Recollect Formands Meet: Gathering focuses on Witnesses of Faith and Discernment

by Sr.  Flora Mae Lanuza, AR

Antipolo City, RIZAL–The AR and OAR formands gathered at St. Ezekiel Moreno  Novitiate-Recoletos, Antipolo City last December 15, 2018. The theme of the annual gathering was “AR-OAR Formands in the Millenial Age: Witnesses of Faith and Discernment.”

The day started with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided by Fr. Ian Anthony Espartero, OAR, Vicar of the Province of Saint Ezekiel Moreno. The presider exhorted the formands to purify once again the motivation of entering the religious life, to know the foundation of one’s vocation and to focus on the cross“Religious life is not an absence of the cross”, Fr. Ian said. He also pointed out that those who are not faithful to their commitment are called, as he said in Filipino language, “salawahan at taksil.”

Moreover, Sr. Rhiza Eltanal, AR, the Novice Directress of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters and at the same time one of the resource speaker of the said gathering, challenged the attendees to develop companionship, camaraderie and communion as roads to being a witness of faith and discernment. She emphasized that the Recollects are known to be builders of communion. Builders need to have best materials in order to build a target project. Thus, they need to choose the best, give the best and be the best version of oneself as created by God.

Group sharing and presentation followed.

Here are some reflections of the formands:

“God is the source of everything so He is the center of our life. Give your entire life to Him.” – Asp. Joycee

“Our vocation is a gift from God. Once we say our “YES” we are now committed to live the faith and not to lose it. The authenticity of our vocation depends on how we witness the faith through self-giving. Religious life is a life of dying [to] oneself and to live for Christ.” – Asp. Joy

“God planted a seed of Faith in everyone’s heart. It is being watered everyday with experiences. Once it is being nourished, it grows stronger and grow fully. Then it will bear fruit that radiates God’s love. By this, we hope we will persevere.” – Asp. Gwen

“How awesome is the Lord in sharing His great love [with] us. Today, we are called to ground our relationship with the Lord by encountering Him in our daily experiences.” – Asp. Hazel

“It is really a challenge to witness the faith and preach it to the people but by the help and inspiration of God and the Holy Spirit we can continue towards this journey.” – Asp. Genalyn

Everyone enjoyed the day. The formands were filled with mirth as they also celebrate the gift of Jesus this Christmas season by exchanging their gifts after listening to the inspirations laid by the speakers. Indeed, it was a great encounter with the Lord where one could develop to be a witness of faith and discernment.


OAR receives 5 new priests on OAR Day

by Fray Jhoben Rodriguez, OAR

Mira-Nila Homes, QUEZON CITY—Five friars of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno were ordained to the Sacred Order of Presbyterate through the imposition of hands of Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD, Local Ordinary of the Diocese of Novaliches, during the 430th anniversary of the birth of the Augustinian Recollection at Our Lady of Consolation Parish, December 5, 2018.

The newly ordained priests were:

  • Rev. Fr. Paul S. Demillones, OAR, from Tacloban City, Leyte
  • Rev. Fr. Niel Ryan E. Jarumay, OAR, from Canlaon City, Negros Oriental
  • Rev. Fr. Keneth B. Pahamutang, OAR, from Tagbilaran City, Bohol
  • Rev. Fr. Elpedio N. Sarita, Jr., OAR, from Valencia, Negros Oriental
  • Rev. Fr. Kenneth S. Caligdong, OAR, from Brooke’s Point, Palawan

In the homily of Bishop Tobias, he articulated: “Today the Church is gifted with the gift of priesthood being answered by our five ordinandi. We thank their families…their formators for the support that they have extended to these our brothers.” He also thanked the Order of Augustinian Recollects for forming them as “authentic, genuine Augustinian Recollects.” The ordaining prelate explained that “they are being ordained today so that they may serve the people of God wherever they are sent. Give your best wherever you are sent. Where you are sent is where God wants you to be,” he added.

Bishop Tobias explained the two main services that presbyters give to the people such as “the ministry of offering a sacrifice for the people of God (Holy Eucharist) and reconcile God’s own people (Sacrament of Reconciliation).” Bishop Antonio appealed to all faithful present that “this is not the end of our support for these young priests. In fact in the plan of the Church they are entering the lifelong formation… Priesthood is a life-long commitment, and a life-long project that we do not stop supporting.”

The Ordaining Prelate was joined by exactly fifty religious priests and diocesan priests from Bicol, Cebu, Negros, Surigao, Baguio, Cavite, Antipolo, Manila and Quezon City and three from abroad (Cuba, Rome, and West Africa).

One of the newly ordained priests, Fr. Elpedio Sarita, OAR, expressed their message of thanks to all the people who inspired, encouraged and helped them. At the conclusion of his speech, he asked all the people present: “Ipagdasal po ninyo kaming lahat na mga pari, lalong-lalo na kaming mga bagong naordinahan. Malayo pa po ang landas na aming tatahakin. (Please pray for us, especially us newly ordained priests. There is still a long way ahead of us.)”

The parents of the candidates, who are all present, received a plaque of appreciation for generously offering their sons for the service of the Mother Church. They are as follows: Mr. Eulalio and Mrs. Teresa Demillones, parents of Fr. Paul Demilliones; Mr. Ronald and Mrs. Lucelda Jarumay, parents of Fr. Niel Ryan Jarumay; Mr.  Crescensio, Jr. and Mrs. Teresita Pahamutang, parents of Fr. Keneth Pahamutang; Mr.  Elpedio, Sr. and Mrs. Peregrina Sarita, parents of Fr. Elpedio Sarita, Jr.; and Mr. Samuel and Mrs. Estrella Caligdong, parents of Fr. Kenneth Caligdong.

Another awaited moment during presbyteral ordinations was the announcement of new assignments. The patente of each newly ordained was announced by Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR, ProvincialSecretary. Fr. Paul is assigned at Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned, Valencia, Negros Oriental; Fr. Niel Ryan is appointed to be with the brothers in San Isidro Labrador Parish, Casian, Taytay, Palawan; Fr. Keneth is assigned to be a formator at Sto. Tomas Villanueva Formation Center, San Carlos City, Negros; Fr. Elpedio and Fr. Kenneth are back to Our Lady of Sierra Leone Parish, Kamabai, WestAfrica and St. Paul Parish, Kamalo, West Africa, respectively, where they had their diaconal exposure program.

Also present during the Presbyteral Ordination were the Recollect Augustinian Youth, Confraternity of Augustinian Recollect Altar Servers, Former Seminarians of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (ForSOAR), seminarians from other religious congregations, CaReS Family Apostolate, families, relatives and benefactors of the ordinandi.

On this occasion of the birth of the Augustinian Recollection, the OAR Religious, and AR Sisters headed by Mo. Lucena Antipala, AR, renewed their vows. The Secular Augustinian Recollects also renewed their promises. Fray Dionisio Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial, received the renewal of vows and promises of the members of the Order in the Philippines.

Seven friars ordained as deacons

Mira-Nila Homes, QUEZON CITY—Seven Augustinian Recollect friars of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno were ordained as deacons through the imposition of hands of Most Rev. Nolly Buco, JCD, DD, Auxiliary of the Diocese of Antipolo. This momentous event took place on November 17, 2018, Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Salud, at Our Lady of Consolation Parish, Quezon City.

The newly ordained deacons were:

  • Fray Jorr Rabacal, OAR, from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental
  • Fray Benjamine Monday Edobor, OAR, from Lagos City, Nigeria
  • Fray Ifianychukwu Maximillian Omem, OAR, from Delta State, Nigeria
  • Fray Jovy Gallego, OAR, from San Vicente, Palawan
  • Fray Andrie Pugate, OAR, from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur
  • Fray Tomokatsu Yamaguchi, OAR, from Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
  • Fray Jessriel Marcha, OAR, from Bislig City, Surigao

On this group of friars, five of them were sent to Spain to participate in the common Month of Preparation proximate to their Solemn Profession. They were Frays Rabacal, Gallego, Pugate, Yamaguchi, and Marcha. Two Nigerians also belong to this group, namely, Frays Edobor and Omem. They were also the first ordinandi of Bishop Nolly Buco, DD, who received his Episcopal Consecration last September 8, 2018.

As a “first timer,” Bishop Nolly shared with the congregation that he “shall pray over them and lay hands upon them as an effective sign by which the Holy Spirit will fashion in the depths of their heart the image of Christ the deacon, Christ the servant of all, who came ‘not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt. 20:28).”

Bishop Nolly also reminded the ordinandi the ministries and roles of deacons that they may be “effective in action,” that is, “effective in ministry…gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer.” He even shared his experience as a deacon and recalled the moments when he was troubled. “Every time you feel so lonely and afraid, talk to Jesus, talk to Mary,” said Bishop Nolly.

Morethan 30 Augustinian Recollect priests and diocesan priests concelebrated with the ordaining prelate. The Augustinian Recollect Sisters, Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity, Recollect Augustinian Youth, and members of the Sisters of Mary and their scholars were also present. Also, the families, friends, relatives, and other guests of the ordinandi graced the event.

Casiciaco seminarians visit diocesan seminary for friendly games

by Bro. Ioannes Arong

Baguio City—Seminarians of Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary escaped with wins in friendly matches with their diocesan counterparts during the opening of “Palarong Paulino” at San Pablo Seminary last Oct. 14, 2018.

The Casiciaco Spikers dominate the host team in a hotly contested volleyball match in 5 sets, 19-25; 25-10; 25-16; 20-25; 15-7 which featured gorgeous sets, booming spikes and ace serves from both teams.

The Mountain Lion basketball team of the Recoletos, in the second game, completed the sweep by coming back from a 19–5 deficit in the first quarter to eke out a 2-point win in overtime, 107–105, behind the 33 big points of Br. John Arnold Lozada who drained six 3-pointers.

The Palarong Paulino in Crystal Cave marks the beginning of the diocesan seminary’s 4-day intramural games.

Br. Gerard Louiez Mapalo, the general program coordinator of San Pablo Seminary, thanked the Recoletos for coming over and bonding with them.

He said they reached out to the Recoletos since this year is Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.

“Iisa lang naman ang calling natin kaya mas maganda na mayroon tayong engagement,” he said. “Sa pamamagitan din ng gatherings na gaya nito, nare-realize natin na hindi tayo nag-iisa sa bokasyon na ito and we inspire one another,” he added.

The games were competitive and hotly contested. In the basketball match, bodies were flying everywhere, fatigue and cramps set in, and yet everybody stuck to their identity and kept their cool. No untoward incident or unsportsmanlike foul was ever called.

Br. Mapalo said the Recollect seminarians were “easy to get along with” and that they look forward to more friendly matches with them in the future.

After the games, everybody shared a fraternal agape at the seminary refectory.

Order receives 6 new postulants

by Bro. Ioannes Arong

Baguio City — Six formands of Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary were formally received into the postulancy stage of formation during the solemn Rites of Investiture held at the seminary chapel last Oct. 12, 2018.

The traditional “Toma de Habito” (loosely translated as “taking of the habit”) of the six-member Batch Heralds was officiated by the Vicar Provincial Rev. Fr. Ian Anthony Espartero, OAR on the joyous occasion of the feast of the seminary patroness Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

In his homily, Fr. Espartero said one is afraid at first to say “yes” to the Lord because it entails risks. However, he added, that if one is hopeful, patient and trusting in God’s plans, one is able to solidly say “yes” and remain constant to the commitment one pledges before the altar of the Lord.

“God planted the seed of religious vocations in our hearts when we were baptized,” Fr. Espartero said. “Our duty then is to nurture it, hopefully, trustfully and patiently.”

The postulancy facilitates the gradual entry of the formand from the secular to the religious life by introducing to him certain religious practices peculiar to the Order.

Fr. Espartero also issued a challenge to the graduating class, the Batch Martyrs, who stands at the crossroad in their vocational journey.

“You better make a better choice because what you decide today will have telling effects of what you will become in the future,” he said. “One simple mistake will totally change the direction of your life, and that is why before you make decisions, make sure that you have thoroughly thought about it,” he added.

The celebration was made more meaningful by the attendance of family members, friends, relatives and sponsors of the investees.

Present also as concelebrants the different “guardians of vocations” in the different stages of formation, namely: Fr. Gideon Lagrimas, OAR (former vocation director of the Order); Fr. James Castelo, OAR (Pre-Novice Master); Fr. Roland Cepe, OAR (Novice Master); and Fr. Kenneth Onda, OAR (Master of the Professed).

Two deacons also graced the ceremony. Rev. Keneth Pahamutang, OAR served at mass while Rev. Robin Ross Plata, OAR led the documentation team in streaming live the event on Facebook.

AR and OAR formands take the Licensure Examination for Teachers

by Fray Ralph Andrew Cepe, OAR

QUEZON CITY—Pursuant to the Republic Act # 7836, otherwise known as “Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994,” and to accomplish the requirement to acquire license for future teachers and school administrators in Augustinian Recollect Educational Institutions, thirteen simple-professed Augustinian Recollect friars and seven simple-professed Augustinian Recollect sisters took the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) at the Perpetual Help College of Manila, V. Concepcion Street, Sampaloc, Manila last September 30, 2018 (Sunday).

The examination was divided into three parts. The first part was on General Education which started at 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM. The second part on Professional Education, from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and the last part, which is the chosen area of specialization by the friars and sisters, was on Values Education from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

The examinees look forward to December 4, 2018, the date for the release of the results of the Board Examinations with much prayer, anticipation, and hope.

Congratulations, in advance, Brothers and Sister!

Fides et Ratio colloquium held

by Bro. Ioannes Arong

Baguio City—With either one of them missing, “both faith and reason would become impoverished.”

This was how Prof. Mark Joseph Calano summed up the contents of the papal encyclical “Fides et Ratio” (Faith and Reason) during a lecture he delivered at Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary mini-theater last Sept. 14, 2018.

“Faith and reason are needed together,” said Prof. Calano, a full-time faculty member of the Ateneo de Manila University. “You cannot dispense one and choose the other” — an error, he added, which is committed by contemporary thinkers.

The lecture, organized by the Office of the Dean of Studies and Senior High School Principal, was held on the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical by St. John Paul II which clarified once and for all the relationship between faith and reason in the pursuit of truth.

The professor said contemporary philosophies are plagued by two (2) characteristic ailments: 1) excessive pessimism on the power of reason to attain the truth, and 2) emphasis on the limitation of the human knowing — the results of man’s setting aside faith and relying solely on his rational powers.

This was the reason why the Church had to intervene by coming up with the encyclical, he said.

“It is the duty of the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church to make clear when there is a confusing philosophical error that could destroy simple faith,” he said. He also added that it’s a pity nowadays that “there are a lot of highly educated people yet poorly educated in faith.”

He said in Catholicism, truth isn’t simply an idea. “The fullness of the truth is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the answer to all philosophical inquiries, yet this is based on our faith, and faith can’t satisfy the mind. Only reason does,” he said.

Left on its own, however, the mind will wander far from the truth and will not comprehend transcendental truths otherwise it could not fathom on its own — the very thing which is happening in philosophy today.

“It is faith that sheds light on reason so that it can remain on the right track towards truth.” Therefore, he said, it is necessary that faith and reason go hand in hand in the philosophical enterprise, citing the first sentence of the encyclical which goes: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.”

To drive home the point, Prof. Calano even cited the experience of St. Augustine in his search for the truth. He said that even if Augustine was filling his head with reasons from Cicero and the Neoplatonics, he didn’t arrive at the truth without the faith of Monica and Ambrose.

Dr. Danilo Alterado, a philosophy professor of Saint Louis University, in his reaction to the lecture, said that in the postmodern era, the truth is no longer universal but relative. This heightens the culture of disbelief, he said, so that philosophy, succumbing to the impossibility of knowledge, reverts back to skepticism — a tragic contemporary phenomenon.

The encyclical, he added, recovers the sapiential dimension of the search for the truth by making as springboards of human inquiries — faith and reason.

The Seminary Dean of Studies and SHS Principal, Fr. Anthony Irineo, OAR, said John Paul II was prophetic when he released the encyclical 20 years ago, warning philosophy enthusiasts of the dangers of not integrating faith with reason in philosophizing.

He added that this year’s first year seminarians — the first batch who enrolls in the new curriculum — will have a subject called “Faith and Reason” wherein the encyclical will be used as the primary text of instruction. This was the result of the determination of the updated “Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis” (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation), a Vatican document meant to provide guidelines for the formation of priests and religious.

7 Friars make Solemn Profession amidst Typhoon Ompong

Mira-Nila Homes, QUEZON CITY— Despite the supertyphoon Ompong devastating the northern part of the Philippines, the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines celebrated the scheduled Solemn Profession of Vows of seven friars at the Our Lady of Consolation Parish last September 15, 2018. Those who made their definitive ‘yes’ to God and incorporation to the Order were: Fray Jorr Rabacal, OAR, Fray Benjamin Monday Edobor, OAR, Fray Maximillian Ifeanyichukwu Omem, OAR, Fray Jovy Gallego, OAR, Fray Andrie Pugate, OAR, Fray Tomokatsu Yamaguchi, OAR, and Fray Jessriel Marcha, OAR.

Presiding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the rite of of the Solemn Profession was Rev. Fr. Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno. Among the other concelebrating priests were Rev. Fr. Lauro Larlar, OAR, prior/rector of the Recoletos Formation Center, and Rev. Fr. Kenneth Joseph Onda, OAR, Master of the Professed. Two deacons, Rev. Keneth Pahamutang, OAR and Rev. Paul Demiliones, OAR, assisted in the altar.

In his homily, the Prior Provincial exhorted the candidates to recall their personal encounter with God and the moment they responded to His calling. Further, he admonished the candidates relative to the imminent challenges and difficulties lurking in their chosen path.  He also consoled them not to back out but persevere instead for they have the Word of God to depend on. Fr. Selma reminded them not to fear because God sends persons as instruments to guide us.” Delivering the message of gratitude on behalf of the newly-professed was Fray Tomokatsu Yamaguchi, OAR.

Prior to their solemn profession of vows, last September 13, 2018, the community of Recoletos Formation Center witnessed the Rite of Renunciation of these seven candidates.  Held at Sto. Thomas Villanova Chapel, the Rite of Renunciation was officiated by Rev. Fr. Lauro V. Larlar and Rev. Fr. Kenneth Joseph Onda, OAR who acted as the witness.  In the said ceremony, candidates answered the inquiry of impediments and publicly made the oath of renunciation before the community. The ceremony was then put into conclusion by Father Prior’s short exhortation and final blessing. (Fray Ramon Bitangcor, III, OAR)


Pre-Novices break through Farm Exposure

Alfonso, CAVITE—Ten Pre-Novices of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno completed their four-week Farm Exposure experience in Pililla, Rizal and Alfonso, Cavite on the 19th of July 2018.

Farm Exposure is one of the major activities of the Pre-Novitiate Program of St. Ezekiel Moreno Novitiate-Recoletos. It is considered as the commencement activity of the Pre-Novitiate stage of Formation. In this exposure, the formands are sent to Recoletos Farms, particularly in Pililla, Rizal and Alfonso, Cavite to work and assist the caretakers for four weeks. The formands here are left on their own, with no formators to watch over them, for them to practice and improved the more self-discipline, simplicity and community living. They are just given an accommodation, a weekly budget and the rest relies on how they spend it and find ways for their sustenance. This scenario is also obliged for them to develop basic household and labor skills.

In this year’s Farm Exposure, the Pre-Novices were sent to Pililla, Rizal from June 21-28, 2018, and Alfonso, Cavite from July 1-19, 2018. The Pre-Novices themselves admitted that this, once-upon-experience for a Formand, is indeed a “worth-it experience” since it really contributed much in their Physical and Human formation. This is considered as one of those which contributed the essence of Pre-Novitiate Life that without which, the Formation of Pre-Novices will not be complete. Farm Exposure has already been part of the Formation of the OAR Formands in the Philippines for two decades and counting already. (Br. Joseph Neil E. Baygan)