Cast out into the deep: missionary reflections (2003 – 2010)
Fr. Sergio Fossati, PIME
The “Year of the Priest” has been a precious opportunity for me to recall events and insights that significantly marked my priestly and missionary life. They are very many, and I enjoy all of them because those signs show God at work in my life. I always wondered where the strength to be a missionary comes from. You leave your parents, your siblings, your friends. You leave your familiar environment, the food you are used to, the Church where you received the gift of faith. For what? For whom?
When I officially received my assignment to the Philippines, I barely knew where the Philippines were. I knew that the village, where eventually I was sent, was not the center of the world, but it was there that I would give the best of myself. The excitement was overwhelming, but again I wondered where all this came from.
I felt I already loved the people I was sent to, but I understood that love for them was not a firm reason for all of this. I felt I loved God so much as to leave everything behind and go, but I understood that I could not trust my personal capacity to love God.
Finally, I felt all of this happened because God loves me. Only at that point I was really free to go. I would have accepted everything as coming from God. And it truly happened. When I was under extreme pressure because of death and kidnapping threats, the words that helped me immensely were “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). St. Paul, the first missionary to the non-Christians, led me to the core of the question through his own experience. That is the point of being Christian, I believe No need to prove we are strong, because we really are not. Let the grace of God be enough for us.
I dreaded the moment I would bid farewell to my parents. I hated to see my parents cry because of me. To my utter surprise, while my Dad became emotional, my Mom did not cry. Somebody had told her that “the mothers of missionaries do not cry.” I never suspected my Mom could be that strong! It took some time for me to understand the meaning of Mom’s apparent hardness of heart. Well, of course it was none of that. Instead, she was telling me that she was with me in this exciting adventure of my missionary vocation. She did not want to burden me with painful memories, just at the beginning of my missionary life. She did not want me to leave thinking that I was sort of a lost son, even though lost to the Lord. I knew she was about to burst in tears, but she did not. The mothers of missionaries do not cry because they – through God’s grace – share in their sons’ vocation.