The book of Luke 1, 39-56 recounts the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This takes place moments after the annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. From the proceedings of Mary’s encounter with her cousin it is evident that she was overwhelmed by joy. The news that she had received from God was not any simple news, it was a great cum historical news! This joy couldn’t be hidden so Mary goes to share it out with her families. We refer to Mary as a very good example of a missionary. Taking the joy of the Lord (Gospel) to the others is the fundamental missionary chore!
Such has been our experience here in Mongolia in the summer of this year. We have received several Maries coming from the USA, Poland and Italy to share their joy with us and thus encourage us in our journey of mission as St. Paul exhorts in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 5,1-11). Here follows some of their experiences and testimonies.
Visit to the Consolata missions in Mongolia (by Fr. Paolo Fedrigoni, IMC. North Brunswick NJ, USA)
Our team reached Ulaanbaatar on June 27, 2019. The team consisted of Denis, Carole, Barbara and Paolo (myself). We had been sent by St. Augustine of Canterbury parish in Kendall Park, NJ, in order to visit the Mission of Arvaiheer with which our Parish has twinned. The journey took us only half a day. We were warmly welcomed at the airport by Fr. Giorgio Marengo, the Pastor at the Mission that we were headed to, and by our local guide who offered us a bowl of horse milk, held over a blue ribbon (a Mongolian sign of giving a welcome to visitors).
Fr. Paolo and companions are received at the airport, Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia
The sky was blue in colour and boundless green hills rolled beyond our view. The first perception was that of vastness, freedom, connectedness with nature below and above.
As the Middle Age travellers were surprised by many unexpected things when they reached Mongolia, so we were. First of all we discovered that the local names were so difficult for us to learn so our tour operator, our guide and our driver had to adopt new names! Imagine: it took us three days just to learn how to say “thank you” in Mongolian language!
Before reaching Arvaiheer, we took some moments to visit some historical and natural resources of the country. We were taken aback by the site of horses grazing in the steppe, yaks, huge herds of goats and sheep, shepherds on their horses with the lace and white gers on the grass. Our guide, “T S” (these are the initials of his unpronounceable name), took us to see some outstanding Buddhist temples and introduced us to the Shamanic spirituality. He was quite interested in Christianity and thus kept asking us questions about the tenets of our religion that he found fascinating or difficult to grasp. In the following days we had another guide “Bat”, who was contrary to ‘T S’. ‘Bat’ told us that his mother is a Catholic but himself was completely uninterested in any religion whatsoever. It was also interesting to learn that the Consolata missionaries had erected a house for inter-religious dialogue at Kharkhorin.
Our stay in Arvaiheer was great. The missionaries’ house is made up of three sections: one for the Fathers, one for the Sisters, and the third for guests. Fathers and Sisters make one community. In the courtyard are three gers: one is the church, the other a classroom, while the third one is a ‘playing ground’ for kids. The Sunday Eucharist was attended by about twenty people and Denis, our Deacon, gave the homily as Fr. Giorgio translated it into Mongolian. We sensed the pride of the faithful to belong to a family that includes peoples from all over the world. They gave us some gifts to take back home. Mass here is always followed by a cup of salted tea and bread. It was really tasty! We asked them why they had become Catholic Christians and the answers moved us: they had found a religion and a community of love, forgiveness, closeness to the needy and openness to the world. Some have faced opposition from their families and friends, and often they are scorned at but they say they have found peace in the church.
Fr. Paolo, Fr. Giorgio Marengo and companions outside a Ger
Ulaanbataar, the capital city welcomes us back for our last four days in Mongolia. Soviet-era buildings and a vibrant conjunction of traditional and 21st century lifestyles typify this city. Roads congested with traffic and Karaoke bars all over. Quite unexpectedly, Fr. Giorgio tells us that when he arrived, 16 years ago, many things he was seeing are practically in-existent now. So much has changed. The last supper in Ulaanbaatar was at our community. They’d prepared the African Chapati, beef stew, vegetables etc. all shared in a climate of joy. It was a great meal indeed! Generally the visit to Mongolia was very impactant. We learnt a lot, we shared our faith and we encouraged each other.
Fr. Paolo together with the Consolata missionaries in Ulaanbaatar
Dzieło na Misji group visit Mongolia (By Weronika Kruk, Warsaw - Poland)
Many young people want to do huge things, to change the world for better. We are a group of students, each different from the other but there is one thing that connects us: We want to do something to change the world for better. We want to be missionaries! Thanks be to God’s and people’s help we had the possibility to go far away from our country to collaborate with the mission in Mongolia! The group’s name is Dzieło na Misji. The group collaborates in different capacities in schools, churches, home social welfare etc, both locally and abroad.
Weronika and companons arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In hands are Polish and Mongolian flags
6 of us from the group; Patrycja, Anna, Kinga, Michał, Janek and Weronika (myself), accompanied by Fr. Luca a Consolata missionary, we prepared ourselves for a year in order to visit the missions in Mongolia: we learned about the culture and language, collected almost 200 kg of school and medical supplies and laptop computers. We aimed being with the people, sharing with them and showing them how good God is. The Consolata fathers and other members of our group who had a mission experience in Ethiopia and in Argentina helped us a great deal in the preparations.
Our journey started on 8th of July from Warsaw. The flight was long but we arrived full of energy. Our being in Mongolia was divided in three parts: Mission at Arvaiheer, Gobi desert, Ulaanbaatar with Consolata missionaries and Ulaanbaatar at the parish with Justyna. In Arvaiheer we had a wonderful time with the parishioners, employees and the children. We played a lot with the children, taught them some English, IT, health and hygiene, and first aid. We also got to learn a lot from them. We made some friends who gave us Mongolian names. It was fun! We had an opportunity to learn many differences between Polish and Mongolian Church. We noticed how difficult the life was for some Christians because of their decision to follow Jesus Christ. It was also amazing to note how strong they are in God’s love. However, generally the missionary work in Mongolia is not easy.
The polish group doing a computer introduction to the children
After almost a week in Arvaiheer we had an emotional goodbye and left for the Gobi desert where we discovered various wonders of nature. God’s creation is surely beautiful. Now back to Ulaanbaatar we visited the Consolata missionaries mission, Chingeltei where we got an opportunity to interact, teach and play with many children. We spend an entire day with them. The following days were dedicated to some work with children and teenagers in St. Mary’s parish, a diocesan parish. We worked a lot and the experience was incredible.
During our visit in Mongolia we got to know a lot about the culture, mongolian cuisine, history, animals, people and unforgettable breathtaking landscapes. We are very grateful to the Consolata missionary fathers and sisters and to Justyna for their warm reception. They made us feel at home in their houses. We can’t really put down in words how amazing the whole experience was for us! You are forever in our hearts and prayers. God bless.
The Polish youth with Fr. James Mate. All in Mongolian attire
The superiors visit (By Sr. Sandra Garay, MC)
On August 1st 2019 Madre Simona Brambilla MC, Sr. Cecilia Pedroza MC and Fr. James Lengarin IMC arrived in Ulaanbaatar City for a visit to our missionary communities present in Mongolia. The Consolata Missionary Sisters were having their Canonical visit while the Fathers were having an ordinary visit. Such visits have been always a great opportunity for renewal for the missionaries working in this country.
The superiors presence among us made us feel more closer to our Institutes. As days evolved, we had opportunity to share about the journey of our religious families; joys, challenges and the possibilities for renewal. Fr. James Lengarin reminded us that it was important to go back to the roots of our faith, our Charism and the centrality of the mission Ad Gentes. This search is not only ours, but for all missionary institutes and the whole Church. In fact, Pope Francis calling for an extraordinary missionary month, invited all believers to get involved in renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.
Living among non Christians enables us to have a first hand experience on what mission Ad Gentes is today. We are also called to share those experiences especially with our religious families for this kind of sharing is also a service to the mission. M. Simona emphasized on the advantages of this kind of primary experience.
Madre Simona, Fr. James Lengarin and Sr. Cecilia at Arveiheer, Mongolia
Mission in Mongolia is truly beautiful and challenging. And yes, we are a small group whose humble testimony could help our institutes find new ways in their charismatic journey of evangelization. As we work to make the “Baby Church of Mongolia” grow, we are tasked in investing our best forces in learning the language, the culture, the history and beliefs of the Mongolian people so that we can enter into a dialogue of life with them. We beseech our family saints: Blesseds Joseph Allamano, Irene Stefani, Leornella Sgorbati and our mother Consolata for guidance in this challenging quest.
The visiting days went very fast, and after saying goodbye to our sisters and brother we could feel the hope and the joy they left us. We are grateful for all that was shared and we hope that they will come back soon for another visit.
We Consolata missionary fathers and sisters and our missions in Mongolia are so grateful for the visits and experiences shared above. We are glad to receive more brothers and sisters in Christ who wish to come to share their joy with us and collaborate with the mission in different capacities. In Matthew 28,19 Jesus commissions his disciples to go and announce the good news to the whole world. The church also teaches us that every baptised Christian is a missionary. So this comes as a challenge to all of us that we shouldn't hide the joy that we have received from the Lord. Let us follow the example of Mary the mother of God. May she inspire us and pray for us.