There is a deep hunger for God’s word and His message of hope, peace and love among our local communities. In my humble way of pastoral visitation in the various communities under my care, I wish to support and enhance people’s faith by sharing the Gospel in their particular situations.
I believe home visitation is a prime opportunity for outreach, especially to the neediest. A specific need of people worldwide is a sharing of the gospel to remote places suffering from poverty.
As Catholic missionaries we are called to serve them as well. The way to do that is through home visitations --pastoral visitations.
It is an important method of living out my own faith: reaching deep into the day-to-day reality of our flock. Home visitation offers a precious moment of fraternal bonding and mutual growth in our parish. I see it as an opportunity to discover and recover God’s presence in people’s lives.
We work in an area with poor infrastructures and a scarcity of Earthly goods. Here, we are far from a life of comfort. But this is what we are prompted to do: we accompany the “little ones,” who often lack even the most basic of needs.
It is our vocation to keep company and to share the joys and anxieties of God’s children who are poor, homeless, orphaned, widowed, marginalized, lost, etc.
God’s deep concern for these among us continually reminds us to act in favor of them.
Being connected with other followers of Christ plays an important role in our faith journey as Christians. Together we can nurture and counsel one another: together we are stronger.
Unity among Christians is an important message in scripture and in the early days of the Church. In the Old Testament we read: “Two are better than one. Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” (Eccl 4:9,12)
And in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” (1Cor 1:10)
Christian companionship and unity is at the heart of our missionary endeavors.
The circumstances that we face in frontier situations can make those efforts challenging at times. I can even recall moments where my dreams and ideals have been shaken by such challenges.
One time in particular comes to mind: during my routine ministry in the formation of pastoral agents. I left the mission center with a couple co-workers and lay leaders of the parish. We departed for our scheduled pastoral visitations in some villages scattered among the mountains and rivers of Bantiyao-Pakawit and Calo-an.
After nearly three hours of driving over rough and dangerous terrain, we left our truck in Wagud village, which was the farthest spot we could reach by car. The rest of our journey was only accomplished on foot. In the course of our hiking, we were busy sharing stories with the people who were leading the way. I have to confess to several moments of exhaustion in the struggle to reach our destination.
But I feared not, because God was with us!
We shared moments of tiredness, but also moments of laughter, and I received inspiration from my confreres. In fact, along the way, the smiles and encouragement of my companions kept me going and made these hardships light and worthwhile.
When we finally arrived in Gumacad village, I made my usual home visitations, followed by a formal lay leadership seminar with the help of our catechists and related pastoral formation team.
The next day we had a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, after which I was supposed to move on to Bontoc Aciga, a neighboring village across the river. Due to heavy rain, however, and because there was no bridge, the village elders advised us to postpone our departure. We waited three additional days for the river to subside.
Even after the third day, water levels were still precarious and crossing remained dangerous. But we got help from the community to set out for the next destination, where the people were anxiously awaiting our arrival.
During the three-day delay, we had no way to contact anyone in the next village on our agenda; there is no telephone service in these areas.The journey from where we were stranded to the next scheduled barrio should have been only about a forty-minute walk.
Because we needed to reach a less treacherous spot for crossing the river though, we needed to take a much longer and less travelled path. It was, again, very muddy and slippery. Crossing the river was difficult and it was indeed frightening. My stamina was tested, but I found the strength through my faith in God and trust in the people around me.
We finally managed to cross the perilous river, and complete the hike to the Bontoc community. Upon entering the village, I was so relieved but also so impressed by the joy and happiness we saw on the faces of the people.
It was humbling to reconcile the remote and poor conditions in which these people live with their heartwarming disposition.
They are a study in resilience and gratitude in the face of life’s hardships.
After some rest, I made the rounds visiting people. We spent a couple of days there for basic catechesis and a lay leadership formation seminar. At the end of the pastoral visitation, my body was tired but I felt deeply enriched by the experience.
The adventures and challenges we face reaching people in the missions can be difficult. But the burdens are lightened because of the love and support we enjoy through genuine fraternity and cooperation in God’s vineyard. Alone, I could not—but together, yes we can do it!
Our humble experiences reveal that, no matter how difficult the journey may be, with God, everything is possible.
That is what sustains our ministry. We just do the best we can, and God takes care of the rest. We have shared laughter and tears, great energy and deep fatigue, danger and comforting hospitality with our confreres, supportive co-workers and lay leaders, parishioners, and even strangers.
I have been inspired by all of them. Working with our collaborators and going out to the people is was has kept my missionary zeal burning: witnessing to a life of prayer and the values of universal brotherhood.
Pastoral visitation is a portal whereby we can earnestly touch people’s lives and open new opportunities for faith enhancement, bonding, and mutual growth. Especially in the most remote corners of the world and among the most needy,
Christian companionship and solidarity is how God makes a way: let us go together and be glad and rejoice in Him!