Early in January, Mo. Isabella told me to go to Cebu, Philippines in February to help the Sisters assigned there for the Vocation Promotion activity as the Archdiocese there celebrates the yearly Vocation Month in February.
I left Manila early on a Sunday morning and arrived in Cebu after a one-hour flight and was picked up by Sr. Imelda at the airport. We reached the convent at around 10 o’clock in the morning. In the afternoon, I accompanied Sr. Bernaden who was to give a talk about Leadership to a group of women under the care of the Sisters (Missionaries of Mary Queen of the Apostles). Although this was not a vocation campaign activity it was a good starting point for discussions over the next three weeks.
In the following days, all of us Sisters, Bernaden, Marilyn and Imelda of FDZ Cebu community and I were busy going to the different vocation campaigns organized by the DVP-Cebu Chapter. We visited various high schools and colleges and we were warmly welcomed by the faculty, staff and students. Our talks delved into vocations to priesthood and religious life and we handed out vocation materials to the students, hoping that by sowing the seed in their hearts, they would consider listening to the call of Jesus and follow Him in a way of life dedicated to Him, in the service of the Church. These experiences I found challenging and requiring much patience.
Our vocation activities also consisted of a room to room campaign at the different universities in Cebu city. Other than the Religious men and women in Cebu there were also several others who came from Manila for the same purpose. We dispersed ourselves and used our own unique way to approach the students. This was fun but also challenging.
Going to Caliongan was a rare experience. Fr John Mission invited Sr. Bernaden and myself to visit this place which is located on the mountainous part of Dalaguete town. We took what people in the Philippines call a “habalhabal” which is a motorcycle with a driver’s seat at the front and one wide seat for three passengers at the back. The road to Caliongan was very rough and the 30-minute motorcycle ride was scary. We stopped along the way to meet a high school student who had expressed a desire to enter the convent and Sr. Bernaden arranged for the student meet us later in the Barangay Hall, where Fr. John resides. After her classes, accompanied by two friends, she came to see us . We attended Mass said by Fr. John at 5 pm where we were given the chance to talk about the importance of praying for vocations and the support of the parents for the vocation of their children.
The following day, we talked to the fourth year students of Caliongan National High School. We were warmly welcomed by the faculty and students there. The female students were happy to have us since we were the first women religious congregation who came to give a talk to them. We left the place after lunch and this time we rode a truck carrying vegetables to be delivered to the city. It was quite scary to see the cliff in front of us; it seemed like the truck was going straight down, missing the road. After some time of anxiety, we got used to the technique of the driver and made ourselves comfortable. We arrived at the convent in safety and in joy, bringing with us the memory of the beautiful people we met, the warm welcome we received and the hope that the young people would truly respond to Christ’s call to follow Him in the priestly and religious life.
We spent the next few days going to different schools for our vocations talks. Unfortunately in the midst of this hectic schedule I had to leave so I headed back to Manila in late February, grateful for the enriching experiences and for the new acquaintances I had made. I praise and thank God for the grace-filled days I had in Cebu.
Sr. M. Elvira Plazuelo, fdz