Forming Priests for the future of the Church after His own Heart
The Adorno Fathers have been present in the Archdiocese of Lipa Batangas, Philippines, for almost two years. This task has not been easy, but neither impossible, to begin in simple ways the work entrusted to them to evangelize for the glory of God. The Adorno Fathers of Lipa therefore strive to contribute in simple ways to the growth of the church for God’s glory, just by the simple fact of having religious brothers under formation towards the priesthood. This is so because as St. John Paul II expressed in his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, “The formation of future priests, both diocesan and religious, and life-long assiduous care for their personal sanctification in the ministry and for the constant updating of their pastoral commitment are considered by the Church one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity”. Hence, the community of the Adorno Fathers in Lipa, has been established primarily as a House of Studies which at present, consists of two priest formators, Rev. Fr. Jun Abog, CRM and Rev. Arnel Hagos, CRM., and ten simple professed brothers, four of them in the first year theology and six in the second year theology.
It is in this initial way then that the task has been initiated, by forming, guiding and journeying with these ten religious brothers towards the priesthood. Furthermore, our formation strives to observe the four aspects of priestly training as the exhortation mentions, namely “the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral areas”. The work of evangelization is carried on through these different aspects.
First of all, “the whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation”. (PDV, 43); this is why the religious brothers and even the priest formators undergo a long process of training in order to be formed so as to cultivate a series of qualities not only for personal growth but with the view of ministry life. Secondly, “Human formation…finds its completion in spiritual formation”, (PDV, 45) spiritual formation thus is of great importance not only because it leads human formation towards its completion but also because, in a sense, it is the core of the whole purpose of priestly life, and especially of the religious life.
It is through the spiritual communion with God that the whole reason of being a seminarian, religious and priest finds its meaning. Therefore, “without spiritual formation pastoral formation would be left without foundation” (PDV,45) this is so true as to what Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:15). In other words, a solid understanding of pastoral activity is realized only through the personal relationship and communion that the future priest develops through spiritual formation and being linked to Christ in a spirit of charity. The fourth area comes into play, as Pastores Dabo Vobis so well expresses by stating that, “the commitment to study, which takes up no small part of the time of those preparing for the priesthood, is not in fact an external and secondary dimension of their human, Christian , spiritual and vocational growth. In reality through study, specially the study of theology, the future priest assents to the word of God, grows in his spiritual life and prepares himself to fulfill his pastoral ministry”. (PDV, 51)
As we journey together on the road of formation towards the priesthood, the brothers and the priests are able to practice their formation for the evangelization of the people entrusted to them. The Adorno Fathers have been entrusted with the care of three small chapels near the House of Formation, with the main purpose of providing for their spiritual and pastoral needs.
Thus, with the support and help of the priests, the brothers are engaged in a weekly apostolate in these three chapels in which they dedicate their weekend with various
activities. This apostolate includes catechesis for the children, house to house visitations and praying the rosary with families, the training of children choirs, and of course assisting the priests as they provide with their spiritual needs. This is what makes formation meaningful and worth the sacrifice, namely to be able not only to grow personally within the first aspect of formation as mentioned above (human, spiritual and intellectual) but also to be able to share with those who in a way had not adequately received this formation. Sharing what we had learned by engaging in pastoral work sometimes might be challenging but at the end of the day proves to be fulfilling. Just seeing the joy of the children being able to be part of the liturgical activities, the joy of the elderly and families being visited and prayed with is rewarding and is a joy that no one can take away.
As the document reminds us, priestly ministry acquires its genuine meaning and attains to its fullest truth in serving and in fostering the growth of the Christian community”. (PDV, 37) . In the same manner, as future priests, these simple ways of serving and fostering spiritual growth among them gives meaning to our formation. We come to the realization that is not only the “future priest that serves” but it is also “himself that benefits” from these people being ministered to since their gratitude for the simple things being done to them extends much more than what they had received. This gratitude can be felt as it is always uttered from their mouth with sincerity, the promise of offering prayers for all the brothers.
As Pope Francis had said during his visit to the Philippines “Learn from the people you minister to, they have much more to teach you than what they have to learn from you”. These words, full of wisdom, have become so clear and true that one never ends learning, as the document so well expresses; there is a need for ongoing formation, Human, Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral. Hence what better reward can a religious receive from these poor people than their promise to pray for them so that The Good Shepherded may provide the grace, wisdom, and necessary strength to keep up with that ongoing formation for life with only one goal in mind, to be shepherds with the heart of the Good Shepherd as he himself has promised them through the prophet Jeremiah “I WILL GIVE YOU SHEPHERDS AFTER MY OWN HEART” (Jer. 3:15).