ABBEVILLE, LA— Nestled in a comfortable chair in her office at the Family Missions Company headquarters in Abbeville, Louisiana, Missions Trip Coordinator and veteran missionary Melissa Seilhan is excited about what an upcoming Catholic missions conference will bring to those who attend.
“When God wants to grow you,” she says animatedly, “He flips it all upside down. It’s an adventure!”
The conference, called PROCLAIM 2016, is held annually and sponsored by the Family Missions Company, through whom Seilhan’s family became missionaries.
Four tracks tailored to specific groups of people will be offered, ranging from guidance for those interested in parish renewal to helping those who feel drawn in particular to missions. This year’s conference will also include a track for youth.
“The hope is always that it will attract new people who are called to this life,” she says, smiling broadly. “Everyone is called to evangelization in some way.”
Seilhan believes daily life on the base is about learning to live in community.
“It’s like heaven on earth,” she says.
“We say morning prayer using the Liturgy of the Hours. We have community praise and worship nights, and meals together throughout the week. It’s so important to be surrounded by like minded people, and a big part of the missionary life.”
New missionaries begin by leaving their former lives behind, and undergoing a process called “intake,” during which they learn to live together and are trained in the missionary lifestyle. Intake ends with experience on a short term missions trip, which last year was to Mexico.
Once placed overseas, missionaries help in whatever field they are assigned, with days consisting of some form of service, prayer, and evangelization, often in places where conditions are tough.
Over the last year, the Seilhan family, who just returned from serving in the Philippines, shared many experiences with locals. They visited jails, fed neighborhood children, and helped to take care of the sick. They also spent time bringing people to the sacraments.
“Missions is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she smiles. “but it’s also the most rewarding. You feel fulfillment.” Seilhan says she has been back two months on the Family Missions Company home base and expects to stay a while as her son, Joshua, who she and her husband Travis recently adopted from the Philippines, adjusts to life in the US.
Melissa and Travis, were married in 1996. Both originally from Jennings, LA, the Seilhans were active in youth groups in their parish in the early years, where Melissa taught at her local Catholic school before beginning to homeschool.
Travis first worked in the US Air Force and National Guard, then developed a career in the oil industry when he and Melissa say they heard from God and moved towards full time missionary life.
Interest in the Family Missions Company is growing and there are new housing developments for the evolving community, which now includes families and single people…. even retirees. “God doesn’t have age limits,” Seilhan laughed, pointing out that Abraham and Sarah, who served God even in old age, are her scriptural go-to guides on her missionary adventures.
While on furlough back in the U.S., Seilhan accepted a new job coordinating missions trips for the company, and expects to spend the time living in community with other missionaries and educating her 6 children, who necessarily focus heavily on academics while they are stateside. While abroad, she says the children focus mainly on math and grammar, finding time for more finite studies when they are back in Abbeville.
Seilhan balances homeschooling her children with distributing Young Living essential oils and her work in the FMC office.
Staying on base is important for missionaries who, Seihlan believes, must be surrounded by like-minded people and learn to maintain a feel for missions life.
“Two things have truly helped me,” she says: “Relying on God and giving it all to Him, and staying immersed in prayer and scripture.”
The goal of the upcoming conference, which will be held October 29 at the Ramada Conference Center in Lafayette, LA, is to do just that, inviting people to respond to the Gospel in a deeper way, reflect on its message, and ignite a passion for service in them.
Participants will then be given the tools to share their faith and explore their personal paths. Seilhan hopes all baptized Christians will respond to the call to evangelize.
She says: “We are all called to the field. Just be open to whoever He puts in your path.”
FMC says 100% of proceeds from the conference will go towards the evangelization of Asia, where only 7% of the population claims Christian beliefs.
For more information about the conference, CLICK HERE.