Missionary vocation journey from India to Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine, 13 December 2018 -- At the age of 30, Cl. John Ngouning Kala, is among the first fruits of the Sirajuli (ING) Salesian Missionary Aspirantate and also former member of the Jesus Youth Movement (http://jesusyouth.org) volunteers. On the day of arrival at his missionary destination in Ukraine (Kiev), John shares his missionary vocation journey. Born in 1989 in Manipur (North East of India), Imphal diocese is now part of the Project Europe.
I would like to briefly share how the seed of my vocation began to grow gradually according to my understanding. First of all, I am proud to say that right from my childhood I was brought up in a Salesian environment, in the Salesian parish. This meant my family and myself built up a close connection with the Salesians and Salesian Sisters who also visited my house several times. Gradually I was asked to be an altar boy, then I taught Sunday Catechism to children and the Salesian presence has become a home for me to grow in my vocation. The love and concern, the trust the Salesians put in me by giving me some responsibilities have helped me in my vocational growth and formation.
Besides these, the most important thing that I treasure and appreciate always is my parents who created a spiritual environment at home, encouraging us to come together for prayers, rosary and taught us good values and habits – especially how to be generous. I come from a happy family of 8 members, the eldest is now an FMA sister. I strongly feel that God has blessed my family in extraordinary ways.
While I was studying in Year 12, a diocesan priest came to our college, inviting us to a vocation camp in Imphal diocese, Manipur. Though my parents had great respect for the fathers and sisters, they did not want me to become a priest, but rather to study well, earn, and take care of my younger siblings. It is also a Naga culture that the eldest boy in the family is expected to take care of the family and the siblings. But after the vocation camp, I had a feeling that my call was for a different mission, to love and serve poor and needy youngsters. Yet, I decided to take some longer time to discern and look at whether God was really calling me to Salesian religious life.
In fact, it was the Jesus Youth Movement (JY), who really helped me during my moments of vocation discernment. This was during my college studies. By being a JY member I also had opportunities to have a missionary experience like at Nagpur and nearby villages. Soon after my graduation, I joined as a full time Jesus Youth (JY) volunteer for one year in Bangalore and Mysore (2500 km distance from my home place).
But I was still strongly attracted by Salesian life and after one year of volunteer experience I decided to join the Salesians. Fr Sebastian, who was the Rector then at Don Bosco College, Maram, whom I knew personally and who knows my family well, directed me to join the Missionary Aspirantate at Sirajuli, Sonitpur district, Assam. It was here where my missionary vocation and the needs of the Salesians in other countries grew. The sharing of missionary experiences of some Salesians inspired me and thus I began to aspire to, opt for missionary life. Although I had a tough time, occupied with lots of manual work more than studies, I was able to overcome those moments of discouragement through personal prayer.
After the sudden death of my sister, my parents were quite reluctant to send me off again and thus asked me to stay back at home. Only after some days was I able to convince them who it was that sent me off. They told me “If God is really calling you, and if you are sincere with the call you are feeling, then go ahead, we will not stop you.” Thus, began my definite vocational journey. Thanks be to God. I was admitted to the Novitiate in Shillong, where I experienced the great love of God and grew in love of my religious vocation. I made my 1st profession on 24 May 2015, which was the happiest day of my life.
Then, I was sent for philosophy to Yercaud (South, Tamil Nadu), which was indeed a ‘temple of knowledge’. I enriched myself intellectually with all the studies and the opportunities offered for my growth. I was the only one from the North-East who was sent there to study with the native people. But I do feel I am really blessed now when I think of those days because I have become stronger mentally, spiritually and emotionally. And also enriched by some experiences of working with migrant youth during Sunday oratory. After my philosophy, I was sent to Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati, for my Practical Training. It was in DBI that I got a full taste of real Salesian life. Surrounded by young people from different parts of the North-East, I got the opportunity to accompany them, understand them and listen to them. Here, I have strengthened my vocation and resolved to follow Jesus closely in the Salesian Charism.
One of the main reasons why I opted for being a missionary ad gentes is because I feel God’s love is too great, and that I can’t repay Him, but what I can offer is my love and life for Him and his people. In addition to this, I felt a call within a call to go beyond my territories or country and serve where missionaries are limited in other countries.
It was during my first year of Practical Training, when Fr Provincial offered me and Fr Pappi officially before our Rector Major, Fr Ángel, during his visit to Guwahati province. Gradually, I applied for missio ad gentes to our Rector Major. I was welcomed by our Rector Major and Fr Basañes for the Missionary Course in Rome. It was indeed a very enriching course with lot of opportunities to visit Don Bosco’s places and has contributed much in deepening my faith and my religious vocation.
Another interesting and emotional moment was our visit to the first Salesian missionary aspirantate in Ivrea. Frankly speaking, I was moved to tears and it made me recall how great is God’s love for our father and founder and the congregation which he founded, which is clearly manifested by the presences of the many Salesians missionaries in different parts of the world. Seeing the hole, the missing brick, which was pulled out and planted in Sirajuli (India, missionary aspirantate), I could only thank God for the gift of the first missionary aspirantate, Ivrea, and also the missionary aspirantate, Sirajuli, where the seed of my missionary vocation was sown and began to bloom. Now I’m moving to my mission land in Ukraine on 13 December. I pray that God may continue to bless each of us with that strong missionary zeal to carry forward our mission like the early Salesian missionaries who toiled, sacrificed and laid their lives down for the sake of the Kingdom of God and for the salvation of souls particularly of the young, and that our congregation be blessed with many more missionary vocations.
My dream, expectations and only focus is to learn the language well first of all. Secondly to study and know the mission of the community and the province, at large. Thirdly to insert myself well by being available and committing myself to the task that will be entrusted to me soon. May God continue to bless us and our Congregation. May Mother Mary be our constant guide till we see her Son Jesus face to face one day when time comes.