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Hearts Afire Amidst the Storms!


            Despite the cold weather conditions here in Lipa and the violent storms that attacked in many parts of Luzon, the last month was packed with fiery events that helped deepen our reflections. It started with our midyear retreat with Fr. Ernie Garcia, C.Ss.R. last Nov. 3 to 6. The days of silence, reflections and prayer were grace-filled. The “desert” is indeed a place where God touched us in a very special way.


            The day after our retreat was also the retreat of the Vice-Province of Manila held here in Lipa retreat house, in which the novices were invited to join. The theme was: “Plentiful redemption in Christ in the situation of our church and society in the Philippines.” The novices, lay men and women of the vice-province, C.Ss.R. theology students, brothers, priests and a bishop, reflected and prayed on the theme with the help of the CICM resource persons, Frs. Ver Miranda and Lode Woestyn. It was an enriching experience listening and learning from each other’s reflections, good stories and some jokes.


            After the retreat everyone went to Pansol rest house on Nov. 9 for the celebration of the jubilarians. The celebrants were Fr. Pete Katigbak on his 25th anniversary of ordination and Frs. John Maquire and Boni Flordeliza on their golden anniversaries of professions. Songs, dances, and inspiring messages filled that wonderful day. There was a reason to celebrate God’s gift of perseverance in these vocations!


            Aside from our everyday class in the novitiate, there were other deep encounters that followed the retreats. We had spiritual direction with Bishop Ireneo Amantillo and counseling with Ate Christie (Panotes) in the third week of November. It was another loving experience of knowing more about the self and God.


            As we learned insights from the wisdom of the older ones but young at heart, our encounters with the physically young men and women also revitalized our energies when we helped in the vocation campaigns, vocation retreat, and vocation forum organized by the Lipa vocation team. We reached as far as Candelaria and Gumaca, Quezon province, in giving talks and examinations to high school male students. There were 51 students who attended the retreat on Nov. 19-21 from 70 students who passed the exams. There will be a second batch on Jan 2004, probably with the same number of students. The vocation forum last Nov. 28 was held here in the house to culminate November as the Month for Vocation. There were more than 60 young men and women who came. The panel in the forum included: a lay missioner, a religious sister, a brother and a priest. It was so inspiring to see many young people showing some attraction and interest in seriously reflecting and praying about their vocation in life. May some of them join us soon!


            After seven months of living 1,025 ft above sea level, and for some days in the middle of Metro Manila, in Mariposa, we finally had a time to see and swim, taste and smell a Luzon beach. Last November 30, we joined the MPS novitiate community at their outing in San Juan, Batangas. While the typhoon Winnie rocked eastern Luzon the day before and disturbed thousands of people, we joyously savored the time for recreation and integration with our MPS sisters as the weather unexpectedly calmed down that day. Two of the sisters will be making their first religious profession of vows this coming Dec. 8 in Biñan, Laguna.


            Our intercongregational group EXODUS will be at San Juan beach too on Dec. 10 for our Christmas outing. We are now looking forward to the start of Simbang Gabi and other celebrations this Christmas, hopefully a storm-free Christmas. From all of us here in Lipa and novitiate community, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year 2005 to all!