AN INTERVIEW WITH A MISSIONARY IN AFRICA

Fr. Juan Libangan, SVD 001

Here at the SVD Provincialate, Confreres, friends and guests come and go. Every visit, either a quick one, an over night or longer, an announced or otherwise always leave an indelible mark of gratitude on the hearts of us who belong to the Pindangan community.   We do appreciate every visit which we look forward to its many returns.

I consider it a special privilege to have been granted a time for an interview with a missionary who stayed a couple of days with us just recently while on home leave Fr. Juan Libangan, SVD. Let me share that interview with you:

Fr. Emil: Originally, where do you come from Fr. (Juan) Ayok (his nick name)?

Fr. Ayok:   I was born in a village called Matalibeng, Malibcong, Abra. I    belong to the

Mabaka Tribe of Abra.

Fr. Emil: Which Ordination Class do you belong? And what is special with the name of your class?

Fr. Ayok: Our Ordination Class is called the “Vox Dei” and we commit to live up as

“witnesses of the Word” through out our lives. There were 14 of us and

were ordained in March  2005.

Fr. Emil: How did you get your first mission assignment?

Fr. Ayok: Let me make a long story short to answer a little bit “tricky’ question. I entered

Christ the King Seminary as an Associate. I remember my Formators were asking

where would I like to work as a missionary one day. I thought about Africa.

Then, when we were asked to make our “Desiderata” I made an inquiry where

in Africa  would be open, and Mozambique was on the top list. I also learned

from my inquiry that usually first and second choices are considered so I put

Africa, Mozambique in particular as my second or third, and I got it.

Fr. Emil: So, how long you have been in Mozambique?

Fr. Ayok: I have been doing mission in Mozambique now for two years. My first year

was spent for language studies in Portugal.

Fr. Emil:  What impressions can you share regarding the country, weather, people, etc?

Fr. Ayok: Mozambique is a huge African country with a total land area of 881 thousand

square kilometers, with a total population of not less than twenty million

wonderful people. Though economically poor, the people have a high degree

of longing for the God. I see their culture, a culture of love demonstrated in

way they play their music, sway their bodies along with drum beat and  how

they display their arts. About 20% of the total population belongs to the

Roman Catholic Church.

Fr. Emil: Very interesting indeed! If you would single out a joyful and memorable

Mission encounter/experience what would that be?

Fr. Ayok: I see mission as act of dying in myself only to resurrect through my mission

works. And I am very thankful how my superior and confreres welcome me

in the community and later on… have given me the chance to know the mission

stations, cultures, history, life, etc., well before I formally started my work.

Fr. Emil: Can you mention some mission challenges you encountered in you initial years

if there’s any?

Fr. Ayok: As I am slowly getting immersed with the life of the Church and of the

people, I find that Interfaith dialogue is a challenge. As a missionary in a

society made up of people of different Religions and cultures it requires of me a

high sense of sensitivity and prudence.

Fr. Emil: How did you cope up with challenge mentioned earlier?

Fr. Ayok: I for one believe in the ‘Evangelization before Christianization’ principle. The

Word of God is the common ground. The Church programs are very helpful.

For instance, the three-year Catecumenate program gives enough time for

desirous men and women to get rooted on the Word of God by attending

regular Church Services and after a period of three years the Church will

decide whether or not they can be baptized. That the Government listens to the

Church is a plus factor for us missionaries in doing our missions.

Fr. Emil: Is this first Home leave? How do you find it so far?

Fr. Ayok: I am very happy to be back even for a short time. Going back to my root is like

fetching water from a spring to quench thirst and to get strengthened. Now, I

can go back to Mozambique refreshed and energized!

Fr. Emil: Before you go back, any message you wish to impart with our mission partners?

Fr. Ayok:  Oh yes. To you our dear mission partners and collaborators in the missions. Thank you

for you assistance spiritual as well as material.  With your prayers and support we are able to do our missions. Please continue to journey with us so that with you altogether we accomplish our mission here on earth. I will go back to Mozambique with much hope that you will continue to pray for me and for all the people of Mozambique. Thank you, God bless you.

Fr. Emil: Thank you also Fr. Ayok for your time and message. We will accompany you with our prayers and love as we repeat the Lord’s Missionary Mandate, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved…” (Mk 16:15a) God bless you!

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