Tagaytay City. We drove past the skylines and for a couple of hours left the city of Manila. It was a weekend, the 8th of April, a time between family and work, between work and rest, between rest and the inevitability of service. For me and my wife, and our other companions, it was a time to retreat to a spiritual space where we would contemplate our precious and challenging mission as Lay Claretian Vocation Collaborators (LCVC).
We arrived in Tagaytay at past five o’ clock in the afternoon. The mountains were breath- taking. The place was accentuated by formation and retreat houses of different religious congregations. Indeed, every travel story in Tagaytay would be a testament of one’s intimacy with God’s creation and of a spiritual experience.
With the dynamism of Fr. Anthony Carreon, CMF, Fr. Ralden Mercadejas, CMF, and and Ms. Rosevele Lopez, this year’s gathering for Lay Claretian Vocation Collaborators was successfully held at Villa de Luisa of the Daughters of Charity in the City of Tagaytay last April 8-10, 2011. It was participated in by twenty two (22) Lay Claretians. Thirteen (13) participants were from Luzon, four (4) were from the Visayas and five (5) were from Mindanao. Half of these participants are involved in the vocation ministry, and the others are in pastoral care. The first day, April 8, started with a Eucharistic celebration at 6:30 in the evening. It concluded with a group- sharing session which allowed us to recollect our history as lay collaborators. The activity was very encouraging and was done in a very reflective way, such that each participant narrated how one’s ingress into the ministry commenced.
The following day, the gathering was quite moving and inspiring especially when Fr. Arnold Abelardo, CMF, gave his talk about the Claretians after an early morning holy mass. His sharing dwelled briefly on Saint Anthony Mary Claret’s life, the missionaries in general, the world’s crucial situations, the main stages of formation for priests or brothers, and the ten-point mission of the Claretian congregation. The account on Saint Claret’s life has seemingly rekindled each one of the participants’ drive to continually serve the Lord through the apostolic involvement with the Claretians, either through vocation promotion or pastoral care. As the talk progressed, the topic on mission became more interesting and exigent. Also, some concerns like the formation stages for the Claretian seminarians had become clearer to us. Other discussions like the global issues were also very enlightening and these challenged us to think how we, as Lay Claretians, can collaborate with the Claretian Missionaries to address pressing societal issues. When Fr. Arnold presented the missionary works that all Claretians must collectively attend to, the challenge had developed into great magnitude, although, somehow, it still seemed achievable.
In the afternoon, we had time for leisure as we toured around the beautiful spots in Tagaytay before traveling back to Claret College Seminary in Quezon City for a restful overnight stay.
A holy mass celebrated by Fr. Anthony at eight o’clock in the morning at San Isidro Labrador Church in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, welcomed the third day of our assembly. The homily and consecrated celebration gave us an insightful contemplation on Jesus Christ’s absolute love to us through the personalities of Lazaro, Maria and Martha. After the mass, we toured around Claret Theology House in Tandang Sora and from there we proceeded to Villa Christia Resort in San Mateo, Rizal for our business meeting. During the meeting, we had an evaluation of our vocation promotion strategies. Also, several concerns like the dwindling number of candidates for priesthood in some provinces, the difficulties of being granted permission to do vocation promotions in schools, the sad state during the follow- up visits when finally the candidates would express that they will not enter the seminary and other issues were laid down and thoroughly tackled. After the meeting, some of the participants hurried for their flight back to their provinces. This culminated our three-day assembly.
This year’s gathering enjoined us to gain knowledge of the past and re-learn the fundamentals of the Claretian missionary life, so that we can follow God in the footsteps of St. Anthony Mary Claret, in words and in deeds. Also, through this gathering we were reminded that we are keenly chosen, called, and made for service and that it is God’s love that impels us. We, too, have been invited to pray for each other so that we can continually submit ourselves with a joyful heart to this shared mission entrusted to us by God.