'…relationship with people is more important than any amount I could withdraw with my ATM cards'– Sherryl Lou C. Capili, PH-19, Columban Lay Missionaries-Philippines
'She' (pronounced 'sheh') Capili had her mission-sending ceremony last Sunday in Silang, CAvite, a place where Columbans worked before for many years. She wrote this reflection before the ceremony.
San Antonio de Padua Church
At home, I am 'Che-Che' but most of my friends call me 'She'. I am the eldest among three. I had a different plan for my life before. When my father passed away when I was very young, I made sure to do my best in school so I could get high grades. I was thinking that the medals would be my ticket to get a nice job with high pay so I could help my mother in sending my younger brothers to school. I was struggling to get better jobs as I tried one after the other. As a Mass Communications graduate, I dreamed of working for the giant television networks, film outfits, and famous charitable institutions. All these came true. I was also given an opportunity to teach college students on a part-time basiswhile I was pursuing my graduate studies and working at ABS-CBN Foundation, all at the same time.
She with children
Aside from these, I was also dreaming of traveling and doing some volunteer work and a short-term exposure in Rwanda and in other challenging places where I could possibly do a video documentary film. At that time, I was not even familiar with the term 'missionary'.
With dreams I’d already fulfilled and with the bigger goals in mind, I felt that something was still missing. I was not into developing my spiritual life. I was not a practicing Catholic at all. In fact, I would only hear Mass at Christmas, New Year, or at weddings and funerals. I was preoccupied with my earthly needs and desires. Everything was just about me, my public image, my achievements. I would only spend time for prayer when I needed something or when extremely happy for successfully getting what I wanted. For me, prayer was just an activity. In other words, I did not have a personal relationship with God.
A word of thanks from She at the end of the mission-sending Mass
The turning point in my faith journey happened during a three-day retreat I attended in December 2008 with the Singles Apostolate of the St James Renewal Movement in Ayala, Alabang. Although I’d been to Catholic schools during my high school, college, and graduate studies years, I was not able to take good care of and nourish my relationship with God. After the reatreat, I found myself actively participating in the community’s monthly prayer meetings and other activities and attending more retreats until God led me to Malate Parish where I read about the Columbans. After four fruitful years, I resigned from ABS-CBN Foundation, leaving what I considered my second family and home in exchange for another uncertain journey with the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM).
She teaching children
I never thought that it would be possible in my case to leave a wonderful job and the benefits I was receiving. I was anxious about so many things before I finally felt the courage to just let go and trust in God’s plans. I felt at peace with the idea that I wouldn’t be having an income and I had to redefine my role in the family. I came to that point when I was craving for this quest for what God had for me by living and sharing with people of another culture, creed, and race. I was excited to learn through them and see how God loves them and is present in them. Detaching from what I used to do, what I had, my comfort zones, and the people dear to me was difficult but realizing what the nine-month orientation program was about made me look forward to the brighter side of this new path.
She with her mother Marina Castillo Capili
The orientation program gave me the chance to look back at my life experiences and I realized how God had been preparing me for this lay missionary journey. It was such a grace for me to see that those events that happened in the past 29 years, both painful and joyful, were part of His molding of me. Now I understand why God made me a catechist to children when I was in high school and college. Now I understand why God let me experience being a teacher and relating with the youth. Now it is clear to me as to why I am really fond of meeting people from all walks of life. He has been refining my heart from being self-centered towards moving to others. He has been trying to win me back all the while, only that I was pretending to be blind and deaf to acknowledge his greater plans. I realized the wisdom behind the low-paying jobs I had – it was to humble me. andt make me realize that relationship with people is more important than any amount I could withdraw with my ATM cards.
In a very candid conversation that I had with a group of friends several years ago about our plans, dreams, and goals I said, 'I want to be very rich so I could give to many people in need'. Now, I discovered that I have been very wealthy since the day I was borne. By 'being rich', I refer to having a very supportive family who are understanding enough to let me go and live in another country to share in Jesus’ mission; that my treasures are not the material things I have but my friends, co-workers, teachers, community, and other people who have been part of my joys and pains as well as my successes and failures; that I have wonderful gifts and talents from God that I can share and an open and humble heart to learn from others too; that I am extremely wealthy to the extent that I am drowning in God’s love and graces.
I am still in awe at what I have received from the orientation program. I am a recipient of the Columbans’ generous hearts in sharing their own experiences in mission. Being surrounded and guided by them made me more inspired in my discernment process. The experiences and learning are way beyond what I thought before I entered the CLM. I am very grateful to God for directing my heart to be here now. I thought I had the best plans for my life but, indeed, God revealed to me that his plans are always the grandest. Aside from developing a deeper personal relationship with God, the most significant aspect of the orientation program was self-awareness. I’m grateful for our group work and the ten-week Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program. The process was painful as I traced and discovered that how I react in a given situation has something to do with an experience in the past; that I was afraid to make mistakes and I tried to block the feelings of sadness and anger by being independent and strong; that I wanted to control situations without realizing how I could affect others . . . but it was a good pain as I learned and grew in being able to manage my issues.
In the Islamic City of Marawi. She is wearing a white veil
The Mindanao exposure helped me see more clearly how it is to be a missionary: living with and listening to people, understanding their concerns and needs, sharing in their hopes and prayers, respecting their culture, giving them words of affirmation, sharing my own faith experience and God’s love to people I've just met; responding to them when I had the means to do so and being humble to be silent and be pleased that my mere presence was enough. I have a growing respect for other people as I embrace the fact that we have our own histories. Our homestay at the Islamic City of Marawi and with a group of indigenous people in Bukidnon made me realize that despite the differences that we have in terms of cultural/religious beliefs, still we all share in some common pains and joys as human beings. Even if we have different languages or dialect, we have a common language, and that is love.
I have learned to slowly let go and let God – one thing that I found very difficult to say before. I never imagined that I could be courageous enough to say ‘yes’ to being a lay missionary as I temporarily leave my family, friends, and all other things I have held in my life. Although I still hold other dreams to fulfill, for now, my heart’s desire is to respond to this call of being a Columban Lay Missionary in Taiwan. `
Visiting Hangop Kabataan in Pagadian City, the project of Fr Michael Sinnott who was kidnapped in October 2009.
The past nine months have been the most wonderful blessing that I received from God as he sent me the graces to be open and ready to know more about myself before I could minister to others. I have my weaknesses, limitations, and wounds that I may carry with me for the rest of my life but God always reminds me how he loves me no matter what. God tells me that when I go to Taiwan, I have my talents and gifts to share as well as my own wounds that could possibly be an instrument for others’ healing. God never gets tired of affirming me and assuring me that he has chosen me and all I should do is to trust that his plans are the grandest.
With Reina Mosqueda, far left, and Joan Yap, far right, her two CLM companions bound for Taiwan, and young friends at Hangop Kabataan, Pagadian City.