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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anna's Amazing Days in IFFA (Phillipines)

Dear Bishop Julius,

How are you? I hope this mail will find you in the best of health. I’m fine here and all the students are having Christmas holiday with our respective foster family for twelve days (21st December 2010 to 2nd January 2011). I will be staying with Aunty Ferdee’s relative here in Tandang Sora, Quezon City and Nueva Viscaya, North of Luzon, Philippines. 

It has been quite a long time since my last report to you. Okay then, allow me to share with you my new learning and experience here in IFFA. We have just completed the Social Module early this December and now we come to the last module for our formation year; the Pastoral Module. It is part of our preparation for the Mission Project to be held in Sabah this coming January 2011. The Social Module is actually an awakening for me to realize that I am not just a youth leader and a church. I am more than just part of the church.

“The great social encyclical from Popes John XIII to Pope John Paul II, the church now has a clear mandate to be involved in promotion of justice in civil society” Christians’ Social Mission by Micheal McCabe 

WOW! Just imagine how big my mouth was as I read through this article. I ask myself who is the church? Is it only the youth that I have to take care of or those people coming to church? How about the poor and the marginalized, those of other religions, other tribes and races? Is the church also the society around me? Aha so many questions which reminded me of Fr. Danny (Christian Anthropology Lecturer). He said the more I have questions, the more I will understand the existence of my being in this world. I was born for a purpose! 

The Lord said “I Chose you before I gave you life and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations” Jeremiah 1:5. 

The most significant thing I have learned during the “Church and Mission” session is that loving one another is the sign of Jesus’ disciple. Jesus is life and I should look at my mission as a table of fellowship and share it with others without boundaries. There is a mission because there is GOD and HE is the mission. “Bring Life” as God himself love the world so much He handed His only beloved son Jesus so that we might have life through Jesus. This will be a challenging mission for me to love and to serve one another. Yet when bad things happen always remember to look back ‘AD FONTES’ Jesus Christ as the root of my everyday living. 

Apart from that we also have the Catholic Social Teaching (CST). It is our best kept secret and a key to a Catholic identity. The central message is very simple; “Our faith is profoundly social. We cannot be called truly “Catholic” unless we hear the church’s call to serve those in need and work for justice and peace”. The whole theme about Social Act is LOVE! I and you are just part of God’s work and the best part of it is that love of God is revealed in responsibility for others. The whole social module reminded me of Rt Rev. Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom’s motto: “Serve one another with God’s Love”. I guess that’s the right words to summarize the whole thing about the Social Module. 

I also would like to share with you the twelve days immersion I have last October in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. Immersion for me is to be like them. Eat and drink whatever is offered. Sleep where they sleep (bamboo bed). I really took off my shoes and put my bare feet into their shoes and be grounded. I still remember how tasty their food was. Simple yet it makes me want more. I try my best to help in the house. I fetch the water from the water pump, I sweep the floor, and I helped my Nanay (mother) preparing the local cakes and I even help her going around and sell the cakes. The first time it was very tiring but it did not let me stop trying again the next day. I have to sweat to eat rice every day. I cannot bear to live there freely as I want while someone is working so hard to put food on the table.

I remembered my days in my own house. At least I still can sleep well on a bed. I do not have to fetch water from the water pump or even cook using charcoal. My parents will always be there for me whenever I am in need.  Everything was provided and most of the time it was not appreciated. Aha look who is the powerless now. One of our group’s missions is to empower the powerless. But it seems that I am the powerless. Seeing and being with my foster family, empowered me to see the beauty of life although there is hardship and difficulties behind those beautiful smiles.

My experience with God throughout my immersion had inspired me and my friend, Carlu (Myanmar) to compose a song “You Amazed Me” and I want to share a piece of our lyrics of journey with you.

“You amazed me with the color of this life, You amazed me with the gentleness of Your touch, You amazed me with Your wonderful creation, and YOU amazed me for who YOU are”

Last but not least Christmas is just a few days away and once again I want to grab this opportunity to wish a Happy Merry Jolly Christmas to Bishop Julius, all staff in the Sandakan Diocesan office, all the priests and  religious sisters, the Diocesan Youth Apostolate (DYA), Parish Youth Apostolate (PYA), my beautiful and lovely parents and siblings and to all the special people wherever you may be. May this Christmas season be a celebration of life – giving to each other.

 Goodbye for now and till we meet again next year!

Merry Christmas 2010
and Happy New year 2011!

 Anna Teresa Peter Amandus
Student of Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia,
Quezon City, Phillipines

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