Fr. Raul Baluma, a Filipino Comboni Missionary: “A Journey from Bank Clerk to Missionary”


Monday, May 20, 2024
A bank professional in his young years, he felt the call of God to be a missionary.  Father Raul Baluma Tabaranza from the Philippines tells us his story. [Comboni Missionaries]

To become a priest or a missionary was never in my mind as a child or in high school, though I was used to seeing priests at home as my uncle Msgr. Artemio Baluma was always visible in the family. I also have a priest brother, Fr. Atilano Tabaranza, who is a priest in my diocese.

Seeing priests and sisters was normal, especially when I started working in Ozamiz City, with the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker.  I then moved to the bank for my second job.  I was also the Singles for Christ unit head in Ozamiz City.  My life revolved around work, Singles for Christ, Youth Ministry in the diocese, and my Masteral studies (MBA).

One day, I borrowed a copy of World Mission magazine from the Sisters’ convent.  I was so impressed by the lives of the missionaries, and I told myself: “This is the life that I want to live.”  I wrote to the Vocation Promoter of the Comboni Missionaries. It was the start of the exchanging of reflections and my desire to become a missionary.

But it was not like magic, for it took me more than four years to decide.  One day, I signed up for an eight-day directed retreat.  It was in the middle of the retreat that I realized that the Lord had called me for something, but I was thinking of my parents at the same time, as they were growing old, and mom was already immobile because she had a series of strokes.

My retreat master gave me the opportunity to reflect on the situation of the world.  I went deeper in that task, reflecting on the Blessed Trinity and the desire of the Son to come down and be with people.  I imagined Jesus carrying my world, my mother, my TV, my material things until what remained were Him and me.  I understood everything as He called me to follow Him. My meditation ended there as I went back to my senses. I then understood everything! He wanted me!

On my last night of the retreat, I made my secret decision before the Blessed Sacrament: “I will call the Vocation Promoter of the Comboni Missionaries and tell him that I am ready.”  I called him right away and said what I wanted. Then I went home to see my priest brother.  We spoke of my desire.

In November 1995, I also graduated with my MBA.  In December, I went to Manila to attend the vocation workshop at St. Daniel Comboni Seminary.  I was met by my priest uncle there.  He was so surprised by my decision, but he was very supportive too.

Nobody from the bank knew that I was about to enter the seminary until the day I handed in my resignation letter.  The cashier of the bank was hesitant to accept it because there was nobody trained for my position.  But the manager said: “In as much as I want to keep you here, I cannot compete with God.  Come back here if things will not work out for you. I will take you back.”

I did my postulancy in Manila.  Four months later, mom had a stroke again and my dad had an accident.  It was so hard for me, but inside my heart, though broken, I was very determined.  I made it to the novitiate in Calamba, Laguna and professed on June 11, 2000.

I was sent to London, United Kingdom, for my theology.  I did my final vows on January 30, 2004, ordained deacon on February 21, 2004 at White City, London, and was ordained priest on September 4, 2004 in my hometown, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte.

On November 8, 2004, I was sent to my first mission, Malawi-Zambia Province.  Life was tough but I had the best part of my missionary life there.  I stayed there for more than eight years, and in 2013, I was recalled to work in our Delegation of Asia as administrator of World Mission magazine and bursar of the Delegation.

In 2017, I was sent to Italy for the Comboni Year of Formation, and July 1, 2018, I became an official member of the Province of South Africa.  I worked in a parish (Bushbuckridge) at Witbank Diocese, Mpumalanga.  After my holiday, I was asked to move to Silverton, Pretoria, Gauteng Province as administrator of Worldwide magazine and vocation promoter of the Comboni Missionaries in South Africa and Lesotho.

Comboni Missionaries