Seminar for seminarians
the Call of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
written by Sem. Aurelius C. Mendoza – Diocese of Masbate
The Theological Centrum – a project of Studium Theologiae Foundation, Inc. has recently conducted the Seminar for Seminarians last May 23-26, 2016. Rev. Fr. Jimmy L. Liao, Theological Centrum Executive Director facilitated the seminar, making it a big success and a great achievement for the foundation and for the Church as well. This program is being held annually to help the seminarians prepare for the coming formation year. The theme of this recently concluded seminar is “Be Merciful Like the Father” in relation with the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which was held in Laguna Hills Study Camp, Calamba, Laguna. It was participated by thirty seminarians coming from eleven dioceses in the Philippines, one Apostolic Vicariate and one diocese from abroad (Lucena, Masbate, Tarlac, Maasin, San Pablo, Laoag, Lipa, Pasig, Ilagan, Tuguegarao, Cebu, San Jose in Mindoro and Xuan Hua of China).
The four-day seminar includes talks from various speakers, meditations and other spiritual exercises, and everything was inspired and rooted to the theme of the said seminar. On the first day, Fr. Noel Garrido, chaplain of the Tanglaw University Center talked about the importance of spiritual life for the Special Jubilee Year. He emphasized the proper attitude in the Year of Mercy is to cultivate a spiritual life, that is, a personal relationship with Christ. He also added that in order to strengthen spiritual life: develop life of prayer; cultivate virtues and ascetical practices such as penance and mortification. The second day, Fr. Cesar Claudio, an alumnus of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross discussed about the doctrinal formation needed to instruct the ignorant. Everyone was reminded about the universal call to holiness. He made a deep reflection on the topic by focusing it on the following ideas; “Who are the ignorant?”, “What are the strategies on how to instruct the ignorant?” and “what are the formation needed in instructing the ignorant?” In relation to this, Rev. Fr. Lloyd Singco shared his experiences on the social impact of CITE Technical School – an academic institution offering technical and vocational courses to the poor. Instructing, he said, requires not just from those who receive proper education, but more so, one can achieve good instruction by means of yearning on his own experiences. Mr. Emmanuel Rentoy, an educator from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) and the founding Executive Director of Character Education Partnership Philippines (CEPP) emphasizes the value of character in his lecture. Character enables people to survive, to endure and to transcend misfortunes. In the demand of good character of the one giving the instruction, Mr. Rentoy pointed that the first step in teaching moral intelligence is to become living moral examples.
Like the blind man in the Scriptural narrative who acknowledges himself being a sinner and ran unto Jesus, asking him to be healed, exposed his solid faith, believing that the Son of Man can cure him, we too must recognized our faults and cling unto the Father who is the only capable of mending our broken hearts exposed in these consumerist and diverse culture. The Sacrament of Penance was clearly retorted by Rev. Fr. Antonio Elizer Bermejo, concurrent Chairman of the Religion Department in the College of Arts and Sciences in UA & P in his discussion about the mercy of God. Fr. Bermejo laid the emphasis of true contrition as constituted of true sorrow and pain of the sin, the uproar of the sin committed (hating and rejecting) and a true resolution. He also appended the work of Scott Hahn’s book entitled “Lord, Have Mercy”, mentioning the natural reluctance of man to speak up about his moral failures, “We long to know peace in our Father’s arms; yet something dark within us tells us that it’s easier to turn our back to Him…we long to live in the truth; yet something dark within us tells us that our sins are best left unspoken”. However, merciful as He is, forgiveness is made possible. Causes of turning back from God and building gaps with our relationship with Him were identified by Rev. Fr. Roque Reyes and Rev. Fr. Raul Marino Sagles as they shared their ideas on Pornography Addiction and Culture of Indifference respectively. It was pointed out that the cause of such disorders is emptiness which resorts to seeking artificial paradise. Three key elements were given that may help a person avoid dependencies of such disorders, namely safeguarding identity as a child of God; maintaining a positive and hopeful struggle; and strengthening of self-esteem. Just FOCUS! (F-follow, O-one’s, C-course, U-until, S-successful.)
The term of talks continued as one of the essential components of seminary formation were discussed – and that is fraternal correction. Rev. Fr. Laurence Salud, chaplain of Lauan University Center strongly provide the importance of fraternal correction among seminarians in fostering a good camaraderie, community relationship and being responsible as one’s closest brother. Also, a talk was given by Rev. Fr. Manuel Belarmino all about gaining indulgence through Holy Door. A remarkable reminder of Fr. Belarmino caught everyone’s attention, telling that the first and only step to gain the indulgence is to recognize that we are in need of the mercy of God. After that, a prayerful pilgrimage was done at the National Shrine of St. Padre Pio of Pieltrecina in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, thus concluding the four-day journey full and mercy and compassion from the Lord.
Aside from the various talks presented in the Seminar, spiritual activities were also held within those times such as the celebration of the Holy Mass, Holy Hour, personal meditations and confessions. Sports competitions and musical presentations were joyfully done in order to release the dead air in the seminar.
As the seminarians parted their ways, the speakers pleaded them to hold in to their mindsets the wisdom, inspiration and piety they gained throughout the program and not just to put it on their minds, but to place it on their actions. Theological Centrum will keep this program so that every soul on this world may be touched by the mercy of the Lord, through the aid of his beloved seminarians.
Seminar for Seminarians 2015
“Called to Give Mercy and Compassion”
The flame of Pope Francis’ influence as the successor of St. Peter spread around the world the moment he was elected. His influence to the Filipino people was even made stronger during his pastoral visit in the Philippines last January 2015. In a press briefing soon after the departure of the Holy Father, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said: May I recommend first of all that we spend time relishing the event. The event is so deep—so deep. There is so much to reflect on, so much to pray over, so much to learn. And it is only in meditation, in prayer, in silence, that we can really get to the depths of the profound meaning of this event. In response to the invitation to reflect on the papal visit messages, the annual seminar for seminarians organized by the Theological Centrum (TC), in collaboration with various diocesan seminaries in the Philippines, was held from May 23 to 26, 2015, having as its theme: Called to Give Mercy and Compassion. Fifty seminarians from fifteen dioceses in the Philippines (Bacolod, Balanga, Bayombong, Calbayog, Cebu, Daet, Ilagan, Legazpi, Lipa, Malolos, Masbate, Pasig, San Pablo, Sorsogon and Tarlac) and 2 dioceses (Xuanhua and Zhaoxian) of mainland China gathered at St. Michael Retreat House in Antipolo City for the said seminar
Four months have passed since the unforgettable experience and, in view of the forthcoming start of the new school year in the seminaries, Fr. Jimmy L. Liao, Executive Director of TC, reminded the seminarians in his opening orientation that the seminar was intended for everyone to have a deep personal encounter with Jesus in prayer, activities, and through the speakers assigned in each conference and talk. The four-day seminar schedule included daily guided meditations, confessions, Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Mass, Holy Hours, conferences, talks, and a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Antipolo at the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje.
The speakers, armored with abundant wisdom and affected by the “Francis Effect”, shared their reflections on the Pope’s messages to the Filipinos in the following places: at Malacañang Palace given by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas (Columnist, Manila Bulletin and Philippine Daily Inquirer); University of Sto. Tomas grounds by Fr. Raymund “Lucky” Acuña (Diocese of Tarlac); Manila Cathedral by Fr. Mark Emman J. Sese (Diocese of Pasig); Rizal Park by Fr. Alex O. Bautista (Diocese of Tarlac); Tacloban Airport by Fr. Jomel Ian E. dela Cruz (Diocese of Masbate), and in the Mall of Asia Arena given by Most Rev. Gabriel V. Reyes, bishop of Antipolo. The six conferences were complemented by three talks entitled: “Catalysts for Change” by Mr. Mann Rentoy (Character Education Partnership Philippines), “The Francis Effect–From Euphoria to Reality to Mission” by Fr. Roy M. Bellen (Vice-President of Radyo Veritas, General Manager of TV Maria) , and “Philosophical Considerations on Think Well, Feel Well, Do Well ” by Fr. Roque L. Reyes (PAREF Woodrose School).
The participants were encouraged to continue on being ambassadors of Christ, good pastors, and seminarians as priests for the future, living the three languages of love (of the mind, of the heart and of the hands), knowing their identity as children of God, learning not just the truth, but how to communicate it, on being aware of what the Holy Father reminded the faithful on “ideological colonization, and especially through prayer, and intimate union with God.
Other activities were included, such as the tertulia (family get-together) after every lunch and dinner, during which priests and seminarians shared their life or vocation, thus camaraderie and fraternity among them were strengthened. Daily sports were also part of the schedule wherein the seminarians were divided into 4 groups, that is, Mercy and Compassion (Group 1), Feel Well (Group 2), Think Well (Group 3), and Do Well (Group 4). They battled again in the Musicale, a simple show on the last night wherein all shared their different talents on singing, dancing, acting, and interpretative dance.
The seminar may have ended on the afternoon of May 26, 2015, but the refreshed inspiration to mission for the seminarians has just begun. They parted ways carrying with them the joy which our Lord Jesus Christ manifested in the Gospels, the same joy which the Holy Father spread in his visit to the Philippines, to their respective places of mission in their dioceses.
Editors Note: Sem. Brian Victor de Castro is a seminarian from the Diocese of Sorsogon and a scholar of Studium Theologiae Foundation, Inc. He is currently taking up his theological studies at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and his seminary formation at the Sedes Sapientiae International Seminary in Rome, Italy.