Reflections on Answering the Missionary Call

Posted: 5/10/2012

Glenmary Father Vic SubbBy Father Vic Subb
Vocation Office Staff

At our annual Glenmary summer gathering, we always celebrate the anniversaries of our priests and brothers. I have been a priest for 25 years and a Glenmarian for 32 years, and I've been thinking about how quickly the time passes. These years have been rich in experiences, both challenging and blessed.

I've often asked myself, "How can I be the best missioner possible?" I have found some answers on my journey, which has taken me to mountaintops as well as valleys, where I have seen and lived in ways I could only dream of before. And I would like to share some lessons I've learned.

I have found that a missioner must be one who is willing to live outside the box, outside his or her comfort zone. A missioner is an outsider. I was raised in Philadelphia; therefore, I knew how to be a Philadelphian. I knew the food, the traditions, the culture. When I joined Glenmary, my first mission assignment took me to the mountains of Appalachia. I was excited, but I soon learned that I was working outside my comfort zone. In the mountains I encountered people who had different beliefs and cultures. I had to leave my Eastern way of doing things outside the door in order to minister there.

I made mistakes, but thank God I began to realize that I needed to listen, listen and then listen more. The great lesson I learned was that I had ideas to share, but so did the people I met, especially about their faith journeys. Whether the individual was an old mountaineer or a teenager full of hope, if I did not open myself up to this person's ideas, I lost out on the chance to grow in experiences that might transform me into a better person and missioner.

Jesus' ministry was all about relationships. Jesus' message spoke of life. His message lifted up people to realize that they were gifted and blessed. Jesus' great gift to the poor and the outsiders was to transform them from being on the sidelines of life to being part of life. Jesus showed the disciples that they were important and necessary in spreading his message. He called them and they came. They experienced Jesus' message, then they were sent out. Jesus was—and still is today—the great teacher of missioners.

During my years of missionary ministry, through my own relationships with the poor and the outsiders, I have been able to experience the love of Christ. I have learned that the poor and the outsiders seem to be more open to giving and receiving love. I've also learned that if I enter a relationship only to give or to receive, I have to question whether there really is a relationship. It is the mutual sharing in relationships with others that allows us to grow in the love of Christ and in our relationship with God.

I firmly believe that the missioner is one called to be present and to share his life with others. But it is a lifelong learning process, and in many ways I will always be a student. Thank you, Jesus, for calling me. Let's all accept and live our missionary call.