Month: January 2015

A Grateful Heart

Marlon Cuevas writes about his experience in a street children center run by the Salesians  and the lessons from it, and the  Salesians who have inculcated in him a grateful heart.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we conclude with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

To start with, I was an orphan.

My three siblings and I practically grew up at Tuloy sa Don Bosco, a center for street children under the Tuloy Foundation and Fr. Rocky Evangelista, a Salesian of of Don Bosco.

In my stay there, I consider two holy individuals whom I admire most because they have the spirit of Don Bosco: Fr. Rocky and Fr. Antonio “Beng-Beng” Molavin, SDB.

These two holy men taught me how to become a good and concerned citizen of our country. I am so grateful to them because they shared Don Bosco’s life, work, love and holiness to me and specially to my siblings.

They always told to us that there are two keys in order for us to go to heaven: by asking forgiveness through CONFESSION and by lining up in the Mass for COMMUNION.

In my innocent mind I followed these steps in order to achieve peace of mind and soul. But as I grew older as a teenager these things changed because of my friends that I encountered always. But I am still thankful that these Salesians are always there for us to remind that Don Bosco is always waiting for us in heaven.

My understanding about Don Bosco’s life and mission was deepened when I entered the seminary. In that institution I came across this important quote from him “For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life.”

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was not meant to become a Salesian.

But the quotation above stuck.

When I started to teach here at St. Scholastica’s Academy in Pampanga, I realized the gravity of that thought—and Don Bosco’s love for the youth.

I study my lessons every night and day . . . it is for them.

I work hard to finish my lessons, check the papers and compute the grades . . . it is for them.

I am ready to give my life for my loved ones, and this include my students.

It means that every day Don Bosco lives in me because of his valuable teachings that I am able to live out with to my students.

I am so thankful that Don Bosco’s teaching helps me always as I journey with my students.

A Tale of Two Rockstars

Nora S. Bunso writes about her electrifying encounter with Two Rockstars, who do not belt out songs, but remind us of how God can be so near to us if we are with individuals like them.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

Excitement visibly rippled across the crowd as each “status report” was immediately passed along.  “His plane has landed! . . . Arrival ceremonies are underway! . . .  The motorcade is leaving Villamor! . . .  Get ready, we’re almost there.”   After months of anticipation, the crowds lining the streets from the foot of Buendia flyover couldn’t be any readier. As the motorcade rode past, headed for the church, hundreds of parishioners in colorful, specially-silkscreened T-shirts cheered and waved yellow flaglets, streamers and I love you posters.

Soon, amidst the pealing of the bells and showers of petals, the assembly of priests, nuns, brothers and the rest of the parishioners in the churchyard erupted in jubilant applause and shouts of Viva and Mabuhay as they eagerly crowded around a white van, impatient as  children of returning OFW[1]s. At last, two days before Christmas 2010, the relics of St. John Bosco had finally arrived for the FIN[2] leg of its four-year worldwide pilgrimage.  In the next days, hundreds of thousands of Don Bosco’s children would pull out all the stops in exuberantly honoring their beloved and loving father.

For who could not love Don Bosco? I remember listening enthralled to my brothers’ endless stories of a kind priest, who really loved children . . . poor, noisy, homeless and not too clean, he loved them anyway. He would take them on long hikes, join in their games, laugh with them, and teach them many things. He was the greatest teacher, a saint!  My brothers would brag, “That is why we are Bosconians; our school is his school! That’s his statue in our quadrangle.”  Back then, I wasn’t too sure what a saint was but I had seen his statue, and after those stories – wow, was I impressed! Barely four years old, and still mastering the language, I remembered staking my claim, “Love ko si DON BOSKO! Ikaw, love mo si DON BOSMO?”[3]

Five years after welcoming Don Boso’s relics, the same community, with just as much fervor, joined the millions carpeting streets, parks and airports while cheering for another charismatic priest, who, this time, rode a Pope Mobile (or a blue Volkswagen.)  Like Don Bosco, Pope Francis is a holy man, who truly loves the poor, the suffering and the unlovable, tirelessly champions their cause and seeks to be among them, despite typhoons, barricades and PSGs[4].  Like Don Bosco, Pope Francis, draws us closer to the “Good Shepherd,” with every homily, every allocution, hug and smiling wave.  And yes, just like Father Bosco, the Holy Father adores the Madonna and invites us to call on her too.    With so much love emanating from these holy fathers, no wonder people flock to them in droves. No wonder, they rock!

Outside the MOA[5] Arena, while the waiting crowds were rehearsing the cheer, “Papa Francisco, Mahal ng Pilipino[6]” (immediately forgotten and replaced with shrieks when the Pope arrived), I recalled the catchy “John Paul II, we love you!” of WYD ’95 and the “Viva Don Boscos” of five years ago.  But what if Don Bosco were alive, a living saint coming to the Philippines?  Then surely I will be out there with throngs of his children waving and shrieking “Don Bosco, Don Bosco, Don BOSKOOOOO!”

[1] OFW – Overseas Filipino Workers

[2] FIN – SDB Philippine North Province

[3] “I love my Don Bosco! Do you love your Don Bosco?”

[4] PSG  – Presidential Security Group which helped secure Pope Francis

[5] MOA- Mall of Asia, venue of one of the 2015 Papal Visit events

[6] “Pope Francis, loved by Filipinos”

Recalling that seedbed experience

Robie de Guia looks back to that fateful day in his seminary life when he had the epiphany. This has never left him ever since.

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St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

 

It was 15 years ago but I still remember everything so vividly: the silence of the night, the cold air, and the relaxed atmosphere in the whole seminary complex.

 I went inside the office of the rector, Fr. Chito Dimaranan, SDB (now rector of Don Bosco Technical College-Mandaluyong) and sat on a chair facing his.

“I don’t really like praying, it drives me crazy, especially those prayers that we keep repeating. I can’t focus long enough, my mind wanders in an instant,” I told him.

It felt really despicable telling him this.

Back then I was still a first year seminarian, my classmates were really, amazing! We had Jake Lopez (now a priest) was literally holy! Marlon Eleosida (now a two-year old priest) who the only thing missing back then was a halo! These guys genuinely enjoy praying. They are amazing! Can you just imagine where it leaves me?

“Spirituality is about accepting God in your heart. Please don’t force yourself to do mental prayers in the morning, you will go insane.”

He then told me, “Just sit there and feel HIS presence,” and, “do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well.” He was aware perhaps of my being borderline ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

And then I had an epiphany. Everything became clear to me. I left his office with a smile on my face and the chills I felt all over my body.

The next day was the most beautiful day of my life. I felt renewed. I was just walking around campus by myself, feeling God as the wind embraces me, feeling God as the warmth of the sun bites my skin, feeling God while hearing the silence, it was more than magical!

I was sent to a Salesian school since pre-school: Mary Help of Christians. I went to Rizal Institute for high school (back then, it was under the tutelage of the Salesians), and in college, I went to Don Bosco College in Canlubang. But it was only then that I fully understood the true meaning of “Do your extraordinary duties extraordinarily well.”

Growing up, I used to see it everywhere but it never really meant anything to me. Not until then.

After that day, although I left the seminary, I lived my life doing my ordinary duties extraordinarily well.

Although I was not able to finish my college in Don Bosco, I was able to finish my masters in Entrepreneurship at the age of 30, and at the age of 31, I became the President of Dünsk Kuhner Corp, a multinational corporation.

To me, life is never about success, but it’s about doing my ordinary duties extraordinarily well.

Sorry for the inconvenience

In between taking the calls, Christian Decena, reflects on saying sorry and the beauty of the  sacrament of confession, which Don Bosco passionately advocated in his lifetime.

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St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

 

This is one of the most dreaded lines I need to say every time I talk to customers. It hurts my machismo to say sorry for something that’s not my fault. Even though the internet modem is working and the customer insists that it doesn’t, we need to empathetically but dejectedly say the line “I’m so sorry, let me fix this problem for you.”

Healing in progress
It was in the fifth grade that I developed the habit of going for a weekly confession. Growing up in a school run by nuns didn’t give me enough chance to practice this. I also remember my older brother going to confession every Sunday whenever we attend Mass as a family.

Growing up in a school run by nuns wherein confession is only available upon invitation, my sudden move to Don Bosco Mandaluyong became a surprise for me because priests are everywhere, and asking them to hear my confession was as easy as 1-2-3. But because I didn’t go to confession regularly, approaching the sacrament was a very nerve wrecking experience. I can’t imagine “shaming” myself in front of a priest; telling him all the stupid things I did that caused bodily or spiritual harm to myself or other people. There was even a time during the fifth grade that I cried inside the confessional box because I was so ashamed. The priest who heard my confession reassured me that God doesn’t sit as a judge whenever I approach the sacrament.

Interestingly, this old priest did really show me the merciful face of a father who picks up his son after falling down. This priest, by the way, has an aura of an old tree: wise, mysterious, and has a thousand stories to tell every time I approach him for the sacrament.

One time, after hearing my confession, he forgot to turn off the lights inside the confessional box. He pointed out to me: “See that light? It doesn’t only mean that there are people inside. It also means that healing is in progress.”

Every time I go out of the confessional or get up from my chair, I always feel unburdened, physically and spiritually. No wonder Don Bosco always reiterated the importance of the sacrament of confession; it uplifts us both in body and spirit.

Working in the BPO industry for two years taught me a lot of things, from troubleshooting TV boxes and internet modems to extending my patience way way longer because an 80-year old grandma is having a hard time finding buttons on her computer keyboard. I may forget how the computer tools work or how to read the monthly bill breakdown, but I do know that saying “sorry” is something that I will never forget. Customers will say “I don’t need your sorry, I need a resolution.” Same goes during confession. God says “I don’t need your sorry, I need your virtues.”

St. John Bosco, pray for us!

Christian Decena works as a technical support representative for an American telecommunications company. He is currently taking classes to become a full time financial advisor.

At home with Don Bosco

Patrick David Cenon, through this piece, makes us mindful about challenges of moving to another country entail, but meeting a community of Salesians, sons of St. John Bosco, prove to be of help in the necessary adjustment.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we begin the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

I am writing from Brussels, Belgium.  I recently moved here last November to pursue a career at Toyota.  Living in a foreign land has many challenges.  One of which is the need to find something familiar.

I have lived close to 30 years in Barangay Don Bosco, attended 10 years of school in Don Bosco Makati, stayed in the seminary, Don Bosco Canlubang for 1 year.  My dad and brother are both Bosconians.  So too are a significant number of my close friends, some of whom are Salesian priests.  Once you take that into consideration, it is not hard to imagine how comforting it must be to find a Salesian community overseas.

That is why upon arrival in Brussels, I made an effort to look for a Salesian community here in Brussels.  I found a Don Bosco school that teaches elementary, high school and college.  It is Don Bosco Wolouve Saint Lambert approximately 15 minutes away by car from my apartment.  It celebrates mass every Sunday in a small chapel which seats around 80 people.

While language is a barrier, the Salesian charisma and values facilitates good understanding between me and members of my community.  The community has been very warm and welcoming.  They even asked me to light the candles in the advent wreath during the December Masses.  I guess from this experience, I can truly say that the Salesian charisma transcends language and culture as I have been able to find a sense of family and belongingness in this community.  I thank God that Don Bosco has been a significant part of my life.

Happy 200 years Don Bosco!

Patrick David Cenon has been working in Toyota for 9 years and specializes in Organization and People Development.

“God sees you”

Through this piece, Sir Erbert V. dela Resma allows us to access the internal struggles he experienced in a recent life crisis, and his realization how God’s all knowing presence can help soothe the pain. This, he attributes to the guidance of our beloved Saint, Don Bosco.

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St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

There was this one time when I gazed at this eerie picture of Jesus. He is looking straight and He is serious. Not angry. Not smiling. Just serious. What was eerie is that, wherever you turn or go, Jesus’ stare follows. It’s as if He is telling me “I see you. I’m watching.” No wonder the picture was given the name, “the Eye.”

God Sees You”

I first learned of this statement when I was in grade school at Mary Help of Christians School, here in Canlubang, Laguna. Our teachers told us that Mama Margaret taught Don Bosco, then a little boy, the saying “God sees you.”

However, recent events in our life as a family taught me that God does not just see things. He does not just watch. He joins. He goes along. He participates. I learned that just last November. Mom had her longest sleep which started November 9 and lasted until November 17.

During those times, we were anxious and very worried. Although we were busy trying to manage things for her, we were very much afraid. As we were waiting in fear of the unwanted, we were praying. Praying that whatever it is that we were afraid of will not happen. We were praying that God would give us one more chance to be complete as a family, just one more chance.

But as the days went on, we were lead to praying that whatever happens, we will all be ready.

The days that passed became days of preparation. We were made prepared for the inevitable. The process was very painful because we had to wait and watch mom suffer in her sleep. It would have been easier for me if she could talk. At least we could get some response. At least we could make her respond. It would have been easier. Or so I thought.

But then again, we felt we were being prepared. Mom’s favorite people started coming: from her long-lost friends and then-workmates, to all of her friends from the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians here in Don Bosco College. And from the time when mom was brought to the central ICU until she was finally transferred to a private room, the moments were filled with chit-chats and prayer moments. (And even the ICU sounded like “I SEE YOU.”) Those were days when God watched – He watched and was fully present. He knew our inner stirrings: our worries, our anxieties, our fears and our unwillingness to surrender everything. And he understood. He even felt with us. And, I might have guessed, He even cried at our tired-and-sleepless-silence. He was watching. He was never far. He was with us all the way, through the people He sent and the other interventions that happened.

Mom had her longest sleep and it ended early morning of November 17, Sunday, when she finally woke up in heaven.

I would believe now that what Mama Margaret really meant when she told little Johnny “God Sees You” was that God IS WITH you. He watches. He sees deep. And He is never far. And I also believe that this is what Don Bosco also meant when he developed the Salesian Presence and the Salesian Assistance. God sees you. And He does so with the help of the Salesian priests and brothers, and the teachers when they go to the Bosconians during break times and assist them. Maybe join their games, laugh with them, and even help them pick up trash here-and-there. At first I thought of Salesian Assistance purely as a task and a workload. But now I fully realized its main point: God sees us. God IS WITH us. He joins us. He goes along with us. He participates in our activities. He assists us. He does not judge, but He surely makes us better. I realize now that He has called me to be the same for the young.

Erbert V. dela Resma is a Salesian Educator in Don Bosco College – Canlubang. The family is actively serving in the Diocesan Shrine of Mary Help of Christians as members of the Choir and Music Ministry, the Knights of the Altar, and the Lectors and Commentators Ministry.

Bosconian Influence

Here is a young couple, Gelo Valdez and Kae P. Valdez, as they reflect on some significant lessons they learnt from Don Bosco.

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St. John Bosco inspires not just young people but Catholic faithful from all walks of life. As we continue with the novena days in honor of The Saint of Youth, #HappyBirthdayDonBosco team shares with you reflections of various professionals who have been influenced by our beloved Saint. Graphics by Mark Anthony Ramos.

 

When we met, Gelo was a high school senior in Don Bosco Makati. A decade after that, we got married in Chapel on the Hill, Don Bosco Batulao, Batangas. Fr. Abel Ocampo, SDB, Gelo’s theology professor in Don Bosco Mandaluyong solemnized our wedding.

Salesian blood is running through Gelo’s veins. I, on the other hand, growing up with a lot of Bosconian friends, including my brother who is also a Bosconian, am declaring myself an honorary Bosconian.

We now live in Auckland, which is something like 8,000 kilometers from Manila. It is a place, not only geographically far from where our home is, but also vastly different from the environment we grew up in. Suddenly, going to church on a Sunday became optional and holy week just meant another long weekend, on the beach, perhaps. There was a sudden shift in our spiritual plane and we hate to admit it but things changed.

Not long after, we both found jobs; good enough to allow us to give a little, keep a little and spend a lot. We were young, beginning our careers and we had money in our hands. For the first time in our lives, we were responsible for ourselves. It was challenging to overcome the lure of material things because the more time one spends shopping, the easier it becomes to sink deeper into a consumerism mindset.

Slowly, the feeling of entitlement for anything will start to surface. After that, one’s outlook will change and one will develop a work-more-so we-can-buy-more attitude. Soon, it will be a world of credit card bills and debts more than one can pay off. So, we had a choice: we could fill our closets with clothes we don’t need or we could put away the few extra dollars and save it for a rainy day.

St. John Bosco said, “What do the pleasures of this world amount to? What is not eternal is worth nothing.”  We paused and thought about it. We don’t want to tread along the path that will lead us attached to our possessions. So we turned the other way. We strived hard to simplify our lifestyle.

Together with our change in attitude towards our spending habits, we also started to look at our jobs differently. It became more than that to us. We continued to educate ourselves beyond the walls of a classroom, challenged ourselves and changed jobs when we felt we were stagnant.

Now at 29, we have both reached the high notes in our careers. We have proven over and over again that doing your ordinary duties extraordinarily well will allow you to reap the rewards in the end. It’s more than the monetary remuneration but the fulfillment of having helped others through the skills that you have been bestowed with. At the end of each day, when you kneel to pray, you will feel the peace in your heart.