When it All Began [ A Vocation Story]

Br. Jerome Quinto, SDB, marks his 5th year a Salesian of Don Bosco today. But before he became a Salesian, this piece he wrote 8 years ago brings us to where it all began.

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I’ve always believed that I have a very long vocation story. The length of it is comparable to a volume of an encyclopedia. Once, I tried writing an outline of my vocation story and it took me a day just to finish less than a quarter of it. Thus, I consider writing my story an impossible feat and, mind you, the story’s getting longer and longer, day by day.

Let me then share to you a snippet of my vocation story – when it all began. ~

In his best short pants, best socks, best shirt, best cap, and best rubber shoes, young Jerome walked jubilantly with his barkada along Makaturing Street on their way to their first outbound gimmick. Kuya Jaymar grabbed his hand as they cross Dansalan and through the narrow alley that leads to San Roque Street, the street the goes around the factory-like building better known as San Roque Parish Church. Thirty minutes past three in the afternoon, his sense of time assured him that they weren’t late for the celebration.

Children of every shape and size were everywhere. The noise of toddler talk and ecstatic shrieks (due to the excitement brought about by a marathon-like competition of kids racing through the crowds and running around the vicinity) filled the gloomy and ill-lit hall of wooden ebony benches and dilapidated charcoal-grey ceiling.

Ding-ding-ding sounded the bell. Movements slowly halted. Hisses enveloped the wild shrieks and shouts. Noise ebbed as if in a snap. Ding-ding-cling, ding-ding-cling again the bell screamed but now accompanied by a choir singing in unison, in tune with the strumming and plucking of guitars, and to the beat of the maracas crashing and crackling in an upbeat tempo. Peace at hand.

Jerome smiled and closed his eyes allowing himself to be possessed by the harmony, by the joyful music that has begun to seep through his being. Then every thing fell silent.

Disturbed by the unprecedented silence, he opened his eyes… beheld a man clad in pristine white oversized-duster-like garment, atop the sanctuary, behind the large dinner table. His eyes were fixed upon the man, examining his face, his movement and the garment that wrapped him. Upon recognition of the man, Jerome smiled.

His eyes remained fixed on the man. Jerome listened intently to his every word and tried to mimic the man’s repeated phrase – though most of it was beyond his comprehension.

Jerome enjoyed the songs and was enthused by the actions that accompanied them. He looked at hisbarkada and smiled at them noticing how engaged they were in the celebration… but the fun has to end.

The man stepped down from the sanctuary. Children and people of age began congregating along the middle aisle, along the way of the man. Jerome, moving in the opposite direction with his barkada, glanced at him for the last time. He smiled.

Upon turning his head back on the direction he was walking, he saw two familiar smiles, smiling at him. He approached them and grabbed their hands and kissed them – his mama and papa. His barkada saw this at a distance and waved good-bye at him and his parents. While walking, his mama looked at him as if asking what has caught his attention the minute before they met. Jerome simply said, “Papa Jesus,” then threw a quick glance back at the church. His mother remarked in response, “ah, the priest, anak…”

When they reached home, Jerome, still overwhelmed by his recent experience, said, “Ma, I want to be a priest.” His mama and papa looked at him and smiled. His mother hugged him and kissed him on his cheek while his father rubbed Jerome’s head and gently pat his back.

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