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    A Right Missionary Attitude

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    Rex Salvillaby Rex Salvilla, cicm
    Vicar General


    This December marks my 38th year in priestly ministry. As I look back over my life as a CICM missionary, my formation in the seminary has equipped me with the right attitude to adapt and flourish in my mission should I be assigned anywhere. It didn't give me any specific skills. However, my training, particularly in theology, has taught me the importance of dialogue.

    Dialogue invites us to take our shoes off when we encounter another culture. It's about listening to the people we serve, struggling to understand them, learning to speak their language, eating their food and being immersed ourselves in their culture and traditions, harnessing local resources for our work, and engaging the local population in the mission. In other words, I learned the value of synodality in the seminary. Yes, I have learned this since more than 30 years ago.

    The seminary formation did not teach me about specific skill sets in running the administration of a parish, the nuances of running a school, or the dynamics of a social center. Rather, it taught me the right attitude of adapting to the landscape of where I am thrown. The seminary formation likewise did not teach me bookkeeping, accounting, or financial management. But it taught me the core values of responsibility, accountability, and honesty.

    As missionaries, we should know how to adapt to any situation with the right attitude and mindset. Fortunately for the younger generation of confreres, there are better infrastructures to help them plan their future work, better than what we had (or did not have).

    My first assignment in my mission in Hong Kong was being an assistant parish priest. I immediately realized that from Monday to Friday, there were few activities in the parish, and that idleness would be the immediate temptation. While I was still struggling with Cantonese, I decided to make my weekdays more fruitful by visiting the elderly and sick in apartments, older  people's homes and sometimes hospitals. My initiative was quickly noticed and well-appreciated by many parishioners.

    Then, two years later, I was assigned to a CICM parish as a parish priest. Not only was I the parish priest, but I also functioned as the supervisor of the kindergarten school and as the director of a social center at the same time. There, I learned various things that weren't taught in the formation - how to handle conflicts between employees and address the maintenance of the building, among other things. While I was doing all this, I was appointed Hong Kong District Treasurer. I had to learn and do some budgeting, bookkeeping, and reporting manually without the aid of the computer. Gradually, I also became part of the Management Committees of the six CICM schools. In those committees, I felt like an amateur making decisions for professionals  employed by the schools. 

    After nearly 14 years in the mission, I was recalled to the Philippines to become the Provincial Treasurer. I adjusted by reading all the relevant CICM documents on finances and slowly observing all the intricacies in the office. I took up MBA studies to gain knowledge about the financial world.

    Later, when I was 61 years old (perhaps already a seasoned missionary who is an expert in adjusting), I was assigned to be the President of the Maryhill School of Theology. My first reaction was, “Why me? I am not a theologian.” My intuition was correct. I had to put things in order, like employee-related matters and managing the upkeep of the physical plant, among others. 

    So here I am in the General Government – a new assignment, a new mandate, a new team, and a new environment.  As I was writing this, I was in Florence studying the Italian language. My profound gratitude to all the confreres who trusted us to take on this new responsibility. The chapter was an excellent time for revitalizing the Congregation. Capitulants took the discussions seriously. I am equipping myself for this six-year assignment by reading all the relevant CICM documents that will help us make correct, informed, and wise decisions. We will face challenges as they come. CICM formed me to have the right attitude of a missionary that our remarkable predecessors possessed.

    As I end this reflection, I humbly ask my dear confreres to offer their prayers for the General Government.

    Source : Chronica No. 5 Sept-Dec 2023