One day, I met and talked to the Vocation Director of the Comboni Missionaries, Fr. Marnie Cuarteros, after the wake Mass of his cousin who happened to be a distant cousin of my brother-in-law in Caloocan City. Since then, he accompanied me well by first letting me know about the Comboni Missionaries as he gave me a copy of the famous World Mission magazine in Asia. He invited me to attend the monthly Eucharistic Adoration and Vocational Recollection at St. Daniel Comboni Seminary (DCS) in Quezon City. Constant prayer is necessary to have good vocation discernment.
Eventually, I decided to join the DCS in 2005. Thank God I was accepted despite being almost 27 years old already. I did my first two years of Postulancy during which I graduated in Philosophy at Christ the King Mission Seminary. In 2007, I entered the two-year Novitiate formation stage. Since then, I have been convinced that my “yes” to God’s call is also my “yes” to be of more extraordinary service to Him and His people anywhere.
Yes, I believe that the Lord of the Mission who called me to follow Him is the same Lord who has been guiding and sustaining me throughout these years. I professed my First Vows on June 7, 2009 at DCS Chapel. Two months later, I was sent to our international scholasticate center in Nairobi, Kenya for my theological studies which I finished in 2012 at the Jesuit’s Hekima University College. After that, I spent a year of missionary service in our mission parish of Kacheliba among the pastoralist Pokot brothers and sisters, near the Kenya-Uganda border. I took my final vows there and was ordained deacon on July 14 and 27, 2013 respectively.
During my deaconate ministry in Kacheliba, I felt more deeply in love with the Word of God especially in leading the prayer service (Ibada, in Swahili language) in the parish church, outstation chapels and our sponsored schools. I tried to convey to others the ever-inspiring message of God that comes to me first. It was indeed a challenge to use either Kiswahili or the traditional Pokot language.
There I witnessed the few yet joyful and active Catholics with their liturgical singing, dancing, chanting, jumping and clapping of hands. In African liturgy, I also felt delighted when hearing the loud beating of drums, the playing of guitars and kayamba, pieces of wood with stones inside. There were also heart-moving moments of matembezi, the visitations and prayer in some households called manyattas. Most of all, I was touched by the active youth participation in my catechism classes, recollections on Advent and Lent, and the liturgical activities on Christmas and Holy Week. Thanks be to God for the many beautiful memories with them.
On New Year’s Day of 2014, I arrived in my hometown for holidays and immediate preparation for my priestly ordination. It was on March 10, 2014 at my home parish where I was baptized, confirmed, became sacristan, catechist, Legionary of Mary, and Single for Christ member. It was a significant day in which my heart was full of joy, love, and gratitude to God and to all who, in one way or another, have been part of my life’s journey.
MISSION AD GENTES
Two months after my priestly ordination, I was asked to work in our Asia Delegation, particularly in vocation promotion and basic formation. In addition, I have been teaching English to some young students while accompanying them in their vocation discernment. Together with them and through prayers, we may become more docile with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be courageous for the present and future.
I thank God for these challenging yet exciting missionary experiences. There have been so many valuable lessons and insights. As I move on in this journey, I shall keep in my pilgrim heart those wonderful faces and events in the mission. As our founder and my best friend alive in heaven–Saint Daniel Comboni said, “The happiest of my days shall be the one when I shall be able to give my life for you.” Similarly, it is my great joy to offer my own life for the mission ad gentes in the service of the Gospel.