tor to sacristan, out to breakfast. It
became a cheerful celebration of the
years my new friends had survived
at the “university.” Those, I found
out, were the years they had spent
in Mao’s prisons because they were
Christians. My adopted grandma?
Ten years. Father Tan, the pastor?
Thirty-four years. I was break-
ing bread with living martyrs who,
around that table, totaled 90 years of
How could I not love being a
4. Sharing my experiences
missionary priest? Getting to brush
shoulders with Christian heroes and
then tell others their inspiring stories
has been an honor.
What you receive, you are asked to
share. I had—and still have—the
privilege of sharing the joy of mission through the written word. It isn’t
work; I love it. I did it through our
publications, through my international contacts in the Vatican pressroom, through war correspondents in
wartime Uganda, and even through
ordinary parish bulletins.
with me as a relic for a long time.
In 1994, at the height of the
civil war ravaging Sudan, I smuggled
myself into the southern part of
the country that was under rebel
control. There I joined the local
bishop who was attempting to visit
his flock in the newly liberated areas. We lived and traveled with the
rebel army. It was risky, but we had
no choice. One day we came across
about 1,000 people who, after years
of hiding in the mountains, were
now desperately looking for food.
At one point, the confrontation
between people driven by hunger
and 400 battle-weary young soldiers
armed to their teeth was about to
turn ugly. But a hush fell over the
crowd when someone spotted the
bishop and myself among the soldiers. Then one of the elders walked
up to the bishop, pointed at me,
and asked: “Is this the priest who
will stay with us and give us Jesus?
We haven’t had the Eucharist in
five years.” It gave me goosebumps.
There are hungers that bread alone
Another time I joined a group of
Chinese Catholics from Macau on a
trip to Guangzhou (Canton) in Communist China. A diminutive grandmother took me under her wing. She
taught me how to use chopsticks
and placed morsels of food on my
plate. One day, after Mass, we took
the entire cathedral crew, from rec-
Because I love
mission, I never fell
into the trap of taking a
bunch of suburban kids
to a survival environment
“to help.” We always
went to learn and to
celebrations are special
around the world. Pictured
here is the author with two
girls from San Luis Petén
Parish in Guatemala in 2008.
AS A YOUNGSTER Bragotti
wanted to be a missionary
priest so he could see lions in
the wild. In 2006 he took this
photo in Masai Mara, Kenya.
FATHER JOSEPH BRAGOT TI, M.C.C. J.
COUR TES Y OF COMBONI MISSIONS