IT WAS THE first ever conference for male legionaries conceptualized by Senatus of Northern Philippines with the leadership of Sis Elizabeth SR Infante. Fresh from the recent success of “Piyesta ni Maria,” the officers and members of Senatus were anxious, excited, and enthusiastic all at the same time with the challenge of the novel project. Their anxiety was soon doused with the arrival of brothers from as far as Cavite, numbering a total of 141 warm, eager bodies comprising 80 % of the expected turnout.
Fittingly, Mass signaled the start of the assembly concelebrated by Monfortian missionary priests Frs. Sherwin Nuñez and Lester Bonete, the latter fresh from a recent ordination and his first Mass in Lipa. I watched that Mass and was immensely proud of the article I wrote of his Recollection Talk in March last year. The talk was a final requirement to his priesthood and it sealed his ordination for me, at least. Steeped in his native Batangueño accent, he effectively employed local color to drive home his point of “sinsay” (pause) as a preparation for “tagay” (drink), the pause necessary for contemplation before one assents to the ultimate libation. Like Jesus prayed and meditated before He drank the bitter cup. In joyful contrast to the outcome of the bonding of the Batangas brethren which was deeper comradeship.
And he went on further by focusing his homily on relationships we build with family, in school, and among others as we look, admire, and idolize those whom we deem worthy of esteem because their love is shown through service. How very like Jesus whose surrender was born out of love and obedience to the Father, similar to Mary’s fiat, and Montfort’s allegiance to Wisdom. All three shared the common virtue of emptying themselves to be filled with God.
Fr. Sherwin skillfully segued onto the vocation aspect of his talk after the Eucharistic celebration. He zeroed in on the Montfortian “Totus Tuus” battlecry and used the program’s epithet “Dedicated men through, with, in, and for (twif) Mary, a byword of the Order’s clerical and lay associates, with the incarnation of Jesus as its spiritual core. Because, he intoned, despite the world’s brokenness, in Mary’s womb, perfection reemerged.
Corollary to the topic, Bro. Austin User, an OFM Capuchin from Guam, talked about vocations always centering around a mother. He lost his mom at an early age, became an atheist and a liberal, with his sister becoming his guardian. His motivation for going to church then was a McDonald snack but his life turned around when he listened to a homily which was about a project for the poor. After that, he noticed that the rosary smelled of his mother’s Elizabeth Arden perfume, which set off his vocation on full throttle. Although he candidly admitted he hasn’t memorized all the mysteries yet, he sees Mary in other women. In his profession of vows, he cried upon hearing the inculcation “Be a brother to all regardless of your past.”
The next testimony came from a Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL), Bro. Renante Nadura, of Cainta Comitium, a former inmate whose life testimony he summed up in a profound “may oras at hangganan ang rehas.” He continues to teach bible in prison as a Legionary Volunteer.
The youth was ably represented by Bro. John Kelvin Doroin, an Accountant/Entrepreneur and Jr. Curia President of Pasig 1 Comitium. He told an interesting story of kids named “Samako” and “Samakorin,” whose penchant for clinging to others, fortunately usually in spiritual outings, changed their lives for the better.
Everyone recessed for lunch after the “Catena Legionis.” A fun activity followed lunch, coordinated by Senatus Secretary Bro. Danny Ochoco, which was indispensaby necessary to wake up the siesta sleepiness. A tongue-twister worked like a charm although the next drawing exercise didn’t accomplish similar success.
A father, former banker, and professional, Bro Allan Portento, talked of the road map, vehicle, and destination he experienced as necessary for his journey as a Legionary.
Then it was Bro Mac Panganiban’s turn to enlighten the techno savvy and wannabes in the assembly on how to cope with the change brought about by the bombardment of social media in our midst. His permeating principle was social media is only a tool to be used in the pursuit of further learning. It is not supposed to use people.
Afterwards, the group was divided into six smaller clusters to workshop on six subjects: 1. contraception; 2. overseas employment of spouse; 3. children’s independence at 18; 4. St. Joseph’s silence; 5. lessons we can impart to children; and 6. qualities of St. Joseph. Our group of Bros. Orly (facilitator/secretary), Martin, Henry, Matthew, Michael, and me took up subject number 5 and incorporated St. Joseph’s qualities in it. From what I observed, all six groups were energized and motivated by the subjects. When it was time to report on the output, however, the first three presentors got carried away, seemed to deliver a talk, and left no time for the other three group reporters to deliver. The superb emcee, Bro Dan, masterfully maneuvered the proceedings to not miss the collective Pledge to Mary. Which was soon followed by the closing remarks of Bro Glenn Ricafrente, Senatus Treasurer. The concluding prayers were said next and the Battle Hymn of the Legion joyfully concluded the first-ever male conglomeration. Amen.