‘The Exodus of a Lotus’

The Lotus flower is one of the most important symbols in Buddhist Tradition. Generally, its colorful petals symbolize enlightenment and rebirth. According to most of the Buddhist literature  the lotus flower’s beauty is easily noticed because it grows in muddy water. Its attractiveness surfaces because in the midst of filthy and murky water, the vibrant colors of the lotus flower stand out.  In Buddhism, lotus flowers symbolize one’s ability to rise and bloom in the midst of challenges to achieve enlightenment, or change of a person’s perspectives.

As a Marist Scholastic on Mission here in Ranong, Thailand, figuratively, I could say that my Marist Mission Experience has been like an ‘exodus of a lotus flower.’ For almost a year, my journey has been like a flight of the Israelites in the desert. Most of the experiences that I have tasted were unfamiliar to me. Like the Israelites, my experiences are like the muddy water where the lotus flowers normally grow. Though I consider these experiences muddy, I also believe that for almost a year, these are the highlights of my mission journey in Ranong.

My own exodus started with the death of my father. I was just starting to settle down here in Ranong when it happened.  Though I was given the opportunity to go back home for his funeral, but his death added a mud when I came back here in Thailand and started studying the language. It was a bit challenging on my part to study the language while mourning at the same time. Despite of this difficulty, the mourning journey helped me to understand and embrace the reality that I will be facing in the future as a missionary – Leaving behind my family. In spite of this difficult journey, I tried to boost up my interest to study the language and be able to imbibe this endeavor as one of the important aspects that a missionary should do when on mission.

As part of the Marist Mission Ranong team, it is a special opportunity for me to share my teachings skills in the mission. This ministry made me realized how education is important to all children, especially to the migrants. Like me, these migrants are also in their exodus from their own country. My daily teaching experiences helped me to build relationship with our students, and be able to listen to their own exodus stories here in Ranong. Their stories always remind me that I am not only a purely teacher here, but as a Marist educator.

The fear of relating with the people living with HIV/AIDS was also one of the muds that I needed to deal with for the past months. Though I am not actively involved in the Health Team’s daily visit to our patients, for a few times that I met them in their occasional gatherings, I got the chance to be acquainted with them, and just be there to observe them. One of the highlights of my experience was when a little boy (who’s also a patient) got attached to me, that he didn’t want to go home without me. The boy cried a lot when he was forced to go home. This experience really pinched my heart. This led me to see that my fear of the disease made me so indifferent to their situation. I thought to myself that “for the last months, our patients are so well, but it’s me who was sick because I have been thinking a lot about their sickness; though they are sick, but they can live at peace with it.” This is perhaps one of the greatest realizations for the last 10 months of my mission experience here in Ranong.

These eye opener experiences won’t be possible if not because of the grace of openness that God has been bestowing upon me. My Marist confreres here in Ranong have been very patient and supportive towards me. I know I still have lots of things to experience here in Ranong, but I am confident that I can face them because of the presence of my confreres, and I believe that God and our Mother Mary will always be with me.

Finally, like the lotus flower that rises magnificently over the muddy water, so do I. Though I encountered lots of biases and challenges in the past months of my mission experience, but I could also consider these as the reasons why I am surviving in the mission. For our Buddhist brothers and sisters, the lotus flower is a sign of enlightenment, or a rebirth from a new perspective. In a similar way, my 10 month- exodus experience in the border opened up a new horizon in my life as a Marist missionary.  This helped me to appreciate more our Marist presence in the mainland Asia.

– Bro. Nino Paulo Memorial,sm  –

Bro. Nino Paulo Memorial, sm is a Marist Scholastic, currently on mission.  He is doing his Marist Mission Experience in the border of Thailand-Myanmar, Ranong, Thailand.




New Zealand Marist visits Davao City

On 18-21 April 2013,Kiwi Marist priest Fr. Fred Bliss, SM visited us for a few days here in Davao. He came down to Davao after he gave a talk on Mary and Ecumenism during the Mariological Conference held in Manila this week.

Fr. Fred is a professor of Theology in Angelicum University in Rome. After finishing his term as Provincial of New Zealand Province, he found a new life teaching for 22 years in Rome. He shared that during these years, he stays at Collegio Filipino, a home residence of Filipino Clergy and Seminarians living and studying in Rome.

It is always good to see and meet a fellow Marist and learn from his wisdom and experience.  We welcome him and wish him all the best in his sabbatical.


Vocation Workshop held in Davao City

Vocation Discerners with Maselino, a Samoan Novice
Vocation Discerners with Maselino, a Samoan Novice

A vocation workshop was held at Colin District house on 11-14 April 2013. Three young men responded to the invitation which helped them discern God’s call in their lives.

During the workshop, the discerners had a chance to know about the history, spirituality and mission of the Marists in the Philippines and in the whole world.

They also had a chance to meet Marists and visit their communities in Dumalag and Digos. On the way to Marist Matti Community, we called in at the OSB Monastery and spent a time of prayer. On Sunday, they attended mass at the jail which many of them felt was a good experience.

We continue to pray for more vocations to priestly and religious life.



Marists welcomed SMSM sisters to Philippines

On 9 April 2013, Marists welcome the new group of SMSM sisters to the Philippines.

The sisters come from NZ, Congo, Samoa, Keribati and Tonga are here to do a 6 month course in Marbel, South Cotabato. Newly ordained Marist priest Fr. Arnold Garferio, SM celebrated the Eucharist at Marist Sisters Community in Juna, Davao city.

A celebratory meal followed after the Mass. A simple and random presentation of songs from different languages and countries were rendered as well as dances.

The evening ended with the singing of Salve Regina thanking Mary for the gift of Marist vocation she has shared with us.

Welcome to the Philippines dear SMSM sisters and blessing always.



Bro. John Gouwang, SM renewal of vows in Rome

DSC09952On March 23, I, together with Daniel Fernández renewed religious vows in the Chapel of School in Rome. The mass of renewal was presided by Fr. Mario Castelucci, SM, the regional superior of Italy, and assisted by Frs. John Larsen and Pedro, Donato and Aisake, and two Marist priests from the Italian Marist community. Also in attendance were the family of Daniel from Spain and Sr. Xiao Shuqin, a Chinese sister who happened to be one of our witnesses. The liturgy was beautifully celebrated with different languages. After the celebration, everyone was invited to taste Filipino lunch that was prepared by Josephine who is our Filipino partner in “Casa di Maria”.

With confidence and happiness, I renewed my religious vows for the third time to the Society of Mary. I am grateful for the support and prayers from every confrere in the Philippine district that has accompanied my religious life so far. Thanks to Fr. John Larsen, SM who accepted my vows and all my confreres in “Casa di Maria”.

Right after the celebration, I went to Marconia, a small town in Southern Italy, where there is a Marist community which serves for two parishes. I went there together with Lauro and Fernando for Holy week and Easter celebration. I have to say that it was really a fruitful experience. The Marist community and the parishioners warmly welcomed us. We visited families, and especially we spent time talking with the youth and playing with children. It also encourages me to be always dedicated to the works of Mary.

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