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The Living Spirit
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I DON’T believe in accidents. Everything that happens has a purpose. We don’t know what is the purpose – only God knows. I believe, this is clearly illustrated in my personal life story.
How did I become a Carmelite?
When I was about 10 years old I was an altar boy, serving the Mass everyday in a small monastery of Sisters Urselines who were running also a kindergarten, which I had gone to as a child. The rector of that monastery was a priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).
One day, I told him that I wanted to become a priest. Right away he said: Oh no, that is no good for you. I did believe him because I had a high regard for priests and who was I that I wanted to become a priest. But my elder sister who always accompanied me in going to the Mass told me that I should tell this to my confessor. I used to go to confession every week but I had no fixed confessor. It so happened that I went to a priest who was helping out in our parish that time. He happened to be a Carmelite and when I told him that I wanted to become a priest he right away said: ‘Oh that is good. Then you can go to our seminary of the Carmelites.
I will talk to your parents and will tell them how you can go to that seminary. I hardly knew what a Carmelite is, and that seminary was at the other side of our country. Together with my dad we took the train to that place, about 2 hours drive. The rector of the seminary let me do an entrance examination on that same day that we went there.
I passed the examination so I could enter the first year of the seminary. After 6 years of the minor seminary I entered the novitiate and after 6 years of philosophy and theology I was ordained a priest in the Order of the Carmelites in 1960.
In 1961 the Provincial of the Order asked me if I wanted to volunteer to go to the Philippines, where the Carmelites had just opened a new mission some years ago. I hardly knew where the Philippines was. I thought that the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians was addressed to the Philippines.
My first assignment was in Escalante, Negros Occidental where I learned to speak the Bisayan language. My second assignment was in Iligan City as a social action director in the prelature of Iligan. Because of my involvement in the labor movement and a strike of the workers of Iligan Electric Company I was declared an undesirable alien and was deported by Marcos when he declared martial law in 1972.
In 1973 I was able to come back to the Philippines because of some pressure exerted by my superior and some bishops on Commissioner Edmundo Reyes. Then I joined the underground movement of the NDF against the Marcos dictatorship. My Martial Law Memoirs, which I am planning to serialize in our newspaper, Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro will tell what further happened to me.
To make it short, I left the priesthood (but not the Carmelite Order) and married a social worker in our parish in San Francisco, Agusan Sur, who had lost her husband in the Antongalon Massacre in 1986. I also adopted her six children and we got also a daughter of our own flesh and blood in 1991. We consider her a gift from heaven and a sign from God that he had approved of our decision to get married. Both my wife and myself are now associate members of the Carmelite Order and my daughter was chosen as prioress of the Carmel Youth Philippines.
My becoming a Carmelite was by no means an accident. I believe it was all the time planned by God. What is in a vocation?
All of us are called by God and we have a vocation in life. It may be a vocation to be a priest or a nun, a father or a mother, or to remain unmarried in order to be more available to be of service to our fellowmen.
Only God knows, but all of us have to be open to listen to his call. Our spirit or conscience will tell us what His plan is for us. It is: each one in his/her own situation, following the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 18, 2013.