San Carlos City, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL – Fray Miguel Miró, Prior General, visited on February 23 to 25 the last Recollect community lying in the eastern side of Negros Island: the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva-Recoletos Formation House (STV-RFH). As in other communities, he challenged the brothers to become “creators of communion” and to find concrete ways to realize it in the various engagements of the community.
With a seminary (STV-RFH) and a school (Colegio de Sto. Tomas-Recoletos) as main apostolate areas, the Recoletos de San Carlos community is composed of Fray Vicente Ramon, Jr. (Local Prior, School Treasurer, and CSEC-R Anchor); Fray Joel Alve (Vice Prior, School Director, and House Librarian); Fray Renier Alviola (Local Procurator, School Chaplain, and Local Vocation Promoter); Fray Rafael Cabarles (House Liturgist, Monteagudo and Motril Farms In-charge, and House Chronicler); and Fray Keneth Pahamutang (Prefect and Local Chapter Secretary).
Although the major superior and Fray René Paglinawan arrived here in the evening of February 23 after covering the three communities in Negros Oriental, the schedule of renewal visit did not start until the following day. This was another instance of flexibility in the schedule and format when inevitable circumstances and needs enter the picture.
After the 8:00 AM mass, Father General met in a plenum the AR Sisters (of the nearby St. Rita College), members of the SARF-San Carlos Chapter, and the RAY. Citing Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, he told them: “Our encounter with Christ must give us joy. We must live with joy and be a testimony of one’s joy to others.”
Reminding everyone about community life, he said that the Lord is the one who gives this gift to us to journey together and to live together in love eventhough we have differences. “We are rooted in Christ, and like a tree, we must bear fruits. We must be creators of communion.”
Father General reiterated to the RAY members what Pope Francis said during the World Youth Day in Panama, that is, the youth is the present of the Church and not just the future. And he also said that the young people have the duty and responsibility to bring their joy and optimism to the world. Thus, he urged them to listen to the Word of God, to share this and their experiences with their companions.
To the members of the SARF, he encouraged them to live their vocation with joy. To be a member of the SARF is a blessing, he said, so that each can become a better wife, or mother, or sister. Moreover, he told them of this fundamental input that they have already learned since their formation days: “The key to Augustinian Recollect Spirituality is love. Love is when you use your time and talents in serving others. We share our gifts in the community so that we can serve better. Our motive for doing everything should be love. Exercise your imagination and ask yourself: what can I give?”
Father General held his conference with the Recoletos Fathers in the afternoon. After the usual formalities, he addressed the community: “We have to be aware that we are a community of Augustinian Recollects. We have to know how the Lord is acting in us and through us.”
He then reminded the community about the Life and Mission Project to be accomplished, the call to be an evangelized and evangelizing community, and the challenge to work always as a team. In this way, he said, we can become creators of communion!
He also talked about the need for conversion, and that there are different levels of it: personal, communitarian, and pastoral conversion. “This conversion has to start from our encounter with Jesus Christ. It is the Lord who calls us to form a community and fulfil our mission, and to live our mission with joy.”
Switching the topic on the reality in the Province of St. Ezekiel, the Prior General said that here, the communities are bigger in terms of the number of religious. In other Provinces, some communities have only 3 members. And here, the median age is around 45 years old. Then, he added: We might think that we have already finished our work of opening a community in Asia and the fusion of other Provinces, yet there are more to be done.
Father General made mention of some particular areas. “We have here the educational apostolate in San Carlos. The elements that must characterize our institutions should be the pedagogy of love. We have to spend time money and do effort so that the Augustinian Recollect traits will be imprinted in each students. Institutional values that would make us real Augustinian Recollect. We must have specific characteristics not just depending on our taste. If we are united in this project, it would be easy for the continuity of program because we already have an idea. If we don’t follow this project, we will be just wasting our time and energy.”
He also talked about our need for social awareness especially through ARCORES which is the social network of the Order. He said that there is ardent call to raise the social consciousness of the people through information dissemination, practice of charity in an organized way, raising funds, etc.
On the protection of the minors or the most vulnerable, he advised the community that if there are cases related to it, it must conduct proper investigation and take action. He also said that the lay people must also be instructed that if something happens, they ought to know what to do. He also opined that transferring problematic religious to other communities does not help, and hoped that those who have this problem must be honest and ask for “assistance” in order not to fall into this crime.
Finally, on communication, Father General said that the community must communicate to the Province its activities. “We should be interested with what is happening in the Order. It increases our solidarity with everybody.”
All in all, the Father General was contented with his visit here. He was happy, moreover, that the community of Recoletos de San Carlos is sharing the OAR charism with other people.
Closing of the visit
At vespers, the closing of the visita de renovación was integrated.
The following day, February 25, the visitors made a historic tour around “Monteagudo-Recoletos”, a hidden paradise in one of the mountainsides overlooking the city. Fray Cabarles, the brain behind this “center” that blends spirituality and ecology, volunteered to guide his VIPs before the latter proceeded to Bacolod.
With reports from Fray Keneth Pahamutang, OAR