By Rev. Alde Bureros, SSS
The Rule of Life of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament encouragingly states, “Life-long formation is more than ever necessary in our rapidly changing world; it allows individuals and communities to renew themselves in their vocation” (n. 61). Moreover, “on-going formation is an indispensable requirement in the life of every priest and in the exercise of his ministry. In fact, the interior attitude of the priest must be distinguished by an openness to the will of God, following the example of Christ. This implies a continued conversion of heart, the capacity to see one’s life, and its events in the light of faith and, above all, the pastoral charity, by way of total gift of self to the Church, according to the design of God” (Ratio Fundamentalis 2015, n. 56) It is in this light that 16 young religious of the Congregation, Province of Our Lady of the Assumption, went to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, our newly established community, for one week (Sept. 18-23, 2017), as part of their ongoing formation.
Although it took us ten hours to reach Pagudpud, the warm hospitality of our confreres and generous parishioners certainly made up for the long trip, not discounting the well-organized reception our facilitator had arranged fitting a five-day session. As a newly ordained Deacon, a neophyte to the group called “Young Religious,” I found the experience edifying and life-changing primarily because of the goodwill and fellowship of brothers whose purpose and mission are congruent, that is, “to respond to the hungers of the human family with the riches of God’s love manifested in the Eucharist” (ROL, n. 3). In this occasion, we find ourselves in equal footing in terms of formation opportunity and develop-ment. The dichotomy of superiority and inferiority ceased to exist and what is pervasively visible was the “Sacramentino brother-hood.” Thus, “the love of God and our vocation gather us at the heart of the Church, placing ourselves at the service of the Kingdom.” (ROL, n. 5)
Indeed, Fr. Mark del Rosario, SSS, did a great job as facilitator. The topics he presented were not only timely and relevant but spiritually enriching. His prowess of integrating the themes drawn from the four Gospels focusing on Word, Human, Sacrifice, and Divine appropriating them to the Decalogue, the Beatitude, and the Lord’s Prayer were certainly unprecedented. At first glance, they all look familiar from the point of view of scripture-based theology. Interestingly enough, however, this time he threw a kind of newly flavored menu, palatable to an inquisitive mind. Indeed, the topics were heart-provoking, which made us realize where we stand as Religious in a constantly changing world. Also present at the occasion was our esteemed Bishop Ronnie Bancud, SSS, who shared his thoughts on pastoral realities. Truly, Bishop Ronnie, a Sacramentino at heart who is exceptional in his gift of self, is bearing so much fruit springing from the Eucharist.
Overall, the ongoing formation that we went through was very much helpful to us. It was a holistic intervention necessary to our journey as Religious engaged in broad ministries. As it is, I believe that formation involves the whole person. It is never finished. It must continue as long as you live.
Central to formation is encountering Jesus in his Word, the Sacraments, and the poor. Your heart and intellect need to be stimulated and purified by such encounters. As Pope Francis said about the value of the ongoing formation for the ministers of the Church, “It means guarding and fostering vocations, that they may bear ripe fruit. They are ‘diamonds in the rough,’ ready to be carefully polished with respect for the conscience of the candidates and with patience, so that they may shine among the People of God.” The Pope further said, “Formation is therefore not a unilateral act by which someone transmits theological or spiritual notions. Jesus did not say to those he called, ‘come, let me explain,’ ‘follow me, I will teach you’: no! The formation offered by Christ to his disciples came rather as a ‘come and follow me,’ ‘do as I do;’ and this is the method that today too the
Church wants to adopt for her ministers. The formation of which we speak is a discipular experience which draws one to Christ and conforms one ever more to Him. Precisely for this reason, it cannot be a limited task, because priests never stop being disciples of Jesus, who follow Him.”(Address of Pope Francis to Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy, Oct. 3, 2014)
The popular adage which says, “The young can accomplish magnificent things for the Master’s cause” is apt to the context and scope of the congregation’s mission at present. We gratefully acknowledge the truth that the congregation highly expects from us, the Young Religious, not only to pro-actively handle various ministries entrusted to our care but, at the same time, to become beacons of light, living out fully the mystery of the Eucharist and “to make known its meaning so that Christ’s reign may come and the glory of God be revealed to the world” (cf. ROL, n.1)