By Fr. Victor Diolata, Jr., SSS
In accordance with the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament’s Rule of Life #46, “. . . Formation is a lifelong process and involves each and every one of us,” the Province of Our Lady of the Assumption (POLA) provides for Ongoing Formation of its religious. To facilitate this process, they have been divided into the following groups based on the number of years of being a perpetually professed brother or a priest: Young Religious – from 0-5 years; Junior Religious – 6-10 years; Middle Religious – 11-15 years; Senior Religious – 16-20; and Jubilarians – 20 years and over.
This November 6 to 10, 2017, the middle religious, Fr. Roel de la Cruz, Fr. Pat Labasano, Fr. Froilan Briones, Fr. Randy Vergara, Fr. Justin Montañez, Br. Rey Acabado, Br. Reno Intong, Fr. Juned Paglinawan, Fr. Muriel Uy, Fr. Dannen Mejillano, Fr. Thonn Riosa, Fr. Send Paragas, Fr. Bobit Laroga, Fr. Ford Barrios, and Fr. Junvic Diolata, gathered for ongoing formation, which was held at St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, the same place where the ‘young religious group’ had their own ongoing formation. The reason the Council decided to hold this year’s ongoing formation at Pagudpud was two-fold: Fr Mark del Rosario, the current administrator of the parish, who gave the formation talk plus it gave the religious the opportunity to visit the new SSS mission station.
Among the different groups of religious for the ongoing formation, the middle religious are the most consistent and faithful in holding their annual gathering. We sincerely recognize its positive effects in our journey, especially as we acknowledged that we are not getting any younger, and so we took the opportunity to share and to strengthen our bonding and friendship. Every year, we carefully plan the dates, usually during the annual retreat, wherein the coordinator, the secretary, the theme (at times), the place and the speaker are finalized. As mentioned earlier, Fr. Mark was the speaker and his current place of assignment was the venue.
As usual, we were all excited. The place was really nice, and we felt the warm welcome of the parishioners of St Jude Thaddeus Parish. Admittedly, we also felt a bit of sadness since some of our members were not able to free themselves of other commitments. What a missed opportunity! They were not able to hear the input of Fr. Mark which focused on the “WORD, HUMAN, SACRIFICE and DIVINE” – as inspired by the four evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Fr. Mark led us to reflect on our considerably and already quite long years of religious life vis-a-vis our accomplishments. True enough we could already boast of our accomplishments or achievements and the numerous assignments, ministries, work or positions of authority we may have held, BUT all of us found it unnecessary to claim and be credited for them. Instead, we would rather look at them as our expressions of gratitude to the Province for allowing us to take part in her mission in the Church as full-fledged sons of St. Peter Julian Eymard. Yet, at the same time, we were quick to acknowledge our imperfections due to our personal idiosyncrasies which sometimes run counter to our witnessing as vowed religious. This, however, does not bog us down to continue the struggle to better ourselves in the near future as a manifestation of our love and concern for the province. Everyone has expressed his desire to give even more of himself for the sake of the Gospel and for the realization of the Eucharistic Kingdom as our founder has dreamt about.
It's indeed amazing to know in our company that the primacy of the Eucharist and prayer of adoration have never been sidelined even in situations where the temptation to set aside these spiritual exercises is quite strong. We are aware and we cannot afford to let go of the celebration of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed and the Liturgy of the Hours even just for a day because we are convinced that these are the hard facts and the significant keys towards the success of Eucharistic Mission – they are simply too hard to ignore no matter what.
We thank the whole POLA Council for the support, encouragement and appreciation shown to each of us. We also thank Fr. Mark for the gift of self and for being a great model of an SSS religious. We look forward to the next POLA gatherings, e.g., POLA Assembly, POLA Retreat, and 8th POLA Chapter, and, of course, our next MIDDLE RELIGIOUS GATHERING 2018.
We parted feeling renewed, reinvigorated and replenished for another year of pastoral works until the next bonding encounter. We thank our brothers Roel, Pat (absent this time) and Rey for journeying with us in this Middle Religious Group. You graduated from our batch with flying colors. See you at the next level. May the inspiration of St Peter Julian Eymard and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament be always with us.