A Catholic Monthly Magazine

His Mission – Our Mission

by Fr Bernard Espiritu SVD

Director of Missionz

In November 2007, I was assigned to work with the Afro-Americans in the South side of Chicago, USA. Being new in the city, I had to buy a GPS to get around. It enabled me to get to wherever I wanted to go. The first time I used it was on my second day in Chicago in a three hour trip I did to get to a meeting in Indianapolis. It was also my first trip travelling alone in a big country and not knowing where I would end up. But the GPS just directed me to the turns where I needed to go.  After 15 minutes of driving on a busy highway, I suddenly found myself entering a detour zone. There were big road works. I got anxious and didn’t know what to do, though I kept driving “calmly” just going through the traffic flow. But I got lost as I did not follow the other cars ahead of me as some went left, and others turned right.  And in the midst of an anxious panic, the GPS simply announced, “recalculating” Beep! Beep! Beep! Nervously I followed the GPS’ instruction as it guided me through the secondary and even tertiary road until I found myself driving on the highway again. It was when I saw a road sign indicating the direction toward Indianapolis that I felt relieved. And it was also then that the GPS just announced, “Drive 90 miles ahead”. And then there was a long silence…

It was in that long silence that I started talking to the GPS. Besides, no one was there to think I was going crazy talking to the GPS. And I said to ‘it’, “You sound like God! You calmly guide me even in sudden changes of events and recalculate my path. You find the right way once again even if I may have messed up or someone else has messed up my journey.  You put me on the right track so as to bring me to my destination!” And it was then that I began to think that GPS stands not only for ‘Global Positioning System’ but even more so for ‘God Positioning System’!

Fr Bernard Espiritu with outgoing
Missionz Director, Fr Paul Shannahan

My whole life as a Divine Word Missionary may be likened to my trip to Indianapolis. I was 27 years old and had barely gone out of Manila when I went to Brazil as a missionary. I didn’t have a single Portuguese word in my belt when the plane landed in Rio in 1983. Incidentally, I was even detained for nearly 5 hours at the airport upon arrival. I gathered that the customs people wanted documents which were never required of me when I got my visa in Manila. Upon release, I headed on to the parish but the process of crossing-over had just begun. New language had to be learnt, new faces and names have to be remembered, and new situations have to be embraced. These all seem to be new detours in my life as God was making new pathways that led me to new realities. Surely the journey of thirty-one years of missionary life has not been easy nor devoid of worries and difficulties. But as one person in the USA once told me, “So you traveled from Chicago to Indianapolis, from New Jersey to New York, from New Jersey to Nebraska, from Chicago to Mississippi and were totally dependent on your GPS? You must be a very trusting man!” Yes, trust is one disposition a missionary should have; to believe that people are trustworthy, but even more so is to trust that God is the Lord of the missions and missions is not just human work, it is the work of God.

Whenever I use the GPS, I have to know my destination. I digitize the address and follow directions while I drive, staying alert  to what is happening on the road. In life I have to know where my head and heart want to go. Life’s roads may have many unfamiliar bends, but I have to trust and be sensitive to the God who prompts me in fulfilling his mission. Besides, I believe, His mission is our mission.

Fr Bernard Espiritu, SVD was ordained priest in the Society of the Divine Word on 24 October 1981 in the Philippines. He has served as a missionary in Brazil, Australia, USA, Canada, and now in New Zealand. He is presently the director of Missionz. He is  here shown together with Fr Paul Shannahan SM who was the National Director of Missionz for six years. 

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