ANS - Go to Home Page
ANS - Salesian iNfo Agency

IT EN ES FR PT PL Standard Version || Text only

Print this page Print   

27/11/2014 - RMG - "The Joys and Challenges of a Missionary in Belgium"

(ANS - Rome) - From Friday 28 to Sunday 30 November a meeting of the Provincials of Europe will take place  at the Salesian Generalate in Rome. The theme will be "interculturalism" in different sectors: Ministry, Missions, Education and Social Communication. In view of this meeting, ANS wants to offer the testimony of Antonio Berek, a thirty year-old Indonesian Salesian missionary in Belgium. Among other things he says: I have discovered that in this secularised, materialist and rationalist society friendship is what opens the way to the initial proclamation of Christ”.

During my prenovitiate I read a passage from Isaiah 6,8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me” and I felt as if God was addressing it to me. Later, in prayer, I made Isaiah’s response my own as well. Eventually I shared three times with my novice master my missionary desire “to share God’s love with other people as a Salesian missionary either in my own country or outside my country! The response, however, was always the same: “Why do you want to become a missionary abroad? Indonesia needs missionaries”!

In the course on time, I could no longer refuse God’s voice who was calling me to become a missionary ad extra. Therefore, I expressed again my desire to my Rector in the postnovitiate but I still got the same response: “Indonesia needs more missionaries!” This didn’t dampen my missionary desire. I also thought that while Indonesia needs missionary, here there are vocations while other Salesian Provinces as well as other parts of the Church need workers in the Lord’s vineyard. Thus, during my second year in the postnovitiate (without the permission of my Rector) I decided to write directly to Fr. Francis Alencherry, then Councillor for the missions. Two months later he replied telling me to prepare myself to be a missionary.

In 2010 during his visit to Indonesia I spoke about my missionary desire to Fr. Václav Klement, the, then, new Councillor for the missions. A month later he wrote to me telling that I will be sent as a missionary in Belgium. I was very excited to finally fulfill my missionary vocation. It has been four years since I arrived. During these years, like all missionaries everywhere, I exerted extra effort to learn Flemish in order to communicate with the local people. I had to adapt also to the food, the climate, mentality, and to their way of life. I did my practical training here and right now I am studying theology in Leuven.

Living in Belgium is not so simple. Every moment is a challenge which I try to face with faith and joy. Secularism, materialism and rationalism pose enormous challenges. Their impact on present day society often limits the discourse about religion, God and faith especially among young people. In fact I realised that for most young people in Belgium these topics are considered irrelevant to talk about. This secularised environment similarly affects us Salesian missionaries. If we do not have a profound spirituality we could be just social workers. Even worst, we ourselves could also end up living a secular lifestyle.

How, then, can we proclaim the Gospel in Belgium? Let me share my experience. One day some young people saw me play soccer and they asked if I was a soccer player “No,” I told them, “I am a Salesian”. “What is Salesian?” asked one of them. “A Salesian is a religious priest or brother”. “What are you doing here?” asked another. I told him, “I am a missionary”. “What? A missionary in Belgium! Isn’t that strange?” they answered with surprise. So I told them “I am a real modern missionary!” Yet, through this simple encounter I became their friend. Now, we are beginning to talk about religion, faith and God. They have also accepted me as missionary. Indeed, I have discovered that in this secularised, materialist and rationalist society friendship is what opens the way to the initial proclamation of Christ.

I am very happy to be a missionary here in Belgium. With the help of your prayers our missionary witness and effort to foster initial proclamation will one day bear abundant fruits!

This and other testimonies are available on Cagliero 11 (Bulletin of the Missions Department) on the website

Published 27/11/2014

comunica ANS news

The latest News
14/3/2016 - RMG – Meeting of the Masters of Novices
14/3/2016 - Brazil – Edu-communication opens up new possibilities for young people
14/3/2016 - India – Green initiatives among kids
14/3/2016 - Philippines – The Rector Major at Don Bosco Boys’ Home
11/3/2016 - RMG – Close to Fr Uzhunnalil, the words of Fr Cereda

News from last week
News from last month