THAT WE HAD to go back and forth twice that Friday morning gave me fair warning that Murphy’s Law will try to get in our way but I was certain he can only get as far as try; Mary was our way, purpose, and destination. When we got past the initial hurdles in BF, Don Antonio, and McDo, little did we know that Waze had more surprises up his techie screwed-up sleeve (I’m no motorist but I find google maps more helpful and reliable). Suffice it to say that, when our loyal driver UtoLiza gave up the errant traffic guide, because helped by kind residents who kept sympathetically giving us directions (even rued that we were one purok past already), we ultimately found the Montfort House of Prayer in Sitio Saging, Purok 5, Paradise 3, in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The place was unchanged, still the same holy haven that it struck me as the first time that I set foot there; we evidently took a different route is why we got lost. Undaunted by Murphy, we were thankful to Mary. And to Ate Marivic, the seasoned motorist who knew most of Montfortian meeting places so offered to keep an eye on us at the corner of the approach to the retreat house. Initial jubilation erupted when she, Sis Jackie, and Ates Ofel and Veron reunited with UtoL, Ate Car, Sisters Angel and Irene, and me. Which was repeated and amplified at the Planning Session with Fr. Fed.
The two-day Planning and Retreat for AMQAH lay associates organized by the Montfortian Missionary priests to cap and reecho the Continental Mission Year Conference they attended in Indonesia yielded productive, promising fruits. Significantly, it also brought together delegates from Bulacan, Cebu, Kinatarcan, Dagupan, Makati, and Quezon City. They comprised the core group who, for the first time with the Society of Montfort Missionaries (SMM), will convene as one family and community (fammunity) in the fulfillment of the overall mission of propagating the reign of Jesus through Mary. The Montfort fathers were visibly energized when they shared their Indonesian experience and it was clearly obvious they wanted to continue the journey with their lay counterparts.
Day 1 started with the delegates from Quezon City sitting with Fr. Fed with their report of activities from 2019 to 2021 and mapping out their plans for what remains of 2022 and the succeeding year. Mary’s Place spearheaded the reporting with UtoLiza and Ate Ofel taking turns. Custodian of the Core Group, the team will continue to oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the Montfort Center of Spirituality (MCS) along with budget allocation and records keeping. There is a plan to consign/sell Marian/Montfortian books/articles to the Legion House, St. Vincent de Paul, and other possible outlets to boost the Center’s existing funds.
Fr. Fed filled in for the Spirituality Team and outlined the TTJ relaunch in areas where the pandemic aborted the plan, as well as an arrangement for a renewal with Fr. Hugh, deepening sessions with Sis Ana Marie, and other pipeline projects, foremost of which is the review of the Facilitators Training Program. This aims to rally the reawakening of TTJers who, after a pause from consecration, seem to grow lukewarm and, therefore, need to be concentrated on by a point (tutok) person. Gloriously, the team’s leader, Sis Gelly, was able to catch up on the second day and graciously consented to present UtoLiza’s evaluation of the four teams’ plans of action.
Evangelization Team followed with Kuya Ham and his signature short report in a yellow pad, with able assist from Ates Car, Veron, and Marivic. The one-pager outlined the pilgrimages and recollections organized by them and their plus points and downsides. The fourth to render Mission Team’s report, on behalf of Ate Relly, who was nursing sick husband Kuya Arnel, was Sis Jackie, whose comprehensive handouts were further enhanced by Sis Angel’s incisive insights and Sis Irene’s backup. Highlights of their report were the feeding program, dental/medical/optical mission, all successful except for one setback which they analyzed with the other teams and derived an enlightening lesson to learn from, using the SWOT quadrant.
Having finished the task, the teams dispersed for a break and resumed to pray the rosary with the other delegates who have returned from their exploration of the place. This was followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After the Holy Hour, the now bigger assembly shared a conversational dinner and, shortly thereafter, ballooned in a plethora of fun and games. The Scholastics evidently made sure that no participant ended up empty-handed; tokens galore were received by the joyful partakers of the parlor plays. Bro Harold served as emcee and game marshall with Bros Glenn and Tupe ably assisting him. The pictures of Bro Glenn will provide a better, playful, and hilarious narrative.
Saturday dawned on the delegates with a morning prayer at the chapel, containing specifically the CMY Prayer, followed by a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, everyone trekked to the fourth floor for the plenary.
Fr. Norwyn’s reflection on their perception of the lay associates confirmed the congregation’s sentiment. Their goal is to further strengthen our fraternal union and cooperation to participate and collaborate. As initiatives to “Rise and Shine,” they aim to intensify cooperation with as many laity as possible, to make them reliable witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, which the CMY in Indonesia recognized. But first, he asked, who are we? His own answers were: It’s not enough to be a Montfortian spiritual if one does not participate in the mission; we may be missionaries but are not spiritual; we are spiritual if we live the spirituality and participate in the mission through the statutes of being a living, reliable witness.
The question that Fr. Norman posed to the lay associates was “What has changed in you as a Montfortian?” To guide them, he provided precepts, myriad as they were Marian (or Montfortian, if you please). He said that, as a collaborator in the missions that they are doing, the lay associates are being a blessing from God which is an invitation for growth. As members in communion with the Montfortian priests, they celebrate together with them as one family. We are also a community, a team (Together Everyone Achieves More) that works with one another. Journeying together with others gives way to know one’s self-identity as a Montfortian and deepens that identity. We cannot say that we are Montfortians if we do not have a genuine love for Mary. The Montfortian charism – of how the spirituality became a gift for the founder – is manifested in total dependence on Divine Providence. The SMM spirituality is a continuous learning process which continues to engage the writings of our founder. The mission – the spirit that animates us all – also manifests in our way of doing things. The openness of the mind and heart is a very important attitude in continuing the work of the mission. Spirituality must not only be an idea, it has to be a “word that becomes flesh.” We are called to walk together in the footsteps of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.
To help the lay associates in addressing the question, Fr. Fed presented a re-echo of their Indonesian experience.
It’s the first time, he said, that we formally gather together as one SMM family – both lay and SMM members. The Fr. General explained why the CMY was organized, which is important, to know who we really are and understand why we are doing what we are doing. Knowing our identity, especially in the context of Asia and Oceania, we are missionaries first, called and sent (Montfortians). It calls for our availability to make the lay associates participate and collaborate in the founder’s dream of creating a confraternity of consecrated men and women whose role is much broader than simply being set aside for holiness because of mindfulness of the Montfortian statutes. Thus, AMQAH, because of Mary’s company (and not just the Company of Mary), becomes the extension of the congregation and the Blessed Virgin acquires more children and servants to make Jesus more known and loved. Having thus formed a missionary spiritual fammunity, we can join hands together and proclaim to the world our readiness to “Rise and Shine,” the theme of the CMY Conference.
Teamwork is highlighted when we work together. When we journey together with others, it gives way to know our identity and the deepening of that identity as a Montfortian.
We are doing the re-echo so that you will also be re-energized in doing the mission as we, who participated in Indonesia, did. So that you will also have that burning desire to love God alone. With our charism, identity, and spirituality, CMY’s desire to intensify Mary’s mission, our witness to it, and the mystery of Incarnation will find fruition. India had difficulties because of many elements; Papua New Guinea, too, but their faces were full of joy; and our Montfortian missionary zeal will unfailingly rise and shine to, with, in, and for Mary.
Fr. Sherwin tackled the priorities that were the result of yesterday’s planning session. To put them in a proper perspective, he cited the priorities decided by the CMY conference in Indonesia for the lay associates in the Philippines. They were:
- Form a committee which includes lay people to plan and formulate a common program to diffuse the spirituality through TTJ, Pilgrimages, Marian devotions, etc;
- Encourage the establishment and recruitment of associates in each parish (diffusing the spirituality there through the recruitment of associates;
- Putting out a regular Newsletter by and for the associates;
- Installation of a 1st Wednesday Virtual Deepening Sessions on Montfortian Spirituality.
He paused to teach us the Rise and Shine clap. It was a fun piece of cake.
Their priorities for the next two years, in collaboration with the lay associates in the Philippines, are the following:
- Training of new TTJ members, SMM priests and brothers, and existing AMQAH members to become facilitators (with workshops to be conducted and facilitated by AMQAH);
- Participation in the virtual deepening sessions every first Wednesday of the month; and
- Publication of a newsletter (twice a year, starting 2023).
His next energizing lesson was the Banana Applause, which was a riot!
Ultimately, it was time for the groups to render their reports. First to go at it, based on UtoLiza’s evaluation, was Sis Gelly, whose “timely” tardiness was grace. Reporting for Mary’s Place, she said that as keepers of the modern-day Nazareth, they themselves must become present versions of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Because a deepened knowledge of Mary and her family and integrating such knowledge into their personal lives can only lead to spiritual growth.
On Team Evangelization, she shared that its erstwhile leader was not happy because of his perceived inadequacy, but with the guidance of their director, he desires to return as a better follower and agrees that evangelization is a mission, therefore, obedience to God is to be observed. Moreover, growth manifests itself through the test of time particularly when one is out of his comfort zone.
Makati’s Sta. Teresita Parish was next to report with techie Sis Jackie ready with her laptop, which contained the following action plans:
- Gather the TTJ graduates of STP to form a core group;
- From the core group, they will form a new TTJ group;
- Encourage all Legionaries to undergo the TTJ sessions and become members;
- Create mini-groups;
- Train new TTJ members to become facilitators;
- Tap AMQAH members to help in the formation of formators/facilitators;
- Year 1 will be at the parish level (TTJ sessions);
- During year 2, zone coordinators will be encouraged to join the TTJ;
- On year 3, all active zone members will be encouraged to join the TTJ as well; and
- Four Batches, therefore, are expected to be formed in a span of 3 years.
Dagupan and Bulacan submitted this report:
- The latest batch in Bulacan needs to deepen first their spirituality before forming a new TTJ group.
- The same need is felt in Dagupan which aims to go to the grassroots to promote a collaborative and participative church.
Cebu, on the other hand, had this information:
- They have graduated 25 TTJ batches already;
- Kinatarcan wishes to have new AMQAH members and train local TTJ facilitators so that they will not be depending anymore on facilitators from TTJ Minglanilla;
- TTJ could be introduced to the dawn Rosarians in Minglanilla; and
- They plan to launch pilgrimages as a means to encourage people to get involved in AMQAH activities.
On the part of SMM Priests and Brothers, here are their contributions:
- Availability to lay associates in terms of presence in all activities, including attendance to the proposed facilitator’s training, first Saturday devotion, and other projects;
- To impart more wisdom, training is also encouraged among the priests and brothers;
- Collaboration, especially on the aspect of communication (publication, website, etc.);
- Presence and involvement in concerns of the youth; and
- Participation in the virtual deepening sessions every first Wednesday of the month.
Fr. Ting funnily, effectively, and energetically synthesized the reports into one conclusive, collective action of the assembly. Then he joined Frs. Fed and Norwyn to concelebrate the Mass. Afterwards, a solemn snack ensued, understandably subdued because, in spite of Frs. Arnel’s and Francis’ brisk sale of their homegrown, sweet, and juicy rambutan, the delegates were already preoccupied with their journey towards home, sweet home.