Saturday, August 13, 2011

Senior Workers In the Vineyard

Fr. Mike Sandalo of the Barnabite Fathers in Tagaytay asked for a small write up regarding our feelings of our being awarded as couple affiliate to the Barnabites which he intends to publish in their newsletter. We both wrote separate notes regarding this unexpected appreciation of our contribution to the service of our community in Barangay San Jose in Tagaytay City.
I wrote:
First of all let me just say that my wife Alma and I are truly grateful for your having bestowed upon us the honour of being the first couple affiliate of the Barnabites in the Philippines. It was granted on a day when we had a maddening schedule and almost missed the Barnabites Presbyteral Ordination.  God really worked his magic and saw to it that the things we had to do for that day fell into an orderly sequence and allowed us to attend this special occasion which granted deaconates and ordinations to priesthood to some of our friends in the seminary.
As we sat through the rites we didn’t have the least notion that we will be the recipients of a great blessing. When the grant of the affiliation was announced I was not quick to realize the grandness of the event. I had the feeling that my wife was as bemused as I was. The feeling was more of being astounded and bewildered for we knew not that an award was to be given and, also, wondered what made us deserving of such an accolade. We rose from the pews a bit slowly as we were ushered towards the altar to be awarded the certificate of affiliation, the portrait of Our Mother of Divine Providence and a commemorative medallion of San Antonio Maria Zaccaria jointly presented by Father Joselito Ortega, Head of Barnabites Scholasticate, Philippines and Fr. Francisco Silva, Assistant Superior General Clerics Regular of Saint Paul; Barnabite Fathers.  
My wife and I are pushing seventy, so to speak, and have experienced a wide gamut of human experiences...good times, bad times; times of joy and grief; risen up from occasional failures; went through deprivation and times of plenty. By His grace we survived them all and are now happily into retirement or should I say in the pre departure area wishing flight cancellations, as it were, from day to day. It may well have been this way but the Lord in His infinite kindness presented us with a gift, the opportunity to be of service to others.
It was our great fortune to have chosen Tagaytay as our retirement place.
Barangay San Jose provided us with the rare privilege of being in the community of the religious and with the local folks whose families have been here for generations. Having neighbours such as these make for a wonderful sense of community where a generous exchange of talents and privilege flow naturally with the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul had referred to this aggrupation as the Body of Christ, the Christian community. The Holy Spirit has given the members of the community special gifts which are used in the service of the Lord.  Truly we are in “God’s little acre” to borrow a title from a renowned American author.
 We found ourselves in an environment that is conducive to be of service to others. The feeding programs of the Merciful Sisters, the Tahanang Mapagaruga preschool for their supply needs, the help extended to a few scholars were done with the help of friends and relatives whom we have enjoined from time to time to assist in the service of our community.  The invitation to do the refresher course in oral and written English for some of the seminarians were really God sent as it helped scrape the accumulated rust in our brains which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease. These, together with a few more little good deeds came effortlessly and given with cheerful hearts.
All of these came at the Lord’s bidding. It has been our great fortune that we were chosen to serve in His vineyard. Faith alone does not assure salvation. Without good works it is dead. Our lives and the little that is left of them have been made brighter and more meaningful, otherwise, they would have just been spent in sombre and morbid anticipation of the fading of the light. Praise God!

Alma wrote:
The most felt emotion was one of surprise when we realized that we were being given recognition for the assistance in the good works initiated by the nuns and the priests in our neighbourhood. I didn’t think that what we had done was that exceptional to merit praise. There was also a bit of embarrassment because we felt that we should have done more to deserve the recognition and that the degree of difficulty of the effort we exerted should have been higher.
What now comes to my mind is how much more help is needed, what other things can we do. Perhaps you can tell us about what you expect of your affiliates so that we can better serve.  Are there conventions that we must follow as Barnabite affiliates? A code of conduct? A set of things that we must achieve?
At the end of the day what we now feel is one of humble gratitude for being given the gift of service to our Lord.  We have shared this opportunity with our friends and relatives who have been more than generous with their contributions. The Lord made it so easy. We are truly blessed.

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