Novice John Joseph Aguila will profess as a Salesian Don Bosco on May 6. Here is his vocation story.
When I was 5 years old, our home was very fortunate to receive Mama Mary through the efforts of a Salesian priest, Fr. John Andreu, through a block rosary. It was the start of a very good journey with the Lord. It encouraged me to attend Sunday Masses regularly in St. Dominic Savio Parish. In regularly attending the Mass, I found out that the priests are very welcoming, and that their homilies are both practical and inspiring.
It was my first time to feel that I belong to a bigger community because my parents would not usually allow me to go outside our compound. The celebrations are so captivating that I found myself attending Mass even without my parents; most of the time with my friends and on several occasions, just by myself.
As I mature, I decided to join the youth center under the group of the young catechists. Actually, I had no deeper motivations in joining the group aside from the fact that I really felt at home with their company and that I was attracted to a young lady who happened to be a member of that group.
But God had different plans for me; things never materialized for the two of us. True, I fell for her but I also fell for Him and for them. It was a very confusing situation for me. I cannot think clearly until I find myself committing myself to everyone.
In those days, I also became close with the Salesians, with their pastoral works and with the young. I fell in love with Jesus and with the youth. I enjoyed every second I was with them – the kwentuhans (story telling), the laughters, the tambayans (standbys); practically all their activities.
It was Fr. Ben Borja, SDB, who first invited me to try the “Orientation.” I had no clue about it but I said yes. Little did I know that it was vocation orientation and I was completely caught off guard. Surprisingly, I liked the experience and it opened me to an enlarged horizon. Unfortunately, he had to leave for Pampanga for his new obedience and things never materialized as I expected them to be.
Fr. Dante Valero, SDB, took over. He asked me if I was still willing to pursue and I said YES, then we started the admission process to the seminary. Fortunately, I was admitted but not yet in the Pre-Novitiate Seminary in Canlubang. Since I was a college graduate, then Fr. Provincial (Fr. Eli Cruz, SDB) asked me to stay with the Salesian Community of Don Bosco Technical College (DBTC) and had my aspirantate there.
However, things became rough for me. I was in the adjustment process. Homesickness struck very hard and the feelings for that same lady I was attracted to years ago, resurfaced. I lost my focus and I left DBTC in just three days after I entered without even talking about it with my spiritual director. In fact, I was so confused that I did not even bother consulting him about my decision.
After leaving, I told myself not to get any closer with the Salesians or the youth, not even to our parish grounds. I lost my will to pray. I completely felt that I was lost. But God had different things in mind. Fr. Edwin Soliva, SDB, our parish priest offered me to head a pastoral work. For reasons I could not understand, I just could not say “No” to him.
Surprisingly, I became closer with the Salesians and the whole parish community again, but not with God. I felt ashamed of what I have done and lost my will to pray. Ironically, I was serving the parish but without a relationship with Jesus; it was merely functionalism. For some reasons, people around me were not aware of it. I believe this was the primary reason why Fr. Abner Santos kept on insisting that I should go back to my formation – to the seminary.
For the next two years, I just smiled about it.
However, on September 26, 2012, I felt like praying. Unconsciously, my feet drag me to a very familiar place – the Adoration Chapel. For almost half an hour, I was just there in front of the Blessed Sacrament, thinking of how I lived my life in the last 25 years.
Then I felt that familiar call. I knew plenty of things were running through my head and I supposed that it could just be a sudden burst of emotion, so I ignored it. But it was persistent. So I informed my Salesian friends about it and they told me to pray and to seek a Spiritual Direction. With that plan, God brought me to Bro. Mon Callo, who guided me through it until came the part that I finally decided that I want a second chance – I will enter the seminary again. And the rest is history.
If I were to summarize my vocation, it would be God’s Faithfulness. He had been faithful in giving me friends – lay and Salesians – who never got tired of me when I seemed to lose it all. It only shows that He never gave up on me though I gave up on Him on several occasions.
During my discernment retreat for the application for first profession last January 2016, I felt that the Lord has sealed His call. I was actually reflecting of the passage of the Prophet Isaiah when the Lord said “I have called you by name, you are mine” and I felt so much consolation and joyfulness from it. I even translated it in Filipino “Inangkin na kita!” (Literally: I have owned you) because it gave me a deeper meaning and deeper sense towards my vocation.
Thanks to His goodness and mercy, I will be professing the vows as Salesian this coming May 6, 2016 – the Feast of St. Dominic Savio, the patron saint of my home parish, the place where it all began for me.