By Fr. Ferdinand Kouadio Komenan, PIME
My joys as a missionary are many. I have the happiness of feeling loved and knowing that I am helpful to others; I experience the spirit of hospitality of the Mexican people; I know the joy and surprise of experiencing new things; I feel the true love of the humble; I know the authenticity of celebrations in nature; I experience the meaning of the offertory in a profound way. (Sometimes, there are eggs, beans or corn in the offertory basket. The Mixtec teach me what giving the fruit of your labor means.)
Another joy comes from seeing God work among His poor in a beautiful way. In Concordia Parish, we receive 30 pesos (equal to about two American dollars) for Mass requests in order to make it possible for everyone to request an intention. Nevertheless, not everyone can afford it. Before Mass when someone discreetly gives me a little piece of paper, I understand it is a Mass intention without payment. For these intentions and for the rest, I pray fervently, asking God to listen to the intentions of his children. Scripture states, “When a poor person calls out, God listens.” (Psalm 102:18)
Working in the mountains with our Mixtec brothers and sisters, I see the need for inculturation. It is essential to deeply enter the culture and mentality of the indigenous peoples in order to propose the message of the Gospel. An example: the Mixtec get married at an early age. Sometimes the parents arrange a marriage between a girl of 14 or 15 years to a boy who is also underage. In this case, we politely ask the couple to wait until the girl is 16 and the boy is 18. Although Canon 1083 § 1 of Canon Law states that age for celebrating Catholic Marriage is 14 for the bride and 16 for the groom, Article 149 of the Mexican Federal Civil Code requires authorization from the parents for marriage between a girl under 16 and a boy under 18. In order to comply with both Codes, we only admit girls who are 16 and boys who are adults.
There are many challenges for the missionary. There is an insecurity to our days that requires us to model faith and perseverence. Nevertheless, “Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor!” (Evangelii Gaudium, 109.)
I am now learning Mixtec, which is a very complex language. I am working on bilingual grammar and vocabulary in order to make the necessary liturgical translations. In the future, we will be able to celebrate the Eucharist in the Tu’un Savi (Mixtec) language.
My motivation is this: “Just as all of us like to be spoken to in our mother tongue, so too in the faith we like to be spoken to in our ‘mother culture,’ our native language. Because of this their heart is better disposed to listen. This language is a kind of music which inspires encouragement, strength and enthusiasm.” (Evangelii Gaudium,139.)
Aside from these challenges,there are many others, but I will not make a detailed list here of my needs; I would simply like to thank the Lord for his providence. In my difficult moments, I have always found good Samaritans on the way. May God bless abundantly these people of good will. Lord “give me neither poverty nor riches; (provide me only with the food I need.)” (Proverbs 30:8)
I continually trust God with all my needs, knowing that He will provide for me and my mission. Boldness should characterize the missionary – we must do everything with courage and perseverance, wisdom, realism, prudence, faith and patience. When things don’t go as I would like (and that happens a lot), I repeat to myself: “Yes, I can.”
I am a missionary and nothing more. “My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I have a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.” We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.”(Evangelii Gaudium, 273.)
These are my realities as a missionary in Mexico. Please remember me in your prayers, as I humbly remember you in mine.
Fr. Ferdinand has been serving in the missions of Mexico since 2012.
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