Pastor

He was destined to become a missionary.

A messenger of hope, a caring pastor and a committed servant of God – Fr. Mel Sandoval was a father to many and a loyal friend.

As he celebrates his 60th birthday today, we pray for good health, for protection and for more empowerment of the Holy Spirit in leading his flock.

Fr Mel Sandoval

Fr. Mel Sandoval dedicates all his life to the preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Penitence. All his life is an intimate contact with God through prayer and meditation, the source of all his apostolic work.

Our earnest prayer to our dear pastor in Parish of St. Martha:

Dear Lord, on this day that we celebrate Fr. Mel’s birth, I pray for blessings and joy over Fr. Mel.

You knew everything about him before his birth and You have a plan of prosperity and hope for his life!

Let him feel confident and ready for the year ahead knowing that You have an order to his steps and a purpose for his life.

Help him to find joy in every circumstance in life, knowing that You work all things out for good.

I thank You for Fr. Mel, for loving him with unconditional love, and for the promises You have spoken over his life.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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To the woman who taught me how to love, to commit and to sincerely dedicate one’s life in serving God – happy birthday to the most selfless, supportive and caring wife in the world – Jude Borja! Thank you for showing me what true love is. More years of life, hope & faith together! #blessed #grateful #toloveandtohold #tocherishandhonor #tocallmyveryown #bodyheartandsoul

Senior

They are our modern hero.

Though they are in the twilight years of their life, they serve God even more.

I admire their tenacity and zeal to love others selflessly.

They are our hopemakers in our troubled world today by doubts, worries, divisions and anxieties.

I met the hardworking servant leaders of the Diocese of Imus and they inspire me to love God more.

I hope the young people can learn a thing or two from them. They are worth emulating for their humility.

Catechists

A dear friend Sis. Lalie Jimenez inspired me to know more about this mission work. The Diocese of Imus catechists in action. To catechise means to teach: more specifically, to teach by word of mouth. Prior to Parish level were nuns. However, increasingly the role of the Parish Catechist has been undertaken by Catholic Laity. Catechists are often deployed to teach Candidates who are preparing for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Catechists have always been of particular importance in large geographical parishes, such as in Africa, where Priests have historically only been able to visit different parts of their Parish periodically. In the Priest’s absence the Parish Catechist takes on the role of being the main teacher of the faith in that Parish. As such they are afforded a particular place of honor within the parish community where they work.

Cardinal Richard J. Cushing in his “Catholic Family Prayer Book” shared seven characteristics needed in order to be a good catechist, gleaned from catechists themselves:

Be hospitable
Hospitality is critically important today. Many children, youths and adults feel unappreciated. Often, they do not verbalize such feelings of low self-esteem. Society’s functional priorities often overshadow the personal love that people need. A catechist’s words and attitude need to indicate that all the catechized are important and welcome in the Church. This goes a long way to open people to God’s word and sacraments.

What can you do to make your class feel welcome and comfortable?

Center teaching on faith
A catechist’s faith is the basis for his or her love of God and one another. It invites them to share God’s word with children, adolescents and adults. Catechists give witness to their faith in action through solid preparation and concern for the catechized. Faith often requires us to sacrifice our time to get certified as a catechist, to visit a homebound person or to volunteer in a senior citizens home. Such a lifestyle of offering oneself to those in need demands a regular prayer life.

Catechesis can never become a routine task. It requires an ongoing infusion of energy derived from communication with people of faith, prayer, the sacraments, Scripture reflections and good reading.

In what ways are you growing in your faith?

Care for the catechized
We are called to catechize in the spirit of Jesus. He showed special concern to the man born blind and the woman caught in adultery. Like Christ, catechists also minister to those people that society overlooks. These include children, adults with special needs and the elderly.

People with special needs offer rich graces to a catechist and catechetical community. The elderly are often very close to God. Many have served the Church over the years. They, too, need continuing catechetical ministry at the time their eternal reward approaches. In developing catechesis for people with various needs, catechists should not neglect children and youth. In today’s society, they need special attention. Catechists must give high priority to young people, focusing on where they are right now, not on whom or what they may become later on.

In what ways are you showing your class that you care for each of them?

Catechize with joy and a smile
Recognizing our importance begins by knowing that we are children and friends of God. It also demands that we know our limitations as human beings. This realization encourages us to have a sense of humor and to laugh often.

Smiling and laughing are good symbols for catechesis. Catechists help people smile when they share Jesus’ joyful message. Smiles and laughter touch us deeply and invite us to respond positively, even in difficult situations. Our smile may be the only one that a person experiences all day. Even when tired, we can smile. A smile, not a tired body, is the window to the soul. Catechists offer a fine gift when they smile.

What happens to your overall mood and outlook when you smile?

Live as a prophet of hope
A hope-filled person radiates hope to others. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah gave the Jewish people hope for a better tomorrow during troubled times. Their words repeatedly called people to repent and focus again on God’s covenant of love. Jesus culminated their ministry through his death and resurrection.

In hard times of pain, anger, uncertainty and confusion, we need more prophets of hope as catechists and catechetical leaders. Such ministers offer hope to searching or troubled children, youth and adults. Seeing their role as being prophets of hope offers catechists a positive perspective from which to enthusiastically embrace their ministry.

How might you reflect Christian hope to those you teach?

Practice catechesis in this time and place
Some people are always looking for the ideal situation. Many never find it. Why we are born into a particular family and cultural circumstance and why we are called to minister in today’s world and Church is God’s choice, not ours.

Some catechists find themselves in less-than-desirable situations. We may feel unsupported by parish leaders, have inadequate preparation or resources, live in difficult family or work situations and experience pressure from students and parents. God calls us to minister when and where we are, not in some idealized time and place. If circumstances are beyond our control, we may have to make the most of them, remembering that God may be asking us to take up our cross. At the same time, we must take care of ourselves. In finding this balance, we give glory to God as we minister to our family and those we catechize.

Have you ever made a less-than-desirable situation better by praying and presenting a positive presence?

Be well-prepared
All catechists need adequate preparation, knowledge of the basics of the faith, the skills to communicate Church teaching and good resource materials. As a general norm, catechists need to be certified. Diocesan formation requirements for catechists, an understanding of the Catholic approach to the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, good religion textbooks and other supplementary works enhance the catechist’s ability to catechize.

Professionally trained catechetical leaders recognize the central role that well-prepared catechists play in sharing Jesus’ Good News. All catechists need formal preparation through attendance at adult faith formation or other religious education classes, institutes and workshops. They are also called to pray, read, focus on Scripture and prepare adequately before teaching so that they know the lesson of the day and are able to communicate it effectively. Of course, a faithful well-prepared catechist is better than any textbook!

What effect does it have on a class of students if a catechist is well-prepared?

Prayer for teachers
Heavenly Father, who promised that all those who instruct others in the way of holiness will shine as stars for all eternity, fill our hearts and minds with true knowledge and the art of teaching. Give us patience and understanding, justice and prudence, humility and fear of the Lord. Grant us wisdom and charity so that, with a pure and holy love of God, we ourselves may enjoy all these gifts and impart them to our students.

Teach our children to be obedient to your laws and open to your inspiration. Let them be instruments of your peace in their homes, in our land and in the family of nations as becomes children of the sons of God in the mystical body of Christ.

May the blessings of your sevenfold gifts be in all who teach and in all who learn through the Holy Spirit, who is love of the Father and the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ — the Divine Teacher.

Pentecost

When was the last time you truly surrender your life to God?

Tough question.

Difficult to answer.

Profound reflection for today’s gospel.

The “big message” for Pentecost Sunday that reverberated in the ampula of my pancreas was to be more selfless. Give up our own way and trust that God’s way is better.

When you put yourself last, God puts you first.

God’s will is always better than your will. You cannot see tomorrow, but He can. He wants you to be happy more than you want to be happy.

God’s will comes from living in a relationship with Jesus, and this relationship begins when you surrender your life completely to Him.

Pentecost

Jesus wants us to be more humble in how we recognize the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Lord is very clear that He will reveal Himself to us in recognizable ways, and so we have to look primarily at what’s going on inside of us. When we find ourselves capable of saying “I forgive” in the name of Christ; when we love those who oppose us and even make sacrifices for them; when we give of ourselves with delight and not grudgingly; all of these are sure signs that God’s Spirit is alive and active within us.

The word, Pentecost, comes from the Greek word for five, penta, meaning the fiftieth day. It was also called the Day of First Fruits, Festival of Weeks, and Shabuoth. In the Christian tradition, we use the color red, remembering the red flames of the Holy Spirit. It is a celebration of hope and renewal of purpose and mission.

If you have found that your Christian Faith is weak and not growing, you need to call upon the Holy Spirit. Whether it is a life-changing moment, or simply an ordinary moment when you need assistance, the Holy Spirit is there for you.

At that first Christian Pentecost, The Holy Spirit transformed uncertain, frightened, weak apostles and reconstituted the Twelve Tribes of the New Israel in the New Covenant. The flames that were unleashed that day continue to burn throughout the world in our day. The Holy Spirit can transform you too but you need to be more selfless.

It took Pentecost–and the power of the Spirit–to embolden the apostles to begin their ministry of preaching and baptizing. Conversions began to happen and the early church began to grow. And all of this took place without Jesus’ earthly presence among them.

We have to make way for the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We believe that through the Holy Spirit, God dwells within us and empowers us. We believe that even though we never walked with Jesus and the apostles, we are nonetheless accompanied by the same Spirit who is always available to us!

I will close with a wonderful and relevant prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Suscipe:
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understandingand my entire will,

All I have and call my own. You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace.

That is enough for me.”

Let’s remember to pray for each other that we will achieve what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Through the Holy Spirit, may we learn to yield more in God’s presence.

Panama

World Youth Day (WYD) 2011 in Madrid, Spain was one of the unforgettable moments in my life!

Meeting Pope Benedict in person together with the other youth from all over the world was such an amazing experience!

A dear friend posted some throwback photos of team Middle East from WYD 2011.

We are called the trailblazers for being the pioneer delegates from a parish without a physical church and structure where love, faith and hope blooms abundantly.

Team Arethas WYD

Team Arethas goofing around after the WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Pope Benedict in his powerful words. Below photos: smiling with the delegates from South Korea and Poland. WYD Panama 2019 will be a chance for pilgrims around the world to come together with the many young people from the peripheries in Latin America to pray, worship, and celebrate the Catholic faith.

There were a lot of fond memories in Spain- from the mundane to the profound, and many more.

But, one thing that I am proud of our team was finding a family in a group of pilgrims who wanted to become more closer to God through the WYD experience.

Next year, a new set of youth pilgrims will set foot in Panama for WYD 2019.

Group travel has interesting quirks. It can be difficult keeping people together and getting them somewhere at the same time. You can expect that someone will always have to use the toilet, someone will get lost, someone will get sick, someone will miss a train/bus/metro, or someone will lose a plane ticket or money (and sometimes it’s the same person for all of the above). Does it ring a bell, Team Arethas?

The best way to keep everyone on time and together is to leave lots of time for getting places and count heads after every mode of transportation.

One way to keep your group together while moving through a crowd is to have someone hold a unique flag that pilgrims can follow. If you are concerned about the group, have the flag stop on the side and let your pilgrims come to the flag to be counted.

The primary means of transportation for WYD pilgrims will be walking. Prepare your body ahead of time. Do a lot of physical activity before you leave.

I even enrolled in a gym before leaving for Madrid- though my chubby cheeks in photos doesn’t show any justice to it.

According to the bishops here are 10 great ways to prepare for WYD 2019:

1. Pray.
Pray for your fellow pilgrims (even those you have yet to meet), for Pope Francis and the bishops participating, for the people of Panama, for those who cannot travel to WYD, and for yourself, that you may be open to God’s will for you at World Youth Day.

2. Pack.
And don’t pack everything – just what is needed for the journey. Remember clothes (though not too many), good walking shoes, a hat, your morning basics (toothbrush, toiletries, etc.), any medications you need, your sleeping bag, your passport, and items that will help you travel spiritually (the Bible, prayer cards, your rosary, etc.).

3. Walk.
At World Youth Day, there will be a lot of walking. Begin training for that by taking time to walk a few miles each day. Consider bringing others with you on your outings. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to be outside and to get in some healthy exercise!

4. Study.
Find out more about the country of Panama, its saints, and history. Pick up some Spanish phrases. Read about the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Dig deeper into your Catholic faith.

5. Learn.
Learn about World Youth Day: how and why it began, what the schedule will be this year, and who is expected to be there.

6. Listen.
When you’re in such big crowds like at World Youth Day, we need to listen attentively to directions and instructions. Get in the habit of listening to what your group leaders and other church leaders have to say. Listening is also the best way to keep safe.

7. Fast.
When you’re at World Youth Day, you will live simply (just as Pope Francis encourages us to do). To prepare for that experience, consider fasting from food, from excess and material goods, and from bad habits.

8. Give.
One of the best ways to prepare for a pilgrimage is to give selflessly of yourself for others. Not only does this help another person in need, but it also trains us to think outside of ourselves (something good to know on a pilgrimage surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people).

9. Talk.
Tell others about your trip. Explain to them why you are making the trip to World Youth Day, and what your Catholic faith means to you.

10. Share.
Too often, when the pilgrimage is over, people can close themselves off to those who didn’t experience the journey. Instead, consider sharing your joys and struggles with friends and family who aren’t going to Panama. And upon coming home, make a concerted effort to share your experiences in a positive and inviting manner, without making others feel left out.

God-willing I hope I can join WYD 2019 in Panama! Shout out to all my sponsors 😇

Jardin

Do you need a hassle-free venue for a wedding reception in Tagaytay?

Check out Jardin De Padre Pio, which is conveniently located at the compound of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

The event place offers room accommodation, a beautiful verdant garden reception area and an indoor hall perfectly suited for your simply made perfect moment.

They are one of the most competitive venue rates in the area.

My wife and I was introduced to Bro. Allan Samson, a Capuchin brother who was in-charged of the venue back 2013. He was very cordial and very accommodating.

Jardin de Padre Pio

The beautiful Jardin de Padre Pio in Tagaytay.

Kuya Willie Gatpandan, the ever-reliable wedding supplier in upland Cavite introduced him to us.

The venue is suitable for wedding, baptism, birthday celebrations and small conferences.

After five (5) years of having our wedding reception in the venue, I had a chance to visit the place and I was amazed on the improvements and it looks more amazing as ever.

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If only the trees could speak and share the beautiful occassions held in the place. I would be glad to hear it and share my wonderful memories as well.

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SCA

People come and go, but the mission continues.

This is God’s work. His victory not ours.

We would like to thank our student servant leaders who came and took part in bringing more youth closer to God through Student Catholic Action (SCA) movement in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).

We have new set of servants in the vineyard who undergone the pastoral formation program last weekend.

They said ‘yes’ to God’s call by serving others and we pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to empower them in this mission.

SCA

“God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.” –

Special thanks to our alumni for their unwavering support in sharing their talents, treasures and time for making the program possible.

SCA is the first student Catholic movement in the Philippines that started in 1936.

SCA came to PLM in 1981 and now on its 37th year, the movement stood tall amidst challenges in the past years.

How did SCA come to the campuses? Who started the spark that ignited the passion of serving others?

Here’s an article published last year about the selfless love of the Columban clergy that inspired SCA.

The Columbans and the Student Leaders they Molded
(by Milwida M. Guevara, SCA Alumni, originally published in Manila Bulletin, December 12, 2017)

I tried to focus on the celebration of the mass yesterday but my memory kept drifting to the past. My friend, Fr. Michael Mohally, a Columban priest, celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest. His years were indeed golden, having served as a missionary, and dedicated to the formation of leaders through Student Catholic Action (SCA).

The Columban Missionaries are also celebrating their centenary in the country this year. They ran parishes, established schools, served as university chaplains, and worked with the poor.

Many Columbans died as martyrs in the Philippines. Fr. Thomas Flynn died in the hands of the Huks in 1950. Fr. Rufus Hally was shot dead in 2001. President FVR was personally involved in the rescue of Fr. Des Hartford who was abducted by militants in Marawi in 1997.

But we remember the Columbans most fondly for their work with students. They had a special knack for identifying those with great potential for leadership and held their hands and hearts in their formative years. The Columbans modeled the virtues of servant-leadership, sharpened their minds through “teach-ins” and conferences, and developed their love for others through immersion in marginalized communities.

I am privileged to walk in the company of colleagues whose values and work were shaped by the Columban Fathers: Ernie Garilao, former Secretary of DAR; Carn Abella, former President of DAP; Dr. Antonio Torralba, former Dean of Liberal Arts, UAAP; Atty. Hector Villacorta, Secretary of the Commission on Appointments; Tess Villacorta, former Executive Director of Children’s Hour; Tina Monzon Palma, ANC Anchor, Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Professor, Ateneo de Manila University, and of course, the great Raul Roco. We were products of “indoctrination” of the Columbans on how to live a meaningful life through service to others.

SCA was introduced in campuses at a time when students were drawn to the ideals of Communism. The Columbans adopted the cell technique in formation. It is interesting to note that the ideals of Communism were propagated through the cell method. We met regularly with a group of students where we discussed how it is to be a leader, the meaning of love, and how virtues such as humility and courage, are acquired. But our discussions were rooted not on the teachings of Lenin and Trotsky, but on the examples of a much bigger leader, Jesus. We reflected on His Gospel and His life of love. It was in these cell meetings where I first listened to Raul Roco, dapper, dashing, and eloquent in flawless English and Tagalog. Every December, the Columbans gathered student leaders in every school, college and university, and “indoctrinated” them in Baguio – La Patria Hotel for the men and St. Joseph College, for the women. Coming straight from the province, you could imagine how I listened with starry eyes to Sonia Malasarte, Nonong Contreras, Tati Licuanan, Pablo Trillana, Fr. Sonny Ramirez, Imelda Nicolas,and Abelardo Cortez.

The Columbans also saw to it that student-leadership should be well-rounded. We had festivals throughout the year where we developed our talents in drama, debates, singing, dancing, arts, and sports. Those were the years when SCA sponsored college fairs where we had great fun in marriage booths, roulettes, merry-go-round, and ferris wheels. In the evenings, we swayed and boogied with the music of RJ Jacinto and the Electromaniacs.

The Columbans helped us to have a deep understanding of life. They led us in our work with communities in the peripheries. I credit my work with the public high schools and the slums in Tondo as the backbone of my obsession for justice and education. It is not strange that many of my SCA colleagues have a penchant for public service and have continued to work with the poor.

I met Fr. Michael 47 years ago. He had an innocent look on his face and was looking forward to his work in the Philippines. Little did he know that he would serve as the Director of SCA in public high schools for many years, sans any priest as assistant. He was forever running around all day in his small car saying masses all over Metro Manila, counseling hundreds of students, and guiding their activities. His heart broke (and so did ours) when SCA was outlawed by the martial law government.

But the Columbans probably will never realize how much their work with SCA has impacted on Filipinos. Their influence has multiplied a million fold through the work of former student leaders whom they have formed. Like ripples in a pond, the ideals of the Columbans have multiplied and changed the course of rivers and oceans. They have set the course for thousands of SCAns to do what is right, give without counting the cost, and work without seeking reward.

Thank you Fr. Michael and the Columban missionaries who have given their best to the country. Indeed, you made us hear the angels sing.