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ROMAN CATHOLIC: Mission program teaches what it’s like to serve

Ashley Aperocho, 23, received such a sense of fulfillment from a one-year mission assignment in Guyana that she signed up for another year (photo courtesy Ashley Aperocho)

Reproduced from Catholic Register
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TORONTO – Giving up the luxuries of North America last year to do mission work in Guyana proved to be a life-giving experience for Ashley Aperocho.

“I found that the ministries and the people that I worked with were life giving,” she said. “They have taught me a lot about the human condition, a lot about God and a lot about what it means to serve your brothers and sisters.”

That’s why the 23-year-old — who took part in Scarboro Missions one-year missioner program pilot project last year — has agreed to sign on for another year.

While in Guyana she worked primarily with young people establishing a youth group at her local parish.

“I found it most fulfilling when I was hanging out with my youth group at Fatima parish.”

Increasing the presence of youth ministries in the Diocese of Guyana — there is only one diocese for the whole nation — is what Aperocho hopes to focus on during this latest trip.

Prior to the one-year missioner program being launched by the Toronto-based Scarboro Missions last year, missioners were commonly asked to commit for three years. The reduced commitment is what initially attracted Aperocho, who after graduating university sought to develop her formation and sense of community by giving back.

“It is kind of like a breath of fresh air in the sense that it is a low-stress commitment,” she said. “I am able to do it on a year-by-year basis and not have to worry about … being locked in for the next three to five years.”

But just because the commitment itself is low stress, serving the marginalized in a foreign land is anything but.

“Honestly, missionary life is difficult,” she said

While things like the heat, the bugs and distance from loved ones are challenging, it was concerns for her personal security that kept her from resting easy at all times.

Still, Aperocho insists people shouldn’t shy away from answering a call.

“Mission is a call,” she said. “If you want to be able to see another face of God through another culture, if you want to learn more about yourself and if you want to be challenged in ways you never thought possible — whether it is physically, emotionally and psychologically — do mission. It will change your life.

“God doesn’t want you to be unhappy and He wouldn’t call you to do something that would make you unhappy,”

Aperocho reflected on that statement, which she first heard from a Carmelite Sister during her final week in Guyana, before finalizing her decision to return.

“Those words really stuck with me during that final week and propelled me to say yes,” she said.

After spending four months back in Canada, Aperocho said she’s happy to be back in mission.

“When people would ask me if I was excited to go back I would say it is time, it is time to go back,” she told The Register from Guyana via Skype.

“Guyana was a very tough mission country to be in though. If it weren’t for the people that I worked with I know I wouldn’t be back here in Guyana.”