My name is Adam Wojdecki, I am 20 years old and I belong to the Oblate youth group at St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. During the summer I had the opportunity to go to Madagascar for 3 weeks with the group to experience missionary work.
When I found out that Fr. Marcin SERWIN was planning to go to Madagascar with the youth, I was very excited. I have heard a lot about Madagascar from the Oblates working in the island who visit our parish, and I was very curious about the work of these missionaries, how they spread the Catholic faith among the Malagasy people and how everyday life looks on the island.
What surprised me the most was the hospitality of the people. Although they were economically poor, they were not poor in their humanness. They were ready to share everything they have. In every village we came to, people welcomed us very warmly. They shared coffee, tea, coconut, or Malagasy doughnuts with us. Although they didn’t know us, they said that we were their family. It touched me very much that the most important thing for these people was not the material help that we provided them, but that we visited them and spent time with them.
In many villages, knowing that we were coming to visit them, people came out a few kilometres before the village to meet us along the way and help us carry our things.
On the eastern part of the island, we had the opportunity to go with a missionary 6 hours to a village in the jungle to celebrate Mass, which people wait for in anticipation because they can have it only once every few months. We saw how happy they were when they could attend Mass and receive Christ, and what a special day it was for them.
Children in Madagascar have responsibilities from an early age. They look after their siblings and help their parents a lot. They were very eager to learn new things from us. They were happy to take part in games and activities as well as learning English. They liked Polish songs very much, they enjoyed singing with us, and they quickly learned the words of these songs in Polish. We were also surprised when during one Mass people sang in Polish “Jesus, I trust in You”. Later the missionary told us that this hymn is known all over the island.
We also had a chance to visit a church in Tamatave which was funded by our parish. People were very thankful that they received help and wanted us to thank our fellow parishioners.
This missionary experience taught me the importance of community, sharing with others, and how important it is to live for others and not just for yourself.
Seeing the conditions in which Malagasy people live, how difficult it is for them to obtain basic needs, and yet, they are happier than we are here, showing me that material things are not as important as living in community. Seeing their deep faith, and how they look forward to each Mass, showed me that we often underestimate the fact that we have easy access to the church, priests, and daily Mass. Often Sunday Mass is seen by us as an obligation that we need to fulfil and not as a moment of deep encounter with Jesus.
Madagascar taught me many lessons of life, towards which I had turned a blind eye until now.