Preparation Program for Perpetual Profession of Vows 2019

LOMERI, FIJI—We are now at the end of our 8-week long preparation for perpetual profession here in Marist Brothers Novitiate where we arrived last May 24. We, the 15 participants from six different countries, are the following

District of Melanesia
1. Dominic Nekebatu (Solomon Islands)
2. Jeremy Wabi (Bougainville)

Compostela Province
1. Fabio Oliveira (Portugal)

Marist District of Asia
1. Cong Nguyen (Vietnam)
2. Quy Nguyen (Vietnam)

East Asia Province
A. Philippine Sector
1. John Emil Alada (Philippines)
2. Rechie Dean Bagsican (Philippines)
3. Raymund Gallardo (Philippines)
4. Lloyd Gamboa (Philippines)
5. Deo Dudz Hizo (Philippines)
6. Philip Caesar Renacia (Philippines)
7. Cian Marco Tabuada (Philippines)
8. John Allen Timola (Philippines)
9. Aljon Yonder (Philippines)

B. Korea-Japan Sector
1. Moses Cho (South Korea)

Along with the Novitiate community, we were welcomed by the Preparation Team headed by Br. Bryan Davis (Australia), Br. Jacobo Song (South Korea), and Br. Ted Fernandez (Philippines).

Br. Bryan Davis led the first week with “Vocational Quest”, where we shared about our vocation stories, our questions on religious life, discernment, meaning of life for us, and our hopes and expectations.

Br. Graham Neist presented the topic on Listening and Responding Contemplatively, where contemplative practice and “turning up” (presence) appealed to us.

Br. Michael Green presented us Marcellin’s Spirituality according to the vows, wherein the “bon enfant” style of being a brother, a down-to-earth way of being a brother, struck us the most.

Br. Sean Sammon presented An Undivided Heart, a topic on celibate chaste living, and even gave out copies of his book.

Br. Barry Burns presented Living Simply, a connection of our vow of poverty with our pope’s call to care for our common home.

Br. Tony Leon presented Brothers Today as an epic love story, and he even prompted us to make our own artworks.

Br. Angel Medina presented New Expressions of Marist Life, particularly the La Valla 200 Program.

In the midst of the program, the brothers enjoyed going to the nearby beach in Loloma to swim and play volleyball. But what excited them most was drinking kava, a must-try local drink here. Each brother even bought Bula shirts and some even wore Fijian sulu.

Our final week of the program is dedicated to what we call as the Synthesis, wherein each brother will make a creative presentation of all their experiences of the program with songs, dance, music, artworks, poetry, crafts, video presentation, and even told their own life stories.

And now, our hope for the future is that we would bring all of these learning into our respective communities and our ministries.

Please pray for us. 🙏

Is celibacy the cause of sexual abuse?

One of the take away lessons from our retreat is when we discussed about the problem of sexual abuses in the Roman Catholic Church. Though us Marist Brothers are not clerical, the discussion applies to us since we represent a different kind of “face” of the Church (in the words of our Superior General Br. Emili Turu, “a Marian face“). There had been a movement to remove celibacy as a requirement for Priesthood (on the other hand, that will never happen in religious orders since it’s our “sign” of consecration). But really, is celibacy the cause of the sexual abuse problem we have? I have a strong opinion on this one. It is not a problem of celibacy. As Fr. Roland said, it is a problem of commitment. If one is committed, then why a priest or a religious would be “full of himself” and abuse these little ones (one of the most horrible offense or “sin”)? He should not have been a priest in the first place! If us religious vowed celibate chastity, the secular priest promise celibacy. And regardless of the term, that is still synonymous to commitment. Like a counselor sister said to a priest who was once struggling, if you still want to become a Catholic priest use your ” creating energy”, be an Eastern Catholic priest. In truth, there are many many married clergy in the Catholic Church! I was even surprised when I learned about it at first. Any way, to prevent this problem, the Church, the people of God and not just the hierarchy, must be proactive. As Pope Francis once mentioned about the importance of initial formation of seminarians and novices in one of his sermons, hence they create “little monsters“.

I am writing this entry in a secluded area where there’s only three in the community (I, a brother and a lay mission partner). I am far away from my family. I have no girlfriend, no wife, and no children. Is it a lonely life? Yes. I remember my aunt’s reaction when she learned that I am still a Marist Brother. She said that I might have been living a sad life. (In Filipino, the word malungkot may mean alone or sad). But before I go out of the topic, yes I am living a lonely life now but it is not always like that. Yes, my life is becoming lonelier than ever. But that’s not all. Community living and the solidarity of the Brothers who have lived this kind of life is my source of consolation. If the burden of this commitment is becoming heavier, I must admit it though it may be seen as unmanly of me. Emotions must be expressed or else it might manifest somewhere else.

If the way I am (or the lack of my
character) is not anymore congruent to the commitment of being a Brother, then that’s the time to leave. I won’t be able to radiate the joy of the kingdom if that happens. I must not insist anymore if that happens since it is not God’s call that I am listening or responding into; it is myself calling me.

Strangely, I feel like it’s Good Friday on an Easter weekday. But remember, Resurrection is not possible without the Crucifixion. Besides, I’m just carrying the load of the cross. Yes, I feel some burden now but my head is still up. Carry on, Allen! You’ll see the Risen Lord.

Let’s talk about sex

Talking about human sexuality usually interests most of us (if not all); but when we do talk about it, we usually struggle. Looking back, I realized that I learned a lot about sexuality when I entered religious life. Thanks to Br. Sean Sammon for writing about chastity and sexuality, I really learned a lot from him. I learned from him that being sexual is not just about genital sex.

I must admit that being a novice under religious formation, I think the part of celibacy is one of the hardest choice to make.

“Am I sure of living a celibate life and not marry?”

[Author’s Note: I admit that this is one of the most uncomfortable post that I ever wrote about. Since I’d rather not talk about it in person, I resorted into writing (or blogging). This daring post is to start a healthy conversation about human sexuality. And if someone out there resonates with my dilemma, please feel free to reach out and comment.]