Since last night, my Facebook timeline has been flooded with profession-commemoration photos as many young Salesians in the FIN Province made their first profession on this day, May 6, feast of St. Dominic Savio.
I myself had my first profession on this date. But instead of posting something about that special day, I’d like to pay tribute to a confrere who became a Salesian and eventually, a priest because of the example of the young saint we honor today.
“Dominic Savio” came the response when I asked Fr. Andres Cervantes who inspired him to become a Salesian priest. The year was 1950 and the young-saint-at-fifteen was still up for beatification back then.
Then a teenager, Fr. Cervantes bought a pamphlet about the young Servant of God in view of giving it to his younger brother. But having read the life of Savio enthused him to pursue the vocation to the religious life.
Fr. Cervantes stayed for almost two years in the Jesuit novitiate house in Mexico until the director of novices sent him away. He has never known the reason why, but his older brother, who would be called Fr. Rafael, became a Jesuit. They also have a sister who became a religious, Sr. Lourdes.
He liked what he saw when he visited an oratory in Mexico. There were Salesians who were playing with the poor children. And what was more, they also invited him to eat with them as it was the birthday of Fr. Antonio Ragazzini, provincial of Mexico, that day.
Fr. Cervantes became a Salesian at the age of 22. He studied at Crocetta from 1959 to 1963. He was ordained in 1963 in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin in a cold morning of February 11.
He was supposed to be sent to Korea and Japan. But the superiors changed these obediences. He would finally be sent to Thailand as a missionary, but he would only stay there for three years. The provincial of Thailand would send him back to Mexico, seeing that Thailand was not ready for the missionary activity.
He obeyed his superior and returned to Mexico. But he knew that God must have displeased with the decision. And so, he thought of saving up some amount in order to fund his re-entry to Thailand.
He landed in the Philippines as he would still work on his visa. While in Manila, he received orders from Fr. Edigio Vigano, then rector major, telling him to work in Manila instead of going to Thailand. Fr. Jose Carbonel, provincial of FIN that time, assigned him in San Fernando Pampanga to teach Latin to the aspirants. He would stay there for some years until his transfer in Tarlac.
He would also work in East Timor for some years after returning in the country. He is currently staying at the Zatti Clinic at Don Bosco Technical Institute.
When I asked him, “What has kept you faithful?” at once, he said: “My profession. Jesus and Mary is my model.”
“Even if the missions were not okay. I’ve been faithful to the Lord for 50 years of my priesthood. I have been happy despite everything. Perhaps because happiness does not depend on success. It depends whether one is at peace with his conscience.”
This piece was published in the Dec 2013-Feb2014 issue of St. John Bosco Today.