IS THIS LIFE FOR ME?

A REFLECTION ON OLAS FORMATION PROGRAM

 


“Whoever calls on the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him when they have not yet believed? And how can they believe if the message is not preached? And how can the message be preached unless messengers are sent?”


We, the college seminarians, are among those who are called. By freely answering the call of Jesus, we have come to Our Lady of the Angels Seminary to prepare ourselves for a life of total service to the Lord and his people. We are to develop more fully and explicitly our priestly or religious vocation for the salvation of mankind. We are to be missionaries to the world, especially in East Asia, to live our lives according to the gospel, in joyful and prayerful brotherhood, living out the virtues of poverty, simplicity and chastity amongst the people. “Come, Francis and build my Church which you can see is falling to ruin,” were our Lord’s words calling St. Francis. 

The Focus is on Formation

In our stay in OLAS we have engaged in more than just preliminary training, for not only are we college students but seminarians in formation as well. We grow and are strengthened in five particular aspects of our formation, mainly, that of spirituality, work, apostolate for the juniors and seniors, community life and study (SWACS).


The formation concentrates also on our growth and maturity as individuals, developing our personalities as humans, to help us reach a degree of maturity expected of our age and so help us grow as persons with potentials in physical, intellectual, emotional, psycho-sexual and social life. So as Christians, we are introduced to the basic facts of our Christian faith and to nurture in us the aspiration to live the Christian way of life. As Franciscans, we are introduced to the spirituality and lifestyle of Saint Francis, and so are provided with an initial experience of living in a community of brothers.


Also we are part of this seminary community and we contribute to its life and worship. Therefore, all our activities here, whether curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular, have helped us gradually to experience continually our Lord in such a way that our identity as college students does not supplant our identity as candidates for the religious or priestly life. We have also realized that the years of formation have value in themselves now as well as for the future.



It is not an easy life, for great effort is required of us. But the spirit of prayer gives us the strength, confidence and joy in the Lord and we know that we are not alone. For at the same time there is the faculty-formation team. In fact, all the personnel of the seminary are working with us towards strengthening and nourishing our chosen vocation. They act as agents of the Church in forming us to be holy and dedicated religious or priests someday.


The college endeavors to provide a sound religious and priestly training, thus, helping us to form and confirm the commitment that will be demanded of us upon entrance into the novitiate and ecclesiastical studies. Therefore, we have to desire sincerely to dedicate ourselves to the religious life or priestly ministry and must continually make the deliberate decision to try our best to live accordingly the Franciscan way. Thereby, we deliberately foster the attitudes that are expected of a future minister and so avoid actions that are inconsistent with this calling. In particular, in all our actions we promote a firm dedication to serve our community and the people who will be gradually entrusted to our care. This is part of the test as to whether we are able to truly live a religious or priestly life.


The seminary rules and regulations are made for the effective pursuit of the objectives of the college department, especially within the community life. The disciplinary norms are to strengthen us to perform difficult tasks necessary for our personal growth and for our service to the community, the country and the Church. So, the rules affecting our community or individual life are not just to be obeyed passively, but accepted and followed with a willing and cheerful heart. This is to be done without hesitation, but out of deep conviction and charity. As we continue to grow in maturity and in the sense of duty, it is expected that we to learn to be more our own guide in the light and spirit of Jesus working and living in our hearts.


To live our lives each day dedicated to our special devotions, to live a life of prayer not only in words but also in thought and deeds. It is true when they say that no man is an island, for in the seminary life, we live together in and with the community. It is through our daily communal life with the fellow brothers and priests, as well as the teaching and non-teaching personnel that we grow in learning to communicate and appreciate the presence of others in our lives. That by having them, we help them as much as they help us towards our chosen vocations, that by living a healthy communal life we also strengthen healthy relationships and so instill confidence in ourselves. 

Spirituality

Daily we, the seminarians, do our best to renew ourselves to become more and more shaped into the likeness of Christ. Participation in the mysteries of Our Lord is arrived by a) obedience to his words, which are heard in the readings of the Holy Scriptures and book of creation, b) the response that we give in our personal, communal and liturgical prayer, in contemplation of God’s “footprints” in all creation, c) our conscious and profound participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.


Every morning, we rise at 5:30; we then prepare ourselves for the six o’clock mass. The proper decorum is worn during the mass and in class as well, that of wearing a white polo shirt, dark slacks and either shoes or sandals with ankle straps. Mass would usually end at about seven, followed by the rosary on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. A weekly mass is also celebrated in honor of Our Lady on Saturday. Novenas are said in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Wednesdays and in honor of San Pedro Bautista on Thursdays. Wednesdays are when the particular peer groups of each year level sponsors the mass, followed by the peer group prayer meeting in the evening, at which either the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed, the rosary recited or the Friday’s Gospel reading reflected upon. This is considered as the Peer Wednesday. Fridays are when the different regions, mainly that of the Tagalog, Visaya and Ilokano, sponsor the mass as well as the prayers for the day and the Angelus.
In correlation with the mass, the community also prays the liturgy of the hours, that is, lauds in the morning or vespers in the evening, depending upon the mass schedule. Confessions are heard at least once a month, often accompanied by the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday evenings, the different Bible sharing groups spend time together to reflect upon the gospel reading for Sunday. By this we grow in awareness and knowledge of the truth and message of the gospels. By preparing ourselves in this way, we learn to live it out in our lives.


We also keep in mind the feasts and memorials of the particular Franciscan saints, so that by venerating and honoring their lives we may be reminded of Christ, and so follow him in the way of Saint Francis. We thus continue to inspire and encourage ourselves in our chosen vocations to the religious or priestly life. Creative liturgy is also very important in the lives of the seminarians. By living out the dynamics of liturgical life, they may continue to find the inspiration and strength in prayer and meditation.


A seminarian is encouraged to visit the Blessed Sacrament daily, pray the rosary, make the way of the cross, and spend time in daily spiritual and scripture reading as well as to spend time with God in evaluating himself according to God’s words and wishes. There is also spiritual direction at least once a month and formation conferences to help encourage the seminarian’s spiritual life. The freshmen are given training to serve at mass.


There are appointed days which all students including externs spend in renewal or recollection. This helps us to renew and reflect on our vocation as future religious or priests. These are of fundamental importance to help us grow in our vocation. Punctuality and diligence in all our daily spiritual exercises is part of discipline. 

Work

We should work. By our work, we join with our fellow human beings and serve them, and we are enabled to exercise true charity. We then become partners in bringing God’s creation to perfection. By offering our labor to the Lord, we become associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. But work is not only for others, for when we work we not only alter state and society, we develop ourselves as well. We learn much and cultivate our resources, reaching outside and beyond our limitations. Work then is both a duty and a right for all people and for all Christians.


Within the seminary, besides our studies, our main work concerns the maintenance of the seminary and its grounds. Everyday, right after breakfast there is the daily house cleaning, when seminarians are assigned to clean and sweep or mop the areas commonly used during the day, such as the corridors and recreation rooms. On Saturday afternoons from 2 to 3, the seminarians take part in the general house cleaning. The community participates in maintaining areas in need of heavy cleaning, for example, the refectory and auditorium. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 4:15 to 5:30, we maintain the seminary grounds. We clean the gardens, ground pathways and other open areas. Work and maintenance of the seminary grounds and property is a duty constantly exercised by the seminarians and so help to continually improve and develop the seminary’s environment and atmosphere. By working generously with others as a family and doing the best job we can, we contribute to the development of the brotherhood and even of our own selves. 

Apostolate 

The apostolate is an essential element in the religious or priestly life. During the years of formation, this apostolate is exercised on a limited basis, but it is designed to prepare each student to bring the gospel to the people. Unfortunately, apostolate only occurs for the third and fourth years, as the lower years are not allowed yet to engage in apostolate activities to give them ample time to adjust to the seminary life.


The juniors are engaged in the ministry of lectors. By proclaiming the word of God during daily masses they learn to build their lives not only in the liturgy but also in bringing the good news to the people. Most especially they are sent to houses for the sick and the elderly. Here they learn to share their lives and talents with the people whom St. Francis of Assisi dearly loved.
The seniors are engaged in teaching catechism and giving recollections in public schools. The apostolate is experienced in such a way that the aspirant seminarians grow in essential knowledge and wisdom and in acquiring skills as future religious or priests.


All students should have the necessary orientation, preparation and training before undertaking any apostolate. Any apostolic activity is supervised and evaluated by a formator, by a recognized supervisor or a member of the core formation team. The amount of time given to any apostolic activity must harmonize with other duties. Normally, a seminarian should take only one apostolic activity for a certain length of time, and thus must be in harmony with the pastoral program and approved by the pastor of the parish in which it is exercised. 

Community Life 

No person stands alone. We are part of the community and we are dependent on one another. At OLAS we live largely with our fellow brothers in a community modeled on good Christian family life. It serves as a fitting prelude to our future life as a religious. Community life is fundamental for Franciscan growth. Even for those who aspire for the priesthood but do not intend to become religious. Such a common life should, as the Second Vatican Council states, prepare for the unity in a sacramental brotherhood with the wider community of the diocesan presbyterium by the bond of charity, prayer and manifold cooperation, in order to build up the body of Christ. Community life is demanded of a religious or priestly life these days.
Living a community life in the seminary presupposes all the attributes found in a happy Christian family: a) obedience to proper authority, b) loyalty to the group and to individual members, c) unselfish faithfulness to whatever obligations affect the whole group, d) observance of disciplinary rules laid down for the group, and e) an all-around courtesy which the Christ-life within you transforms into Christian charity. You cannot love God whom you cannot see unless you love your fellow brothers whom you do see!


During our sports which occur every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons from 4:15 to 5:30, not only do we exercise ourselves physically and mentally, but we also learn to encourage and build up teamwork. On Wednesdays, each peer group spends the evening from 8 to 9 in enjoying the company of each other at recreation, each peer group having a specific location where to recreate. We have community recreation also every Sunday evening from 8 to 9, when we play games together in groups, or may have the opportunity to participate in singing and dancing.


Here in the seminary, there is not a day which we do not spend for the community. For we all fall under the same rules and the same authority. As brothers, we bond together in love and unity with one another, either at work, at study, at recreation or at prayer. There are specific times and schedules when we spend our time in community building and recreation, where we learn to enjoy and appreciate the presence and company of our fellow brothers. By this we find the opportunity to break away from the usual program of studies. By giving ourselves to others we introduce an atmosphere that is conducive to the realization of the presence of God among and within us, thus helps us to progress in our vocation and in glorifying God.


Communal life requires a great deal of effort on our part, as we grow selflessly and affectionately with our brothers in the community. Each day we strive to help and strengthen one another in the little ways we can. Our community life counts not only in class, not only in the refectory or at working grounds, but also to the extent that we grow personally together in brotherhood.

Studies

In the world today, every career requires specialization and skill. As aspirants to the religious or priestly life, it is our task to acquire the skills and qualities which will enable us to carry out the ministry that Christ will give us.


By an enthusiastic response to the study program, which includes reading, discussion, developing awareness of problems in different areas, and consultation with lectors, we become more effective aspirants, aware of the problems of the world and are able to present the Christian solution in a way which can be understood by people today.


Here in the seminary, we study the liberal arts, which pertains to general knowledge skills, such as English, Filipino, math, social sciences, natural sciences, psychology, physical education as well as an introduction to liturgical music and composition. This serves as the college course for the lower years, with logic and an introduction to both philosophy and the catechism for the second years. Upon reaching third year, the major courses of philosophy and theology are studied and so are carried on into fourth year. During the fourth year, study of Church History, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are a requirement. Upon advancing to higher years, extensive research is needed for the requirement of term papers and the thesis and most importantly are the introductions and study of Franciscanism and of the Franciscan saints. By this we will also grow in the Franciscan life and spirit.


Classes occur throughout the day, from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. We do our best to be punctual and attentive during class hours, as well as considerate to the professor and to our classmates. As students of OLAS, not only is it our duty to consistently read and study, but also to help and encourage our fellow brothers who may be having difficulty understanding and responding to one subject or another. By this we also promote the Franciscan brotherhood of sharing our talents, gifts and knowledge with one another. 

Our Life, Our Joy

Besides the usual and daily activities, there are times when we as seminarians, live out our everyday lives applying what we know and have learned in these fields of formation. Especially when it comes to special occasions, celebrations and concert activities, we do our best to apply our talents and knowledge, sacrificing our time and efforts for the best and good of the community.


Sundays we spend either as a free day with our families or recreate with the community. Overnights are also permitted, unless it is recommended that we spend best our free time for study or rehearsals. 


Here in the seminary, all seminarians should develop interest in creative activities, such as arts, music and crafts. We are encouraged to cultivate wholesome hobbies in which we may exercise our individual talents and so find fulfillment and relaxation. For someone who wishes to offer himself to the Lord, there should be no room for idleness. Willingly, meaningfully and joyfully the candidate must use all his time and efforts constructively and productively for himself and for others, most of all, in constant communion with God through prayer and the liturgy.


One should never say: “I have done enough.” For even Saint Francis of Assisi himself said: “Let us start now, my brothers, for until now we have done nothing.”