salesians

FIN Province’s Recollection & Fellowship

The Salesians of Don Bosco of the FIN Province took advantage of yesterday’s Heroes’ Day, a national holiday in the whole of the Philippine archipelago, to gather for their first quarterly recollection for the year.

The recollection was designed by the Commission on Formation by the FIN Province in keeping with the Province’s Implementation of the 27th General Chapter.

Former FIN Vice Provincial, Fr. Danny Torres, SDB, gave the conference on Group Spiritual Direction. As an output, the whole assembly was broken down into communities to apply the inputs.

The Mass which was held at the new chapel of DBTI, Jesus the Divine Mercy. Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, FIN Provincial Superior presided the Mass.

In his homily, he invited the confreres to look at “the heroic fidelity in confreres who are among us… And in a special way to our elderly confreres—this month of August, in particular, Fr. Pepe Reinoso on his 80th birthday, and Fr. Andres Cervantes, on the 60th anniversary of his religious profession.  We know that in their life, they have experienced this dependence on God before whom they bowed and knelt in humility.”

In the afternoon, FIN District Games were held. Among the objectives set for this activity include the promotion of fraternity and bonding and to put in practice the 2016 Strenna.

Sporting events such as basketball, football, badminton, table tennis and table football were held.

The Magone Team, composed of the clustered Paranaque and Makati districts won over the Savio Team, which is composed by North and South districts. The two teams will face each other again come November in time for the Provincial Day.

 

 

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A glance at the Sacred Heart

One time, I saw Fr. Andres in his wheel chair just outside the chapel. I asked him what he was doing there. He told me that he wanted to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He needs to be assisted to walk, and since no one was around, he could not go inside the chapel.

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When I open the window for him to gaze at the tabernacle, he seems pleased. He then sheepishly smiles and tells me, “I wish to ask for another favor, but it seems that you are busy.” I reply, “It is okay, Fr. What is it?

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He wanted to visit the Sacred Heart image on our stair case landing. I was running late for my retreat, but I cannot refuse him. I pushed his wheelchair en route to the staircase where the image is enshrined. This very image I come to realize bids goodbye to those who leave and welcome those who come with its arms opened.

I can see in Fr. Andres’s eyes the profuse thankfulness when I yielded to his request. And more so, when he finally touched the hand of the image, which must have welcomed him the first time he arrived in the community.

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4 Tips to preserve the fire of priesthood

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A Filipino Salesian missionary, Fr. Roel Soto is the Delegate of the Salesians in Cambodia since 2014.

Everyone goes through low moments in life.  This is a reality because of our weakness and other difficult situations we go through.  Yet despite this reality we have to go through how was I able to preserve and keep the fire of my priesthood?  Let me share you some points that will be helpful to any priest like me, just as they have helped me a lot.

1. A constant and intense prayer life.  This does not refer only to the regular scheduled community prayer that sometimes forces one to pray.  I refer here most especially to one’s personal “date” with the Lord at a particular time in a day that one has chosen as the most appropriate time.  This is a personal time of encountering the Lord personally and intimately as a fruit of one’s choice and decision.   The intensity of this encounter is not on the length and frequency, but on the intimacy of this daily personal encounter.  In truth, this could also be heightened by one’s consciousness or awareness of the Lord’s presence and promptings during the day.

2. A spiritual director. It is a blessing to have someone always to talk to and open one’s heart in moments of difficulties and trials or even crisis.  Let us face the reality – we can’t all handle our problems alone.  Having someone to listen and guide us and follow our spiritual director is already a big relief and assurance of support.

3. A community-centered life. With all the influences of technology that could possibly lead us to individualism and isolation, giving special priority to community life is the key to a happy life.  The community oriented priest finds solace and comfort in the loving and supportive presence of his community, be it his original family, his fellow priests or his religious community.  Community living gives a lot of experiences of solidarity, love, concern, understanding, warmth in relationship, forgiveness, trust etc. which are very important in moments of crisis and difficulties.

4. A proper care of oneself. Many times we tend to focus on the spiritual aspect of our life, forgetting that our physical aspect needs also attention and proper care.  “A sound mind in a sound body.”  I would also say a healthy spirit in a healthy body.  Proper care of the body must be observed by having enough time for rest and physical exercise, and the right and moderate food intake to prevent abuses, imbalance and excesses.  Proper care of the body will contribute moderation, balance, and discipline to spiritual life.  With this in right perspective we will be able to keep #1 – intense prayer life.

With all these four points followed, the fire of our priesthood will be kept and the passion for the mission entrusted by the Lord to us priests will be done with dedication and zeal.

 

60 Years a Salesian: Fr Andres Cervantes Shines more than a Diamond!

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“My vocation was to be a priest–not to get married!”

Fr. Andres uttered these words to me as a matter of factly. His eyes searched for mine to convey his sincerity. He said this to himself as soon as he had realized that he wanted to become a Salesian priest. He was just in his early twenties back then. But he was already convinced of this.

This conviction would lead him to risk his future in the Salesian seminary in Mexico. This year, come 16 August, he marks his 60th year as a Salesian of Don Bosco.

One of the first things he did when the call to become a Salesian had become clear for him was to bid goodbye to Sofia, a beautiful Mexican lass, whom he was seeing for some time. He described his relationship with her this way, “We become one for the other.”

When I pressed him to give me more pieces of information about Sofia, he admitted that he pursued her because he was obedient to his erstwhile Jesuit novice master.

That time, he recalls, he just left the Jesuit novitiate house after staying there for more than two years. The Jesuit novitiate formation lasts for two years. His novice master told him that he could continue to stay in the novitiate, but as long as he is the novice master, he could not allow him to profess as a Jesuit. Fr. Andres did not know the reason why he could not become one.

His novice master was rather straight forward in telling him that he did not have any vocation to the religious life. Fr. Andres recounts that he was told to go home and get married, to live a normal life, this is insofar as there are more ways than one to reach heaven. And so, he obeyed his novice master–until he met Sofia. But then again, he met the Salesians soon after. And once again, he gave his religious vocation a chance. However, at that time, he was “perfectly sure” that he wanted to become a Salesian.

Fr. Cervantes joined the Salesians at the age of 22. He made his First Religious Profession in August 16, 1956. 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 was sent to Thailand as a missionary. He worked in Thailand for only three years. The provincial of Thailand would send him back to Mexico, seeing that Thailand was not ready for the missionary activity.

When I ask him how he knew it, he casually tells me, “It is a mystery. But I never doubted that I will become a Salesian priest.” He adds, “I am very happy to be a Salesian.”

I asked him what is the most inspiring thing in being a Salesian, he responded that it is not a thing, but a person, “Don Bosco!” Fr. Andres emphasizes that as soon as he got to know Don Bosco, he instantly decided to become a Salesian.

One of the most unforgettable assignments he has had in the Philippines is his being a confessor in Bacolor, Pampanga, a task he shared with the late Fr. Peter Garbero. His eyes lit up when he brought up the news to me that he read about the re-opening of Bacolor.

Aside from the Philippines, he was also sent to East Timor and Thailand to do mission work for a good number of years before being asked to return to the Philippines in 2008.

Because of his old age and weak physical condition, Fr. Andres is currently staying at the Zatti Clinic inside the Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati compound.

When I asked him about the secret he keeps on how he has remained faithful through the years, he motions with his fingers and utters, “I have two.” “First, have a great devotion to the Blessed Mother… Mary Help of Christians! The Redemptorists in Baclaran got it right. Mary is not just our help. She is our perpetual help!” “And the second?” I prompted him for his second secret. He casually said, “Love for Don Bosco.”

Fr. Andres Cervantes is 60 years a Salesian. But more than what the pop song says, he does not merely shine “bright like a diamond.” His rays glisten far more than this, because he is a shining example of what a Salesian is: A sign and bearer of God’s love to the young!

A Postscript to #DB200

12795451_934303873325932_2252616104766471671_nThe March-May 2016 issue of The St. John Bosco Today, the Salesian Family Magazine of the two Philippine Provinces, wraps up with the Philippine celebration of Don Bosco’s 200th birth anniversary. The pages of that issue contain a splendid comprehensive coverage of the festivities which had begun on August 16, 2014 held at Don Bosco Caritas up to the conclusion of the celebration at the Ynares Coliseum in Pasig City exactly a year after.

That magazine’s issue coincides with the month I was ordained as a Salesian priest, as if to indicate that a gift of a Salesian priestly vocation tops all the festivities to honor the 200th birth anniversary of St. John Bosco.  After all, for the Salesians, vocation is the crowning glory of the youth ministry.

I write this reflection nearly three months after that special commemorative issue was released, and after the date of my ordination which fell on May 14, Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle.

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Initially, I wanted to be ordained on April 2.  I chose the date since it is the liturgical feast of St. Pedro Calungsod, a young Filipino saint who was canonized some four years ago.  Although liturgical law would prevent me to celebrate his feast on that day since the day fell within the Easter Octave this year, I wanted a date that has an importance for me, not just any random date chosen out of convenience.

But when I proposed this to Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, my Provincial Superior, he did not approve of it. He reasoned out that the time to prepare for the ordination would be limited, and he did not want the ordination to be haphazardly organized. I did not merely obey him, I agreed with him for I only had a month left if I would push through with that date.

The next thing I caught myself doing was to scan again the calendar. I realized that I was back to square one. A seminary companion helped me look for the next possible date. It was then that we considered May 14.  But more than just being a feast of St. Matthias, our research led us to appreciate its value inasmuch as the life of the Salesian congregation is concerned.

Apparently, on that day in 1862, Don Bosco received the vows of the first members of the Salesian congregation which was at its budding stage.two_columns_poster

Likewise, we look back into that same day, too, when Don Bosco, through his dream, received a vision, about the two pillars, on which the Salesian congregation anchors its most important devotions on—the Blessed Mother and the Holy Eucharist.

In retrospect, that day when I was ordained a priest, though a celebration of the Church, is at its finest, a deeply Salesian event.

My prayer is that the grace I received through my priesthood may give birth to another Don Bosco.

FIN Concludes its Provincial Chapter 

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The Provincial Chapter concluded with the celebration of the Holy Mass today invoking the intercession of St. Dominic Savio whose feast we commemorate today.

In his homily, Fr. Paul Bicomong asked the chapter members to recall their very first experience in the Salesian house and their encounter with the first Salesians they met. He related this to the first encounter of Dominic Savio and Don Bosco and pointed out how Don Bosco wove a beautiful fabric for the Lord in Dominic. He challenged them to do the same in the young people they encounter.

He congratulated the capitulars for their work and asked them to continue praying so that the Provincial Chapter may bear fruit.

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After the homily, the chapter members affixed their signatures as an expression of their approval for the final documents, a concrete output of their five days of prayer, reflection and deliberations.

All chapters members voted for the final documents which will be submitted to the Generalate.

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One of the distinctive marks of this chapter is that it is almost paperless. Most of the chapter members accessed the digital form of the documents deliberated on. Online technology allowed them to comment and revise on the document all at the same time.

The recently concluded Provincial Chapter accomplished three outputs: (1) The FIN Implementation of the GC 27, (2) the revision of the Provincial Directory, and the (3) Reshaping the Salesian Presence of the Province.

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Fr. Umijun explains his point in the plenary.