As part of Society of the Divine Word formation seminarians and brothers in temporary vows fulfill two to three years in a culture other than their own. Seminarian Manie Manuel completed two years of studies at Catholic Theological Union and is now in Colombia for his Cross-Cultural Training Program.
By Manie Manuel SVD
Time flies. I have been in Colombia, South American, for eight months. I arrived in Bogota on Aug 16 at 1 a.m.
The flight was good. However, the next day when I awoke, I was very sick. I had no clue what was going on. My head and stomach hurt. I could not eat.
One of the ladies told me that I was suffering from altitude sickness. The city of Bogota is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. After nine months, I am somewhat adjusted to the altitude, but I still get sick often.
This mission experience has been very challenging yet rewarding. I am so blessed to have listened to God’s call to serve his people. The people here are very friendly, and the country is 80 percent Catholic.
There is much work to do here. Many people have asked, “Is the country dangerous?” My answer is “yes, it is, but I am not scared.” When you do God’s work there is no reason to be scared. I put everything into His hands and fully embrace my baptismal call to mission.
Many people have fled from nearby Venezuela, seeking a better life. That country is controlled by a dictator who is killing many people. The Venezuelan people are displaced and are left with nothing.
I have been trying to help them by providing clothing and food. Currently, the Colombian government is not helping these people. I pray that the people of Colombia and the United States will answer their missionary call to serve God and His people.
Baptism makes us disciples who know and love Jesus Christ and respond to his call to follow him. The Pope likes to stress that Baptism makes us missionary disciples, endowed with many gifts and talents for the service of others in the name of the Lord. So, let us ask: “What does it mean to follow Jesus?”
That question can be answered rather simply. It is a matter of listening and doing. An authentic disciple of Jesus Christ is one who first listens to his Word and then puts it into practice. From days of old, obedient listening has been the distinctive mark of God’s people.
This notion was expressed simply and beautifully by the prophet Isaiah: “Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).
Now that God’s Word has become a human being in Jesus Christ, we listen with attention to the words spoken by the Savior himself. Indeed, Jesus himself affirmed the centrality of hearing and practicing his Word for all disciples.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read: “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).
On the night of the Last Supper, after Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he taught that by this action, he was giving us an example to follow and then spoke this command: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Putting the Word of God into practice means serving our brothers and sisters in love. To love as Jesus loved means that we make sacrifices daily for the good of the other. God’s gifts are to be used according to His purpose and in keeping with our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.
After the COVID virus quarantine is over, I will move to a different mission site in a city called Dagua Cali. I will be working in one of the parishes that is run by my religious order. I am looking forward to this new experience.
There are ample opportunities for service in our Church. If you think that God is calling you to missionary religious life as a priest or brother, please check out the Divine Word Vocation Team website at svdvocations.org and contact one of the vocation directors. May God bless you and your family throughout the Easter season.