Missionary Orly Coco says: "It’s been 39 great years as a layman missionary"
Orly shares the story: "From the age of six to thirteen I was an altar boy and since that young age I accompanied the priests of the parish to the missions, visiting families and communities". This young missionary vocation became formal with time as he assumed greater pastoral responsibilities. But let him tell us his story.
Missionary in his own Parish
I was twenty-one when I felt more strongly called to the mission. After serving in the military and having other life experiences, I began my active life of faith as a member of a "base community" in one of the missions belonging to my parish community. I represented that community in all the different parish activities and later representing the whole parish in the Archdiocese of Vitoria. Faith and life, prayer and action are combined in a basic community, always attentive to social issues, to the problems people had and willingness to study the Bible and the documents of the Church.
Missionary in the Prelature of Labrea
After eleven years as a volunteer missionary in my Parish, in 1995 I was sent as a lay missionary to the Prelature of Labrea, AM, to our sister parish in the Diocese of Vitoria, at the request of Monsignor Jesus Moraza, Augustinian Recollect Bishop of the Prelature.
In Labrea I participated in the training process to head a small community, then I became part of the formation team and we were giving courses both in the cities and in the riverbank communities. We prepared lay leaders, organized community councils and formation for the members. I got to visit all the farthest corners belonging to the Prelature: Lábrea, Tapaua, Canutama and Pauini; and the riverbanks, not only those of the Purus river -the main one- but also those of some tributaries and branches such as the Pauini, Atucatuquiniand Moaco rivers.
Missionary in Vitoria, Espírito Santo
The year 2000 took me back to Vitoria, Espírito Santo, where I assumed the missionary formation of children, adolescence and youth, according to church documents, especially those of social doctrine.
From 2004 to 2009 I spent five years working in the Parish of Santa Rita de Casia, of the Augustinian Recollects, in the city of Vitoria, in Playa del Canto, where I was also responsible of evangelization and doing some pastoral organization in a favela. I was also named to plan and administer various social projects.
Missionary in Castelo, Espírito Santo
From 2009 to 2014 I was a lay missionary in Castelo, to implement a missionary project called the Holy Popular Missions. I was working with fifty communities there. The apostolate consisted of visiting families, rescuing and promoting popular religiosity expressions, restoring "crosses" in the streets, doing processions and encourage the local lay leaders through formation. I was also overseeing the active social projects in that region especially having to do with environmental issues, such as spring recovery, tree planting and vegetation protection from the banks of streams and rivers. It was five years of intense work done with enthusiasm.
Missionary, again, in Labrea
A brain tumor interrupts your mission
In 2014 I returned to Labrea to continue the mission that had begun some years before. Monsignor Santiago Sánchez, the new prelature bishop, asked me to continue the work I had begun before, but then a head tumor interrupted my work for Christ to just be with Christ. Now I am in Vitoria in medical treatment. With God’s help, as soon as I recover completely, I will return to finish the projects that were started in the Prelature. And when I finish there, I will return to my land to be close to my family and take care of my health and work accordingly to what my age permits.
Always lay missionary out of conviction
It has been 39 years as a missionary layman. Priesthood ordination was a question brought up regularly since I had already studied philosophy and theology, and had taken several courses on organizing pastoral work in the missions in the Missionary Cultural Center in Brasilia, and Sacred Scripture. I really cared to be well prepared to serve others better. But I have always felt that my vocation was to be a lay missionary.
My testimony wants to make it clear that we as lay people are the Church too, and we have been called to a mission by Christ to construct the Kingdom of God with the joy of the Gospel.
I've lived for twenty-one years with the Augustinian Recollects. I feel I’m a restless-hearted “recoleto”. I admire St Augustine and his children. I want to thank the Order for all the love, support and the hospitality I’ve found in the Recollect communities where I’ve lived. Let us live with joy our vocation.