PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE SMA INTERNATIONAL LAY CONVENTION
Last December 28, 2016 to January 1, 2017, I was blessed to be sent to Feriole, Italy to be one of the participants of the SMA International Lay Convention. As a new member of the SMA Family Crusades for Vocation Promotions,the theme of the convention was especially apt for me: “Va’, non temere io sono con te.” (“Go, do not be afraid for I am with you.” – from the first part of Isaiah 41:10). It was an eye-opening experience of the larger world of lay participation within the SMA.
Even before we left the Philippines and until the last day of the convention, the community spirit was palpable throughout. We received a lot of help from the community in Italy and here in the Philippines during the pre-departure preparations. On our arrival at Venice Marco Polo Airport, we were warmly welcomed by Fr. Antonio Porcellato of the General Council and Fr. Giuseppe, one of the priests in the community at Feriole. The lay community of Feriole anticipated our every need during the course of the convention and continuously made us feel welcome. One could not help but be swept up in the camaraderie of the lay participants from all over the world. Everyone was very interested to know about the activities of SMA laity from all over the world. Group discussions tended to run long as there was often a spirited exchange of ideas and sharing of experiences. Meal times were an event and a fellowship to be looked forward to: from the home-cooked meals prepared by the community of Feriole to the exchange of experiences by lay workers from all over the world. The times of common prayer also served to bind us and center us in Christ, through the intercession of Mary.
An intense love of Africa was also evident in everyone. The lay workers who have experienced sharing in the mission there spoke with a sense of personal investment and great love. Every priest I spoke to articulated a yearning for Africa that was so palpable and real. They all wanted to return. Despite the apparent difficulties of mission, they all loved the work. Particularly touching was my conversation with Fr. Angelo, who returned to Italy to recuperate from a life-threatening illness. He has been recovering remarkably for the past six months and professes a desire to go back to his work in Africa after his full recovery. Africa and, more importantly, the mission there seem to me like a pearl of great price: something of great value that they have found and for which they gave up everything to pursue.
And this community spirit and love of Africa stems from the profound spirituality of the founder, Melchior Marion de Bresillac. Particularly affecting for me are these words by him: “The joy I wish you…is the joy of a vocation which makes us feel at home wherever the Lord sends us. It envies nothing, desires nothing, regrets nothing, because it has only one desire in the world: to do what God wishes and nothing else.” For me, these words are a reminder that, despite the differences in our roles in SMA, our mission is universal. It is also a message for me to be more yielding to God’s plans and promptings, following the example of Msgr. Bresillac.
I left Feriole with a grateful heart. The convention, the interactions with the SMA priests and laity, and my personal reflections as a result of all these experiences were unforgettable and life-changing.
Faith Victory Mejor