The morning of Valentine’s Day, the taxi driver asked me in tagalog, “So, I bet you have a date tonight?” Laughing, I said, “Haha, nope!” Usually I play along and make up some elaborate story just to entertain the drivers for the few minutes while we are commuting, but this time, I thought I would be honest. It was too early to begin lying. He said, “Oh, really? Is it a secret?” I said, “Nope!” He said, “Bakit?” (“Why?”)
And so I said, “I’m going down to Manila to spend my Valentine’s Day at a seminary tonight because two of my friends will be making their perpetual vows tomorrow.” Silence! The taxi driver didn’t know what to say. Moreso, I think because it was the last thing he was expecting me to say!
And, that is exactly what I did a couple of days ago.
Sr. Terezinha and I headed down to Manila after our staff meeting to stay at the CICM Formation Community, which is the home of post-novices or “juniors.” They are the young men who have already gone through novitiate, and have been in the process with the CICM congregation for about 5 years, though the number of years vary. After their formation in this community where they are enrolled in theology courses at a local institution, they will then be sent out on mission for a few years and then, if they discern to continue, they will then make perpetual vows as religious CICM missionaries!
|“…we need young men who are prepared to forget all about themselves and who will only live for the interest of the Almighty to whom they offered themselves when they entered missionary work.” – Theophile Verbist, Founder of CICM|
Brother Marcio and Brother Thiago are two Brazilian seminarians that Sr. Terezinha befriended since being here. They came up to Baguio once, we all hung out, and it was great. After hearing word that they would be making their perpetual vows (pretty much the biggest deal for religious – even moreso than the priesthood ordination celebration), we decided to go! It was a blessing to be in the community and to be greeted by such warm hospitality at the Center.
As soon as I walked in, the guys were having recreation time, and it was so awesome to see some familiar faces of those who I knew because they had visited Baguio once or twice. I later learned that there were many, many nations represented in their community – guys from Zambia, the Philippines, Congo, China, Brazil…the list went on and on.
We had dinner that night (Valentine’s Dinner!), Sr. T blessed the food, and was it intimidating because there were like 30 seminarians all around? Heck yes. I was just thinking to myself, yeah…they’re probably wondering who this random girl is with Sr. Terezinha. She explained who I was, and I think it eased their curiosity a bit. They were all around my age too, so it was nice to be around similar-aged guys, and through the next two days, they were like brothers. Consecrated men, people! No funny business, AT ALL. It was beautiful!
Before dinner, we had half an hour of silence and then Vespers. Silence as in, sit in the chapel and be silent with Jesus. I was shocked at how much conversation I had with Jesus – clearly, I think i talked His ear off, though I think He didn’t mind. Bro. Willian said, no journaling, no reading, just silence. I said, Ok and thought to myself, dang. when was the last time I even attempted to do that? No journaling? What? But, it was great! We then had Vespers, and all I was thinking was, “Shoot. All these colored strings. I don’t know how to even use the Breviary. Uh oh…” Thank goodness of the brothers saw me struggling and helped me out. It was actually really nice and I enjoyed it.
That night, after dinner, I heard they were going to have music practice for the Mass the next day, so I decided to stick around for that. I saw a keyboard, and started jamming on the keys, which was such freedom for me, and then one of the brothers started playing the drums, then the other just busted out on his guitar, and it was so cool! Haha, I was just thinking to myself, dude, I LOVE this! Just playing worship music, singing, smiling, and them being surprised that I’m not just some random girl who showed up to stay at their community for the night. I mean, in a sense, I was – but there was so much more than just that! We had choir practice and I learned some songs in Visaya and Portuguese. Pretty good stuff. And it was equally entertaining to join in on their practice and listen to the various opinions they each had on the songs. When you get people from all these different nations, awesomeness happens. Ah, I love intercultural exchanges!
BUT, I never thought I would experience Valentine’s Day at a seminary, THAT’s for sure! 🙂
The next morning, Sr. Terezinha and I had some free time, so we planned our entire Lenten season catechesis for our parents, our children at SOSCFI, and for our Bible Studies. We are on our way and were so productive! Yes! Lots of work? YES. But, it is absolutely needed. We spent the rest of the morning/afternoon with Bro. Thiago, Bro. Willian, and Fr. Wilson! Fr. Wilson USED to be Bro. Wilson, but he since got ordained. I was the minority, being the only non-Brazilian, but it was no big deal! Then Bro. Fabio came, and we got to catch up, and then we all had lunch together.
|Sr. T, Fr. Wilson, Bro. Thiago, and Bro. Fabio 🙂|
Ah, it was so great to just hear stories and share experiences. I feel like I gain so much wisdom and knowledge in just listening to their mission experiences and also listening to their experiences in the congregation and in the seminary. I am like a sponge just taking in everything, but also being inspired at the lives that they live. Bro. Thiago works at a hospital with leprosy patients, and Bro. Marcio (he was with his host family in the morning/afternoon) has been working in youth ministry at a Catholic school. Both Brazilian, they totally embody the charism of the CICM congregation.
CICM stands for the “Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” though sometimes they call themselves, “Congregation of International Cute Men.” Ha, go figure. Their charism is so bold and so missionary – it was such a gift to be with them. Right dab center in the middle of their chapel is this HUGE cross, with part of their CICM constitution printed right next to it. Ah, so missionary, it was inspiring! I read a letter written by Theophile Verbist, their Founder, and I thought, change “men” to “women” and I swear it could have been Mother Cabrini who wrote the letter.
That afternoon was the Perpetual Vows of Bro. Thiago and Bro. Marcio and since their parents (who live in Brazil) could not make it, we all made sure to take lots of pictures so that their parents could see pictures of their sons on their special day! Perpetual Vows are a HUGE deal for religious because it is when they officially, totally enter religious life, FOREVER. I learned the difference between religious order priests and Diocesan priests too – so that was interesting.
|in the beginning.|
|prostrating during the litany of the saints.|
|hugs from their fellow priests!|
The homily at the Mass was really beautiful and it was SUPER bold and honest. Father spoke about the sacrifices that need to be made when joining CICM as missionaries – you are sacrificing a personal family, you need to be aware that in the case where your parents are sick, or if someone close to you has died, you may not physically be there for them, you will never have this, or that…and he said, “are you ready?” He continued in joking and said, “Do not bring us any troubles!” Haha, he emphasized that this is forever – that this life that they have chosen to live, is forever, and it is a gift from God. It was such a beautiful homily and it was just so inspiring to see two of my brothers, my generation, make these vows, make this life commitment to serve and love God and others the best way that they can through mission.
|…consecrated to God. CICM forever.|
I concluded that it is this love for God that is at the root of being able to live this type of life and it is truly such a radical way of life. A beautiful one. I think we can recognize this as a grace from God, because well, not just anybody could do this. Just like not anybody can be a doctor or not anybody could be a _______. It lies in vocation.
I think one of the powerful moments that I experienced at the celebration was during the “Our Father” when everyone in the chapel was praying and singing the “Our Father” in Tagalog – “Ama Namin.” Because this is a missionary order and of course because the priests celebrate mass here in the Philippines, they have studied and know the language, I’m sure some better than others, but regardless of skill level, everyone was singing in Tagalog. All these different cultures singing one language – the language of the country that they are missioned in. One word: enculturation. The Spirit was present!
At the end we took lots of pictures and then had dinner with the hundreds of guests – mostly religious. 🙂 As I was walking over, one of the brothers asked me if I could do the Opening Prayer to bless the food. I was like, “BROTHER. Seriously?” He’s like, “yeah! can you do it?” I said, “Shoot, ok, fine!” So then, I was like, “Sr. Terezinha. Shoot, I’m going to do the opening prayer to bless the food!” What’d she say? “Ok! Go aheadddd!” The best. 🙂
Before I was going to pray, I was just thinking, “dang…look at all these religious – priests, sisters, brothers, lots of people i do NOT know. I hope my simple prayer will suffice.” But the Spirit moved in me, and the food was blessed. Thank you, Jesus! One of the priests afterwards shook my hand, and said, “Very nice prayer. Where are you from? Brazil?” Haha, I laughed, explained to him my story and then later on he asked me if I was ever on Pinoy Big Brother. I told him that would be my next stop. Ha! Later on, Sr. Terezinha gave a message to the boys too, and the guests got a kick out of it, cause well, she’s hilarious and honest. 🙂
|Sr. T speaking truth and funnies!|
|Bro. Thiago busted out Tagalog first!|
|Bro. Marcio expressing his gratitude!|
It was such a beautiful celebration and I am extremely grateful for this experience. I realized how important community is, for support and continued encouragement. People came from all over to be there for the Perpetual Vows of our Brothers – from Kalinga, from Baguio, from Cebu, from all over the Philippines. I am so grateful that Sr. T and I have the opportunity to work closely with a CICM priest in many of our endeavors here in Baguio, and no doubt the CICM fathers have helped foster and nourish my vocation at their parish.
Such a blessing, and there is consolation in knowing that there are other young people out there, just trying their best to learn how to best follow their heart and follow their will to love and serve the Lord, in the way of life-long commitment to religious life.