Reflection by Charles James Somontan Antolan, a Local Youth-Mission Volunteer

Before the Mission in our Parish of San Isidro Labrador in Balabagan which lasted from March to May 2021, I have been serving already as an Altar Server. In fact, I am entering the seminary this August and while I am still in our Parish, I was invited by the Mission Coordinator to join the mission as one of the Local Youth Mission Volunteers. Indeed, I accepted the invitation even though I did not have much knowledge on how the mission will go. What I only thought at that time was this year’s theme of the Philippine Church, “Year of the Missio Ad Gentes: Gifted to Give,” and that through this opportunity I would be able to share myself to others.

However, behind my “yes” to the mission, I felt worried just like my co-local youth mission volunteers, on how I could be of help to the team. I know that I lack talents and knowledge. I was also anxious on how I would socialize with the Mission Team especially as they were composed of priests, lay-missionary, seminarians, deacons and other youth mission volunteers. I am aware that I am an introvert person. Though I am not shy but I tend to be more silent and a serious type of person. I thought that these traits in me will prevent me as I join the mission. Yet, when the missionaries arrived and stared the mission, what I expected never happened because each of them was very friendly. It was not difficult to meet and encounter each of them. And I felt at home with them.

It is true that the mission brought many changes in our parish particularly to myself. Undeniably, the people here in our parish are in thirst of the living Word of God especially those chapels and communities that can only celebrate the Holy Eucharist once a month. Through the mission, the people quenched and have been satisfied in their thirst to joyfully celebrate the Holy Mass and to listen to the regular formations and teachings. I myself witnessed this visible scenario especially during the team’s delivery of talks. The people would always pay attention. In fact, every time I would give a part of the talk, I would see in their eyes their willingness to learn and of their joy because of the presence of the mission.

I am glad that through my participation in the mission, I was able to visit areas in our municipality which I have not been to before. I was able to encounter other people and made friends with other youth who were also serving their chapel like me. Through these encounters, I have witnessed and realized the beauty in their life that even in simplicity they remained grateful and joyful in sharing their graces.

I remember, there was one time that four of us in the team (a priest, a deacon, myself and another co-youth volunteer) slept in the area because there will be a dawn novena-mass at 4 AM. It was a mountainous area and most of the people are farmers like their Patron Saint, San Isidro Labrador. We stayed overnight in their newly made waiting shed made of bamboo. The area was fresh and there was no presence of mosquitos around. However, what amazed me so much during our stay were their act of generosity and welcoming spirit. They didn’t just provide us food and shelter, they also spent their time socializing, eating with us, and most of all providing security by guarding the vicinity the whole night. These might be simple things but these meant a lot. For me, they showed concern, willingness to sacrifice and to show their love for visitors.

The three-month mission helped me to be closer to God. The Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team lived a prayerful life. Aside from celebrating the Holy Mass, we regularly have our morning prayer and the prayer I would never forget, the grace before meals. During our team study of the modules, I learned a lot especially about our Catholic Faith. Those learnings gave me other perspectives in looking at life. Like my co-youth volunteers, I have also proved to myself that I can really face and talk in front of a crowd, even among professionals, to give and deliver formation talks. Though there would be many times that I would perspire excessively while giving talks, but I have become happy about myself because at the end of the day, I was able to touch and impart knowledge to the people. And I believe, this is all for the greater glory of God.

My journey in the mission brought me into these three general realizations.

THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS TRULY ALIVE. Wherever I was, I always saw the image of Jesus to people who are kind-hearted, to the simple and poor, to the grateful and generous, to people who are always ready to sacrifice for the sake of others, to the witnessing, serving and prayerful individuals.

GOD CREATED US WITH PURPOSE AND MISSION. The Redemptorist Missionaries were sent by God in our Parish in Balabagan to accompany us in celebrating our Golden Jubilee as a Parish, to preach the Gospel and to share their lives for the good of the people. Our people in the parish and in every area also helped for the success of this mission. Thus, each one of us has his or her own purpose and mission in life. What we need is to discover and to realize its fulfillment for the sake of others and for the glory of God.

Third and lastly, I also came up with a personal realization.

THE LORD HAS PREPARED ME FOR MY VOCATION IN LIFE. I realized that I have been called by the Lord to join the mission not just that I will be of help to the team, but also to prepare myself as I am about to enter the seminary for my priestly formation. I became more aware of myself. I have discovered some of my potentials and those that needs to be developed. Through the mission, I am reminded of the need of priests in our Parish and in the Prelature as a whole. This awareness gives me now the courage to continue. As I lived with the Mission Team for three months, I closely witnessed and experienced the life of priests. Their dedication and joy in serving inspires me to also aspire and become a priest like them, “puhon” (hopefully/in God’s time).

I am much grateful that God gave me this privilege to experience the life of being on a mission. Thank you so much. Maayong Good Morning!


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