ASIA-OCEANIAA dormitory for the homeless
Korea, the customary salutation when we leave someone is Agnon-Hi’-Caseo, which means: Go
in peace. It’s a beautiful and friendly greeting when used in normal
situations, but it becomes strange and out of place when every night I say it
to our 500 friends, the homeless persons, who, after having received a warm
supper at our Center, go wandering the dark and cold streets of the city to
sleep somewhere under some stairs, covered with cardboard, or in subway
stations, covered only by old newspapers. Knowing that the thermometer will
drop to between five and thirteen degrees below zero, my heart is filled with
pain and human compassion.
the face of this reality, we had the idea, with the help of many Korean
friends, of building a third floor on our Center. We were involved in this
project throughout all of 2011. The result is a small dormitory, with 20 beds,
to allow our unfortunate friends to pass a warm night, to have a nice shower
and to have a good breakfast before being sent off to their lot in life. After
a year of hard work and commitment, this dream became a reality when we
launched it on January 15, to the great joy of our friends who live on the
A great contribution came also from our Italian donors: if the gifts of the Koreans were used for the construction, those from Italy serve in the daily operation of the dormitory. Now, in the morning when I greet our homeless friends after they’ve spent a warm night in a comfortable bed, I can joyfully say: Agnon-Hi’-Caseo -- Go in peace! (Vincenzo BORDO)
Almost seven years ago, on July 28, 2005, I first arrived in Sitangkai, Tawi Tawi. Nobody knew that I would arrive on that day, so nobody received and welcomed me. Besides, the former priest in-charge of the Sitangkai Mission had gone to his new assignment. But, it was no big deal…!
Oblates have become used to this kind of
transition. We assume our responsibilities in any mission and assignment
without any protocol or formalities, e.g., installation rites, special programs
and the like. We give the Bishop a courtesy call and off we go to our new
The Christian population in the Municipality of Sitangkai is less than one percent. In the whole Vicariate of Jolo, Christians are about 2% of the population.
I knew beforehand that life in Sitangkai as a missionary is really difficult. There is no convent boy, no cook or laundry woman. There is no TV, refrigerator or microwave oven or any of the regular conveniences or luxuries that a lonely missionary enjoys, because there is no electricity in the island. The hardest part is that we rely on rain water for drinking.
Notwithstanding the threat and the possibility of being kidnapped or killed, the priest does all the household chores like cooking and more. I say to myself, “Well, this is life in an Oblate mission, so I may as well enjoy it.” This is Sitangkai, the last populated island in Southern Philippines!
One morning, as I was having my coffee, an old man arrived and introduced himself as the Lay Minister of Santo Niño Chapel in Tongehat Mission Station. The man was Tinoy Segiunte. They came to Tawi-Tawi through a relative, looking for “greener pastures”. He was from Alicia, Zamboanga del Sur. He is a seaweeds farmer and, occasionally, a fisherman. His wife, Dolores, is a catechist in the same chapel. They have two wonderful children and they have lived in Tongehat for the last twenty years. As I came to know him little by little and up to this day, I have become fascinated by Tinoy’s dedication to work as a Lay Minister in Santo Niño Chapel.
I am challenged by the kind of faith that this simple man lives. He has not completed his elementary schooling and he could hardly write even his name. Yet, he is very well versed with the language of love through his work as a Lay Minister and through the zeal and care he shows for his family. He knows the doctrines of our faith by heart and yet he has deep respect for the faith of his Muslim neighbor.
I may have studied twelve years of philosophy and theology, but I say that Tinoy lives that faith that I continue to study and understand. Tinoy lives a simple lifestyle with no complexities; all he has is his faith in God. There is the longing of every human being to be happy. Tinoy longs for it, too. But I am also certain that his fulfillment and happiness lie in serving God, His people and in showing true love to his family.
I once asked Tinoy where he learned all these things. His only answer was, “Father, when you love God, you will learn easily.” He never misses any training, seminar, recollection or any activity sponsored by the Mission. He never has any complaints when asked to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word. He knows what true sacrifice is, because of his love for God. Tinoy, indeed, is a silent witness to the Gospel values he lives and his life is a reflection of his deep love of God. He is a reminder of my priesthood and of my ministry. I am evangelized by this simple and faithful man. Truly, he is God’s gift and grace to my vocation. (Fr. Celoi Andamon in OMI Philippines, March 2012)