Formation community once again has conducted a ceremony last January 27, 2016 for the installation of our First Year brothers to the ministries of Lector and Acolyte. It was indeed a memorable event for our brothers. It was presided by Fr. Bert Cepe, CSsR and witnessed by the members of the community.
These ministries were not only for ceremonial purposes or requirements to the priestly formation but more importantly as ministries of service to the Church. The event was followed by community celebration since the date marks the Feast Day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
As the new formation year 2016-2017 starts in RFC so does the community welcomes its new members,the incoming First Years. Faithful to the thrust of having a multi-cultural formation these newly professed members of the Congregation are welcomed with fun and formation-related games. These new batch comprises the following students of different units: Province of Cebu (6), Province of Thailand (3), Vice-Province of Manila (2) and including the fifth years from the Province of Indonesia.
On January 16, 2016 I passed the milestone of fifty years as a priest. I felt like a traveler who had stopped counting the miles, and suddenly looking up, he realizes the distance he has traveled.
This was not a goal that I set for myself. It was not a point that I set out to reach. So I do not regard it as an achievement to have reached this stage in my life. Rather I see this as a great grace that has been given to me and I thank God for this blessing.
During these years I have seen many changes. My initial training for the priesthood followed a well established pattern. In the seminary we were separated from the world which was regarded at that time as a dangerous place that could weaken the resolve of our vocation. Our formators were also suspicious of the harm that could be done by expressing feelings, and so we learned to suppress them.
But after the Second Vatican Council the Church turned to face the world, with a positive regard, and the behavioral sciences were also gradually seen as a means for personal growth. So after my ordination in 1966 I faced the world with feelings of excitement, and amazement, but also a sense of inadequacy at facing into the unknown.
Coming to the Philippines in 1968 I soon found that many things I learned in the seminary did not help me in this new situation. But many of the values, and some practices of spirituality, have helped me to face the challenges of a very different culture. I have been slow to pick up many aspects of the culture and have made mistakes. But I appreciate all the people who have supported me and accompanied me along the way. Up to now I am still learning. I appreciate the encouragement I continue to get in messages of affirmation at this time. My Jubilee is a time for me to say a very sincere “daghang salamat” to all of you kind and generous people.
At this late stage I am learning the wisdom of addiction counseling to “let go and let God”. I have to let go of clutter. I have to stop clinging to selfishness. I have received great gifts in my life as a priest not for myself but so that I can share with those in need. The great gift of faith, although it is like a small mustard seed, can grow into a tree where the birds can rest. This is God’s doing.
The Lord is still “doing great things for me”. Now as the years pass I hope that I can accept peacefully what the Lord sends me – and to see it all as gift.
Last October, the Redemptorist brothers went to Nuing, Jose Abad Santos and took part in the on-going Redemptorist mission in the place. In the course of ten days, the students had the opportunity to be immersed among the locals especially with the Manobos in the area. Almost two months after and even in the midst of the busy-ness ensued by the Christmas celebrations, the brothers did not forget, even for a moment, the people in Nuing. “How are we to share the spirit of Christmas to them?” was a question they had in mind. With a Christmas fast approaching, the brothers took the challenge of fund raising–a feat that would require much effort and time to the brothers.
It was a bold decision to raise some funds for the people of Nuing, considering that the schedule of the brothers is nothing short of hectic and the resources are limited. But because of an expressed need coming from the people and the missionaries there, the brothers knew it was a worthwhile task–an endeavor that could make Christmas be more meaningful for this people.
With the intention of raising funds so as to assist the Nuing Mission, the brothers sought creative ways in generating funds. But before delving into the practical, the seminarians thought of a theme that would somehow capture the spirit behind all the fund-raising activities. The theme for this Christmas was “Gift-Love.” It was based on an originally composed song by Bro. Eric Sevencruz, CSsR with the message that the best gift you can give this Christmas is love! And so from the theme of Gift-Love , the Redemptorist seminarians proceeded from selling various products such as T-Shirts, towels, mugs, shirts. Products made by jail inmates like bags and wallets were also being sold. The participation of the Redemptorist youth was also very instrumental in the whole fund-raising project. After every mass, be it Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, there was a fiasco of marketing the products. The students displayed their culinary skills by cooking sumptuous munch-on food such as suman, Vietnamese lumpia, Siam squares and etc. Even the formator Fr. Davidjieng Ketchurin himself got involved with his own version of waffles paired with cold beverages such as flavored iced and milk teas. Senior confreres like Fr. Ino Cueto and Fr. Bert Cepe, also helped in promoting and selling the products. The products were a sell-out. The response from the people was wonderful. All these consolidated efforts along with the unprecedented generous response of the people amounted to the success of the project.
Last January 14, the Redemptorist community handed over the funds to Bro. Karl Gaspar who represented the Redemptorist mission team currently assigned in the area. One can opine that the money may not be that much as compared to the money raised from previous fund-raising projects in the Parish. Yet the value of that money falls short of its sentimental value especially when all efforts to raise such amount are considered. In a nutshell, it was a labor of love. And the love that was put into that amount is what the Redemptorist community are really giving to the lumads of the Nuing mission area.
Visiting My Bethlehem by Bro. Jeffrey Lozano C.Ss.R
The joy and love of the gospel is fully alive as I was given the chance to serve in our community in Divino Amor Church, Lipa, Batangas and to visit our home amid the busy schedules of Christmas. As I offer my service in the shrine, I was assigned to help the social mission team in conducting immediate relief operation in Mindoro after the devastation of typhoon “Nona.” It was a wonderful and challenging experienced though, to see people not losing hope particularly in the towns of Pinamalayan and Socorro as they also celebrate the days of “simbang gabi”. Despite the damage brought about by the typhoon in their livelihood and properties, the people of Mindoro were full of hope and aspiration to rise again with believing that life would be better as they gazed to the rainbow which was a symbol of their land. They have lost material things in their life but learned and gained valuable lessons that they will cherish and never forget for the rest of their lives – the solidarity and love among fellow human beings.
The Christmas that they have celebrated resounded the very essence of the first Christmas in which our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Everything was unexpected and everything was not planned. There was no room for Mary to give birth to our Lord. Despite of the challenges however in which Mary and Joseph had to face, the solidarity and love they have received was realized in a manger.
As I depart and go back to my community, I was the one who was also blessed. I will never forget the people of Mindoro they made me realize again what life was all about. The damage that was caused by the typhoon could be counted but the babe in the manger in Bethlehem that I have seen and encountered in the face of the people is priceless. May all my prayers and blessings be upon the people of Mindoro. BANGON MINDORO!