REFLECTING ON MY 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF PRIESTHOOD
On February 11 I will celebrate, in Zamboanga City, my 50th Anniversary of priesthood and I wish to share with the friends of Oasis News this reflection not to list down the many things that I have done in fifty years of life as a PIME missionary, but to share my joy and desire to continue my mission till the end of my life.
Thanks to the trust and encouragement of many, as well as the painful experiences of misunderstanding and sad events, including the painful time when Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME was killed in Zamboanga in 1992. I started my mission of dialogue and peace first in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte from 1977, and later in Zamboanga City where in 1984 I started with some Muslim and Christian friends the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.
I am a person who does not “surrender” in front of difficulties if after prayer and reflection I realize what is the will of God for me. Many times I have reflected that there are those who do not “surrender” to do bad things guided by their ambitions, vested interests, pride and other reasons that are not in line with the common good. Thus, why will I have to “surrender” to do good?…” I met many friends in my mission of dialogue and peace, especially among the Christians and the Muslims. I suffered with people many pains and difficulties and especially I encouraged them not to be afraid. I also dream with them the day when dialogue and peace will become a reality in Mindanao and in the world.
I believe I am called to share my “dream” with my life in the hope that along the way there will be many to dream the same dream. Thanks to God, we can see good signs of this dream in the midst of so many difficulties.
When I was younger I was more interested to achieve results, but at this time of my life I am convinced that my special mission is to be faithful to the vocation of love entrusted to me by God and the specific mission of dialogue and peace that I am doing. My mission today is to inspire others to continue to work for dialogue and peace with hope and not to “surrender”.
The mission of HOPE is becoming more rare in this time of history and I believe that an occasion like this is not time to count the many things done, but to encourage many, telling them that in this mission as a priest I found the presence of God in all times, bad and good, and it is worthy to spend a life in this way and for the mission entrusted to me.
To those who are surprised that I am a priest without a parish and I spend a lot of time with the people of different cultures and religions I say that this is my vocation and this is how I understand the message of Jesus to go to all and share love and mercy.
There are many other vocations in life and each one of us has to be faithful to the mission entrusted to us and move “going to the peripheries”, as Pope Francis encourage us to do with trust. We have to believe that in each person there is a corner of goodness that we have to discover and celebrate. In some occasions people ask me: “how many Muslims have you converted?” My answer is: “ no one”, but I think many has been touched by my sincerity to be with them and to share their lives in many situations and places, including the forests where many times I met rebels and shared the desire to build peace together.
I believe a good number of Subanons, Christians and Muslims respect and welcome me. There are also occasions when some Muslim friends reach the point to tell me: “You are good, what is lacking is that you are not Muslim!”. Well, sometimes I smile, sometimes I say “I try to be good inspired by the message of Jesus of love and by my faith”. I think in the process one conversion has happened and it is my conversion to God. Some ask me: “ what is the secret of your joy and mission of HOPE and courage: “ I simply say with humility: “ maybe it is my prayer, ‘silence’ and my joy to be priest and missionary for all”.
I am grateful that this celebration coincides with the Great Jubilee of Mercy that Pope Francis has proposed to the Catholics and to all people who believe in the mercy of God. Thus, I know that also the Muslims are committed to share the same spirit with their life the mercy and compassion of God/Allah.
Those who visit the Emmaus House of Spirituality in the compound of the Harmony Village can find a little church with this quotation of Jesus: “Do not be afraid… I am with you up the end of this world” (Mt. 28:20). This is one of the favourite quotations that I treasure and I share with you in this occasion: “ Do not be afraid!… padayon ( move on) with hope!”
Fr. Sebastiano D’ Ambra, PIME
Founder – Silsilah Dialogue Movement