoon, I would join the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco in their apostolate in the neighboring town. We would gather the children and youth at the grounds of the elementary school beside the Parish Church. We would play, dance, sing, teach catechism and prepare them for Mass. I was teaching a group of student aged 11-13. They were few but very consistent in their attendance. I was happy being with them. Indeed I was enjoying my apostolate.
The mission-sending MassEvery December, we would give a Christmas Party for some children from all the apostolate centers of the Sisters. We would select children who were really financially poor. On one occasion the party was held in a university in Quezon City. We traveled very early for almost two hours from Laguna. Since some of the children hadn’t yet eaten their breakfast, we knew that they would feel hungry as soon as we arrived. We were so fortunate to have many sponsors from different food companies. A few minutes after we arrived, we started to distribute bread and drinks to the children. How beautiful it was to see volunteers giving snacks to the children and how the children expressed their thanks! After the snacks were given out, a Sister led the prayer before meals. Then we volunteers went around and assisted the children.
One of my students caught my attention so I went to her and asked, ‘O, Marilyn bakit hindi mo kinakain yang snack mo?’ (‘Marilyn, why haven’t you eaten your snack?’) Then I also asked her, ‘Hindi ka ba nagugutom?’ (‘Aren’t you hungry?’) I was struck by her answer. ‘Ipapasalubong ko po ito ate, sa mga kapatid ko’ (‘I’ll bring this home for my brothers and sisters’) she replied. As she is holding the bread, I saw how happy she was. I saw the smile on her face and excitement in her heart because she had something to give to her siblings when she got home. I gave her another piece of bread and told her to keep the other one in her bag. I was astonished by her action. I couldn’t control my tears so I went to the corner and there I cried.
Reina with Fr Joe Segudo, parish priestMarilyn was very active in our Sunday class. She came from a poor and large family. Almost every Sunday she would wear the same clothes. Maybe they were the only fine clothes she had. And sometimes if no one would take care of her younger siblings during that day, she would bring them to our class. She really loved to attend our Sunday school. Those were the few things I know about her. I admired her because of her eagerness to learn about Jesus. But she inspired me because of what she did during the Christmas party.
Was she not hungry herself? Why think of others first when you are also in need? How come that at her young age she was already thinking of the needs of her siblings? She did not feel her own hunger. But instead she thought of sharing what she had with others. She had forgotten herself but remembered her siblings. How beautiful was her act of kindness and generosity! What moved her to do that? Those were the thoughts that were ringing in my ears. Yes, this experience had disturbed me. I felt that there was something stirring deep within me. Many activities happened during that day but Marilyn struck me most. Her physical hunger didn’t stop her from doing an act of kindness to others. Truly, it was love that moved her to give, to share what she had without expecting anything in return. Pure and authentic love gave the child deep joy in sharing the bread.
Columban Fr Patrick Baker
The child did not only feed her siblings but she fed me too. Through her example, I witnessed a life with the Living Bread which is Jesus, himself – generous, kind and true. Like the Gospel passage that says ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever’ (John 6:51). For me, Marilyn was bread from heaven, a person who in her young age was already sharing her goodness to others in her own simple way. She didn’t know how much she had encouraged me to do the same to live a life with God who sustains and nourishes me in fulfilling his great plan for me every day. Having a deeper relationship with Him, ‘a relationship of trust, love and gratitude’ is now my stronghold.
With this experience during college, I got interested in reading life stories of missionaries in different magazines in our library. There I came to know the Columban lay missionaries through Misyon magazine. Since then, I was inspired to be a missionary either as a nun, a married person or lay. Even though the desire was already there, it took me some years to discern. I was enjoying my work as a teacher for several years and I thought the desire to be a missionary would die away. I thought anyway that I was still serving God and his people through my work. But no, the desire did not die but even grew stronger and stronger every day until one day I decided to resign from my work and look for a mission group. While searching, I knew that having a local involvement here in the Philippines was one of the requirements. So I first joined a full-time volunteer group, the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines or JVP. I was assigned to Bukidnon for two years as a house-parent, community worker, formator, and youth organizer. I worked with Deaf children and youth in my first year, and in the second with Indigenous high school students. I felt so blessed to be immersed in different kinds of communities that are in need and marginalized. I am not saying that I didn’t experience pain, difficulties and hardship during my JVP years but I looked at those as periods of grace from God. The experience helped me to grow and be a better person, woman, and Christian.
Reina making her commitmentA few months before the end of my last year in JVP, I did discern well whether to continue in becoming a missionary. Yes, I thought that two years in JVP would be enough. But God had his own plans in putting me on the path I wanted to walk on in life. God used different people and events in leading me to go back to my desire to be a missionary – a Columban lay missionary or CLM.
With Columbans, mostly lay missionaries, after the MassFor almost two years I discerned again while I was working in an NGO (non-government organization) for the Deaf. Finally, I took the risk of applying to the CLM. Joy, excitement, fear, and anxiety were just some of the many feelings I had when CLM accepted me for the nine-month Orientation Program. I am blessed to be with two beautiful persons (Joan Yap and She Capili) in the orientation program. God is so good that he gave me graces that I needed during the program. The graces of openness, courage and joy helped me continue. The program provided us with a venue to discover more about ourselves as individuals and as a community enriching different aspects of our lives. For me, discovering myself to be freer in responding to the Living Bread wasn’t easy. What I really appreciated in the program was discovering my relationship with God, how my relationship with him affects my relationship with myself and others, and how I will sustain this relationship in my everyday life, and how will I be open to God to be used for his glory. Truly, the program and CLM community generously gave me the support to respond to the call.
With family members and Fr Segudo after the Mass
There is deep joy and gratitude here in my heart now that I am being sent to the mission in Taiwan. I feel anxious, afraid and worried about my stay there but I will use these feelings to be my strength and good reminders to remain humble. I am now ready to be bread for others – blessed, broken and shared.