September 12, 2016, a Monday and national holiday, was a historic day that would be forever etched in the history of the organization, Former Seminarians of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (ForSOAR), Cebu Chapter. It was on this day that the members of the said organization gathered together for a day of meeting that started at the University of San Jose – Recoletos (USJR), Cebu City and ended at the posh and private resort in Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu City owned by Atty. Pete Flores, a ForSOAR member himself. Attended by twenty one members belonging to different batches, the whole day was spent in prayer (bene orare), community life (bene vivire) and study (bene studere) – indeed, a way of re-living the Augustinian Recollect spirit which all these men had learned and experienced when they were in their years of formation in the different houses of formation of the Order.
There could be no better way to start the gathering than to celebrate the highest form of prayer, the Holy Eucharist. It was held at the chapel of USJR at exactly eleven o’clock in the morning. Fr. Celso Magbanua Jr. was the main celebrant and Fr. Leander Barrot, OAR was the homilist. Fr. Reynaldo “Boyax” Jaranilla, OAR also concelebrated. Together with Mr. Richard Burgos, ForSOAR President, Frs. Barrot and Jaranilla initiated and spearheaded the gathering.
In his homily, Fr. Barrot reminded the brothers to touch base with the Eucharist for just as it gave life and strength to the early Christians, as proclaimed in the first reading of the day, then, it would be for us today. A Scripturist, Fr. Barrot also thanked the brothers for their presence on this gathering even the invitation was given on a short notice. By the way, Fr. Barrot was celebrating his 24th sacerdotal anniversary on this day. He was ordained to the priesthood with three others in 1992 at Our Lady of Consolation Parish, Mira-Nila, Tandang Sora, Quezon City.
After the Mass, the brothers proceeded to the OAR fathers’ refectory at the fourth floor of the university for a lunch. They were welcomed warmly by the community headed by Fr. Vicente Ramon, OAR, the prior of the community. Mr. Chito Sy, who solely organized this gathering, delivered some words of gratitude to the fathers before the blessing of the meal. While relishing the delicious foods prepared by Bro. Jaazeal “Tagoy” Jakosalem, OAR, the community’s procurator, the brothers were heard sharing stories and laughters. From the scene, it could be seen that everyone was glad for the presence of each one and that everyone was interested to know the updates of each of the brothers. Truly, the Recollect spirit of community life filled the hall! The meal closed with a prayer immediately after Fr. Ramon assured ForSOAR Cebu of the fathers’ continuous spiritual support.
Carried by the university’s mini bus, courtesy of Bro. Jakosalem, property custodian of the university, and some cars in convoy, the brothers headed to Punta Engano for the main purpose of the gathering, the meeting. They arrived at the place a little bit past the hour of three in the afternoon. The meeting did not immediately happen. Instead, the sharing of stories and laughter, that started at the convent of the fathers at the university, continued. Healthy beverages and finger foods added more fun to the already high-spirited mood of the brothers. Nevertheless, this was put into suspension since the brothers were called upstairs for the start of the meeting.
The meeting commenced with everyone introducing himself to the group, for, although they have been together for almost six hours, yet some were still complete strangers to others. This was understandable because the group was composed of members from different batches, spanning from 1967 to 2015 by last year of presence at Seminario Mayor – Recoletos, now Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary, in Baguio City.
Afterwards, Mr. Richard Burgos took up the cudgels. He told the brothers at once that this meeting was called to inform the brothers that the Order is inviting them to a more and deeper spiritual relationship, i.e., by becoming members of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity (SARF). Mr. Burgos then proceeded by presenting to the brothers the bird’s eye view of the SARF, with emphasis on the possibility of crafting a special formation program for ForSOAR while still keeping the number of years of formation as stipulated in the constitution and by-laws of the SARF.
When the presentation was over, open forum ensued. There was a common concern about the tedious process of formation, specifically the regular meetings for study, reflection and discussion on the different topics on Catholic doctrines and important things about the Order. There was a feeling of “fear” for many because they might not fulfill the demands of formation due to their responsibilities with their family and job. To all of these, Mr. Burgos, Fr. Barrot and Fr. Jaranilla were saying in unison that this should not cause a worry for the ForSOAR members because it could be tailored-fit to their situation. In the end, it was agreed upon by the group that, for now, they would strengthen their group by meeting regularly with the intention that some of them would eventually respond to the call of becoming full-fledged members of the SARF.
The gathering ended with a sumptuous dinner and a plunging into the cold swimming pool of the luxurious villa. Thanks to Atty. Pete Flores who made all this possible.
Like the Order who continues to unfold her history and continues to grow in grace and number, ForSOAR Cebu and the rest of the organization in the entire country will continue to live, hopefully into a new direction, namely, its members becoming professed members of the SARF. Certainly, it is in this way that all members of this prestigious organization would fulfill their dreams of becoming an Augustinian Recollect which they all had when they first step on the doors of the Order.