12 April 2012

Estefanio Argall Luceño RIP, the father of a Columban missionary

Estefanio Luceño with his wife Teresita, 60 years married, taken in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, last year

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Estefanio A Luceño who died in Pagadian City on Holy Saturday, 7 April, and will be buried there on Easter Saturday, 14 April. He was 85 and the father of Aurora Luceño, a long-term Columban lay missionary who has spent much of her time in Pakistan.

Many of us have read stories, including vocation stories, about and by missionaries and been inspired by them. We don't hear quite as often from the parents of missionaries, about their part in the vocation stories of their sons and daughters or of what it costs them. Below is an article we published in Misyon, the Columban magazine I edit here in the Philippines, in January-February 2004 by the late Estefanio: We had to let her go. Now God has asked his wife and family to let him go. As the Irish prayer for the dead goes, 'May the light of heaven shine upon him'.

Aurora Luceño, known to her friends as 'Auring' or 'Au'.

To be the father of the Columban lay missionary is indeed a rare privilege. I consider it precious gift from God. My daughter, Aurora C. Luceño, a civil engineer by profession, was enjoying a well-paying job and a promising career in the Department of Interior and Local Government before being sent to the Columban Lay Mission Program (CLMP) she took part in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program, which gave her a chance to visit different Asian countries, including Japan, as a goodwill ambassador of youth.

Auring, second from right, with Columban lay missionaries and staff on a visit to Vigan City in the northern Philippines.

The way she wanted it
When she first broached the idea and sought our permission to become a lay missionary, we had no objection except that my wife Teresita and I would have preferred that she work in a Muslim or Subaanen area in Mindanao rather than in a foreign land. Since childhood she had been nurturing the idea of serving God as a missionary and had made a serious discernment of the way of life she intended to pursue. After the nine-month orientation program for cross-cultural mission of the Columban Lay Missionary Program (CLMP) she was assigned to Pakistan. [Editor's note: the word 'Program' has since been dropped from the name and 'CLM' are the initials now used]. At this juncture we reiterated our preference. However, she reasoned that the Christian population in our country constitutes a big majority compared to believers in Islam, whereas Christians in Pakistan make up less than one per cent of that overwhelmingly Islamic country. We saw her point and so finally consented.

Mr and Mrs Luceño, 'Still in love at 85'.

The mission sending
I very well remember the support Aurora received from our parishioners during her missions ending in 1994, a solemn and colorful ceremony held in San Jose Parish, Pagadian City. Msgnr Patricio R. Getigan, Fr Felix Tigoy, the parish priest, Fr Neil Collins and a number of other Columban priests celebrated the Holy Mass. I was deeply touched by the way that things had come to pass. I still remember the strong feeling of support from friends and the reality of parting. Missionary work is not new to us. As leaders of Couples for Christ my wife and I were commissioned to evangelize in Zamboanga City where we conducted a Christian Life Program in coordination with the Claretians. Long before, we had been associated with missionaries in our place and had been actively involved in various church activities such as the Family Life Aposolate.

Auring in Tara, where the High Kings of Ireland once lived

Worried Parents
An older sister of Aurora, Sr Mary Judith Madeleine OCD, likewise witnessed among our Muslim brothers and sisters in Marawi City where she had and nine other Carmilite nuns were kidnapped by bandits in 1986. Hence, there were times when we felt apprehensive over the safety of Aurora and other missionaries exposed to the perils of war, particularly at the height of the war on terror waged by the USA in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbor. However, with the blessing of strong faith and trust in God’s protection we managed to overcome our fears. The conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir is another source of unrest that poses a danger to missionaries. Nevertheless, Aurora assured us of her safety, as she is well loved by the people in the community where she lives and works. Besides, there’s the bigger Columban family to which we feel we belong that has unfailingly supported her in her missionary journey. 
On a visit to Boston, MA, USA

We watched her grow
From her sharing with us I learned that while missionary life can be difficult, it can also be enjoyable, rewarding and full of challenges. I am a witness to the tremendous change in Aurora’s way of life as a missionary and the growth that has made her a stronger and more mature woman. In the process I have made myself present and available to accompany her in her continuing discernment in her life and missionary journey. I have witnessed with interest and satisfaction the growth that she has experienced since she first joined the orientation program. She has since assumed greater responsibilities in the CLMP. I feel I’m greatly blessed as I see the commitment and passion of another of my children to serve people and become a living witness to God’s great love. I am happy that in our small and humble way our family has helped in spreading the Gospel here and in faraway places for the greater glory of God and the coming of his kingdom upon people of diverse races.

Photos from Auring's Facebook.

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