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What is it like to be a missionary in Mongolia?

.- When Francisco Javier Olivera was born, his mother offered him to the Virgin Mary, praying that he would become a missionary in Asia.

Olivera’s mother told him about the consecration after he was ordained a priest in Japan 22 years ago. Since then, he has served as a missionary, not only in Japan, but in China and Mongolia as well.

Fr. Olivera was born in Salamanca, Spain, 47 years ago. He is a diocesan priest working with the Neocatechumenal Way and has been a missionary for 28 years.

In an interview with Religión En Libertad, Olivera said his priestly and missionary vocation grew “little by little,” influenced by a series of missionaries and catechists who stayed at his family’s house.  

He also believes that his mother’s prayers made a difference.

“She offered me to Our Lady to be a missionary in Asia. I didn’t know that, she told me in Takamatsu, [Japan] when the celebration of my ordination was over,” the priest said.

The priest said that Japan has been his toughest assignment, because there “you felt more loneliness, even being in a parish,” while China impressed him very much since “the people have a lot of curiosity and if there were freedom it would be amazing.”

After four years of living in Mongolia, he said he still finds the assignment “quite difficult because of the language, the cold, the pollution, the culture, and especially because of all the legal impediments we have, which are many.”

The Catholic Church arrived in Mongolia in 1992, when three missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were sent to the country following the arrival of democracy and safeguards for religious liberty in the country’s constitution.

Later, other congregations of priests and religious arrived, as well as lay missionaries. Today, there are just over 1,200 Catholics.

“The parishes are young in every respect, many young people are being drawn to the Church…We already have the first Mongolian priest ordained two years ago and now we have a deacon,” Olivera explained.

Olivera works with a team of lay missionaries and families in the Neocatechumenal Way. He celebrates Mass each day, studies Mongolian, and teaches Japanese at a company where he tries to “take advantage of the occasion to talk about God, especially through songs.” He also teaches biblical catechesis at the local parish.

Conversions are not frequent, he said, but he has seen people “drawing close to the Church, especially through all the various social works being carried out – assistance to the impoverished elderly, poor and abandoned children.”

“Without a doubt, the love the missionaries are showing is gradually attracting the [locals].”

As an example, the priest recalled a young man who “was searching for God in beauty.” One day, the man entered the Catholic cathedral, where he saw a group of elderly women praying. Moved by the beauty of the scene, the young man decided to be baptized.

“Some people think that this life is crazy, but I desire it for myself,” Olivera told Religión en Libertad. “If it’s getting a bit crazier, better yet, the more we see that it is God who is behind it.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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