Home: where a missionary’s journey begins

home-leave_retreat-group_iloilo-philippines-2016_for-blog

Divine Word seminarian Marlon Vargas (front row, far left) completed his second year of graduate studies at Catholic Theological Union and has left for his Cross-Cultural Training Program in Spain. Before landing in Spain, Marlon made his home visit to the Philippines. While in the Philippines, he visited family, as well as conducted retreats for youth, such as the group shown above. In this blog, Marlon reflects upon his journey.

By Marlon Vargas SVD

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend vacation in my home country, the Philippines. I left the Philippines five years ago to seek greener pasture in a foreign land and to provide for my family’s needs.

Unexpectedly, I ended up joining the Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Province in the United States to pursue religious missionary life. I did not ask my family’s approval, but I conscientiously considered them in my serious decision-making.

When considering the religious life, one of my major concerns was the idea of giving up or detaching myself from my family and friends. When I became a Divine Word religious missionary, I struggled with living far from my family, relatives and friends.

There were several times when I missed them terribly. I thought that I had to end my connections or relationships with them to focus more on my desire to serve other people in my ministry. I was wrong.

I learned that my relationships with family and friends change, but they never end. The Divine Word community recognizes and values the vital role and presence of our families as well as our friends not only in our formation but also throughout our religious missionary life.

As a matter of fact, each confrere in our community has the privilege of taking a home leave in his home country once during the years of formation in temporary vows. Every member is given the home leave opportunity to develop healthy and lasting relationships with his loved ones.

Personally, my experience of homecoming was very special, profound and meaningful. I experienced once again the life-giving presence of God, who continuously affirms and deepens my vocation.

During my vacation, I had the opportunity to attend and enjoy several reunions with old friends from my childhood years, classmates in high school and college, former colleagues during my teaching years, fellow Church ministers, mentors, professors and other significant people who have been part of my journey.

I met with my best friend and a few close friends who have been supporting and guiding me in all of my life’s endeavors. I was delighted to be with them as we recalled and reminisced about the memorable moments that we had in the past: joys, sadness, failures, misunderstandings, conflicts, adventures, mistakes, arguments and growth.

I was amazed how our paths had crossed at one point in our lives. Each of them made a unique and transforming impact on my life journey. They are people in my life who are not merely friends whom I “like” and “follow” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are friends whom God sent to me so that I can offer them my physical presence and let them receive my comments filled with love.

These relationships reaffirm my belief that God sends the people I need at the right times, occasions and circumstances. Through them, God teaches me various ways of building and establishing relationships that are integral and essential in accomplishing the ministry entrusted to me as a religious missionary.

One more thing I enjoyed much during my vacation was revisiting the beautiful and significant places that gave me memories and life lessons. These places reflect my life’s crossroads where I had relevant turning points in the past.

I went back to my former schools where I studied and earned my degrees. I went to my former workplaces where I, as a teacher, urge my students to make a change in society.

I visited several gardens, theme parks, malls and other places where I spent my childhood and teenage years. I attended Masses at parishes where I discovered my passion for serving God in the parish. I also made a pilgrimage to churches that have spiritual significance in my vocation discernment.

Going back to these places led me to realize that change is a relentless reality. The unending change in the physical surrounding in those places is the manifestation of continuous progress and development. It’s part of the progress of humanity.

In continuous change, God shows his unceasing initiative of making every individual a better person. I realize that those places serve as avenues for me to discover my own strengths and overcome my weaknesses, taking every opportunity that comes my way and risking the obstacles to overcome my limitations.

More importantly, I have developed and strengthened my desire to seek and trust God in places where I go. As advised by an elder Divine Word priest: in faith, God will always bring us to a place where the divine will of God will unfold. My visit to those places has led me to recall and realize the spiritual encounters I had with God in the past.

It invites me to encourage others to also find and seek God’s dwelling place in their lives. As I learn from the founder of the Society of the Divine Word, Saint Arnold Janssen, to let them believe that when things go against them, they have to remember that God the Lord in His great wisdom and love still guides and directs them. They can trust and have patience because God will bring good out of whatever happens.

Want to know the story behind the story? To read about the challenges and pain that Marlon overcame to get where he is today, click here.

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