A Seminarian’s Missionary Journey

I am William Mancao, a Filipino from the Missionary Seminary Redemptoris Mater of Vancouver, a fruit of the Neocatechumenal Way. I’ve finished my Philosophy and Theology studies and as part of my seminary formation, I’ve been sent for a year to Whitehorse. I arrived in July. It is a massive diocese that contains the whole of Yukon Territory and the northern part of British Columbia. In our travels to the different mission churches, I am reminded of St. Paul’s journeys in the Acts of the Apostles. Driving in this part of Canada makes me love God more as I marvel at the beautiful scenery. The Canticle of Daniel comes alive. “Mountains and hills, bless the Lord! Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord! You springs, bless the Lord! Seas and rivers, bless the Lord” (Dan 3:75-78).

When I was a kid, I thought that travelling for an hour from our town to the big city was too long. Here, my longest travel has been 6 hours and when there’s just an hour left, I say, “we’re close.” I witness that the bishop and priests here give their lives for the faithful as they drive very long distances to celebrate Mass, baptise, hear confessions, do funerals, and be with people. This reality has increased my appreciation for God’s ministers and the necessity of the sacraments. The Madonna House Sisters and missionary families who live in the missions to sustain the communities inspire me as well. They have made an impact for sure because the First Nations people love them.

I am amazed by God’s providence. I did not expect to go to Edmonton to participate in Pope Francis’ visit, but I accompanied a group from Teslin and Whitehorse. It was such a grace to witness this historical event between the Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church. I was moved by the Holy Father’s humility in giving his apology many times throughout this penitential pilgrimage.

Humility is such an important virtue. Ever since the beginning of this mission, I have been humbled to realise that after 30 years of life, including 7 years in the seminary, I am ignorant of so many things, particularly on the practical side of life. Not only priests but everyone should know the basics, especially in the Yukon. In seeing my imperfections, the devil tempts me to be discouraged, but I must not let him get hold of me. As the Lord said to St. Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). As St. Peter was able to walk on water while looking at Jesus, God invites me to do the same. This experience is teaching me to have my ‘boots on the ground’ as I engage in everyday life and pastoral activity.

I don’t do too many things. I just drive, altar serve, sing, relate to the people, cook, clean, cut grass, pray, and help the bishop or priest as much as I can. I even learned a few things in construction, like painting, because the mission churches are so old and need maintenance. But as one priest here taught me, “your worth does not come from doing, but being.” All that I am and do must centre on unconditional love, then everything will surely follow God’s will. The people I mentioned above inspire me because they don’t look into themselves and their problems, but instead outwards, putting their lives in service to others in order to share God’s love. As my spiritual director often says, quoting Pope Francis, “love is action.”

Love is the key. It is crucial because that is what God is, LOVE. For the rest of my missionary year here in the Diocese of Whitehorse, I pray that the Holy Spirit enkindles in me the fire of God’s love so that I may serve the people, especially the First Nations, and spread the same fire of love.