Missionary Institute – Fr. Mariano Varela

Fr. Mariano Varela’s Homily August 11, 2019

“I’m so happy, so excited to be here this weekend in this beautiful Parish to be able to preach.  I am amazed of how big, how well organized, how welcoming are all of you here in this Parish, so congratulations and also for the wonderful priests that you have especially Fr. Tank for receiving me and for the hospitality also of Fr. Viet and Msgr. Charles.  Thank you very much, but also I am surprised and so happy that today we celebrate there are two persons who are coming today to give thanks. I read in the bulletin about Sam and Teresa who are celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary. Wow! That’s just a good gift and so important you are for all of us especially the young families, the young generation.  Thank you. Both of us, Fr. Viet and I are praying for you both and all your family.

I belong to the institute of the Incarnate Word, a missionary institute.  We were born 35 years ago in Argentina, South America and we do mission work.  We go to different places, very poor areas and very difficult ones. That is our specific, the purpose of this congregation and also the charism is to evangelize the culture.  We bring the incarnation of Christ to this particular culture so that people will be Christianized in all the aspects of their lives. When I was a little boy, I was 8 years old, just before my 1st communion, I wanted to be a priest.  I have a great desire because my pastor was a very nice, very pious and very good teacher, so I wanted to be like him. And then, when I was a teenager I continued with this decision to be a priest, but now something else: I wanted to be a missionary one, a priest who goes all over the world.  I don’t know if it was because I wanted to communicate Jesus or just to go traveling all over the world, but however the Lord has granted me this great to go to different parts and then I had this great desire. I entered into the seminary and I found this congregation. My pastor was from my order and then when I became a priest the general superior said, ‘Fr. Mariano, you are young priest now and you have a great desire to go on a mission, so they request priests in the jungle in the interior of Guyana in South America.  Guyana is a very small country between Brazil and Venezuela. There are 3 little countries, French Guyana, Dutch Guyana and the British Guyana, so I was there and then I spent 10 years in that beautiful place, my second house and when I reached there the bishop said, ‘yes you will go to the interior to work with the Amerindian people because you are a young person.’ So I went there and we had no church, a lot of children a lot of vast camp to do a lot of things filled with people and so on and we were 3 priests and we started to evangelize, but to teach the faith, but also we wanted to teach them.  We wanted the children to go to school because there was no school in the interior and you could imagine children would grow without an education. We build this beautiful dormitory especially for boys. The sister would go later to open this half for the girls and we open this dormitory so that boys can go from different part to study in this particular place to do the primary school at least to read and write so then we set up 4 feeding programs feeding so many children, families. We built houses for very poor areas and I remember that we had no place to build our church and the people say, ‘Fr. why we don’t build the church?  We build our house.’ Ok, let’s do this and then they built a little chapel, just a roof with the coconut tree leaves just as they have in their homes without walls. I said, ‘What about the walls?’ They said, ‘Father in our homes we don’t have walls.’ ‘Ok.’ I said, so that was the church. We the IVE, this institute, we are working in different areas, very difficult areas. Our most challenges, missions right now are in the Middle East. We are in Syria, in the city of Aleppo. We are in Iraq, in Baghdad, we are on the strip of Gaza and in Egypt and many other little countries in the Middle East, but I said this is the most challenge because they are Muslim countries and we are not allowed to preach the Gospel verbally as I am doing right now.  So the government said, ‘You can not preach the Gospel here.’ But they said, ‘Okay, but what you can do is maybe you can take care of our people. You can take care of our hospital or orphanage because we have a lot.’ And we said, ‘Fine’ because they don’t realize that that is one of the best ways for us to preach the Gospel through work of charity. Then therefore we have orphanages for children, handicapped children and elderly people especially in Egypt and from Egypt we have young people who have followed us in order to be religious sisters and brothers. In Syria, in the city of Aleppo you know that not there is this civil war and the bishop said to us, ‘Fathers, sisters you may leave because your life is at risk here.’ And the Catholic people, they stayed keeping their church and our brother priests said, ‘Bishop, if one person stays here we will stay with them’  So our ministry over there is to accompany them, to support them in little houses, in little chapels to keep the faith of the people. We are also in Gaza in the strip of Gaza where our main concern is to give the people their basic needs like to help them for water, food because those immediate things, needs are not reaching in Gaza. Many people do not know those things. They are very poor.

That is why today I am coming here and I ask you 2 things.  First, the Gospel that we heard today Jesus said how we had to be prepared.  We have to be prepared because we don’t know when the son of man will come, so I think that one of the best ways, Jesus mentioned many times in the Gospels is to be with our light, with our lamp alight full of oil, the oil of charity and we can do this today by being a good missionary because this is the nature of the church, missionary.  And we can be, I wanted to invite you to this great adventure of being missionary first by your prayer because our brothers, sisters being in the fields of battle of the faith through your prayer. Your prayer because of you rsupport and also by as Fulton Sheen would say, ‘We had to support our mission materially.’ Ok? It’s very important that doing this you fulfill what Jesus wants of us, to be in the service of others, but also to be prepared with our lamp light so that when we come he will say, ‘Oh Mary, oh Sam, oh John, you have served me, come I will sit down, recline at table and I will wait on you because you have been generous with me.’  So that is today’s Gospel and remember the 3rd reading. Everything is through faith and this is what we had to work as you will hear today in the song, we are walking by faith not by sight, so I invite you to be with me, with all the Missionary with your support.”