What a journey it has been! My almost two years of mission in Uganda has been like the mysteries of the rosary – there were times of joy, times of sorrow, glorious moments as well as luminous ones. All in all, I am certain that all these experiences contributed to my growth and development as a person and as a religious who was given this rare opportunity to be assigned as missionary here in Africa.
Joy. I am very much thankful for the joys I found in this mission. First and foremost, I am very happy for the opportunity to be of service to the local Church of Uganda. It was a great joy to be accepted, respected and be among Ugandans as a foreign missionary, to be immersed in their colorful culture, to learn their language and to be able to enjoy its natural environment and very pleasant climate. Through this mission, I was able to practice a different kind of leadership and made many adjustments considering that people’s practices and way of life differed from my home country. Most of all, the rural ambiance and laid-back nature of work I was exposed to here had afforded me lots of time for myself, for prayer and reflection, and most of all to commune with God.
Sorrow. I know full well that wherever I am being sent to, there will always be challenges. In this Ugandan mission, as much as I was excited, I also experienced anxiety about being assigned not only in a new place but in a foreign place whose culture is so much different from my own. Understanding a new culture, learning a new language and relating with people from another country not only for a few months but years had not been a walk in the park. There were times when I missed being home and being with people who know me, being able to go on vacation readily and living the Filipino way of life that I had been used to. Another big challenge was to organize the communities here in Uganda, setting an example, and sharing how an effective community way of life is being practiced in the Philippines and then motivating our Ugandan brother priests and seminarians here to try the same practices but balance it with their existing culture. Unlike in my home country, financial resources are far more limited in this mission, and so this posed a struggle for me and all our collaborators since we have to be creative as well as make sacrifices in order to achieve our plans and dreams despite the meager means.
Glorious. With the guidance, inspiration and blessing of our God who sent me to this mission, I can also say that my hard work was not for naught. The all-out support of the Generalate and POLA in the Philippines also contributed much in the marked development of the Ugandan communities at present. The finances, both from internal sources and the subsidies from the Curia and Philippines, had been made sufficient as much as practicable and so it was able to sustain the needs of the community members – food, shelter, health, social, spiritual. Through my presence and sharing of time, talents and effort, some lives had been touched and changed, the larger community including the lay had been animated and linkages outside Masaka and Kampala had been established. With these, I believe that the Ugandan brothers will be able to manage themselves by continuing to implement the practices that we developed and had together observed as effective in living a very satisfying community life as religious.
Luminous. Certainly, I am not the same person as when I left the Philippines to take on this Ugandan mission. I have gained more experience and wisdom. Uganda has been like a Mt. Tabor for me where I shared an experience of Transfiguration with Christ. This Ugandan mission has tested my knowledge, skills and abilities when it comes to leadership, organization, fiscal management, interpersonal relations, stress tolerance and capacity for transcendence. Ultimately, it has tested my very self, how I see myself as a person, as a citizen, as a religious and as a missionary. I am much more enlightened about my purpose in this world. Being exposed to a new culture and doing missionary work not only for a short period of time have widened my perspectives. I really appreciate who I had become through the experiences, people I encountered and the support I had received while in this mission. The realizations I had in mission are making my future path more luminous because I am less afraid now of the uncertainties and the unknown. I now hold more than ever that sense of enlightenment that wherever God will lead me, He will always be there; that He will always send people and blessings for me to be able to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to me.
Having been transfigured and upon finding a new self through the joys, sorrows and glories of life in mission, I am going down Mt. Tabor carrying within me a much brighter light, with much courage and determination. I will embrace the cross and climb the next mountain, the mountain of agony, to fulfill the will of God in my life. Indeed, what a journey it has been! I am much more open to what life has in store for me because whatever it is, it will surely be another beautiful journey because like my mission in Uganda, I know it is leading me towards becoming a much better person, towards self-realization and towards fulfilling my God-given purpose. Continue to pray for me on my next mission. Hope to meet you along the way, in the crossroads of my life.
By Rev. Fr. Ferdinand S. Tomo, SSS