Different and various experiences will surely have impact in every one’s lives. So also the experiences in the pastoral life give the foretaste of our future as we are preparing for the priesthood. Of course the experiences have no specific boundary to conclude, but they are part of life and therefore they follow as shadows. That is the reason why they are precious and they reflect our lives. Experiences are like a coin with two sides and they picture the two sides of our lives ¬- sad moments and happy events.
According to the Vatican II, the whole training of students ought to provide for the development of true shepherds of souls after the model of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the teacher, priest and shepherd. Hence the pastoral accomplishment given to the students should be more oriented towards helping them to discover and deepen the pastoral dimensions of their spirituality.
After saying few words about the importance of the apostolate in our lives, let me give some general views about our experiences in Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish, Paranaque. It has been a privileged opportunity for four of the 2nd year theology students (namely Ravi, Raja, Gianluca and Mikele) to invest our time and to learn from the many events and many people we encounter during the two days, Saturday and Sunday, of our Apostolate.
All our lips and hearts say that it is an excellent opportunity for us. The moments when people stare at us and say to some of us “hey Joe” or “hey man”, are times which tinkle us to pay attention or to ignore. Actually, they are the commencing points for interaction and starting point for the dialogue. During the first few months we were the audiences and observers. Time passed by so fast that we now realize that we are almost at the end of this year.
We are involved mostly with some groups and some activities in the Parish. Especially with the Youth Group, Choirs in different Chapels, Legion of Mary, Little Angels and Knights of the Altar. All these groups and other people in the Parish are cooperating in different ways for the mutual understandings and growth in our relationships with them. In this line of experience Gianluca adopts three adjectives to explain his dealings with people. He says: “I would speak about my experience using three adjectives: joyful, challenging and formative.
“Joyful”, because joy is the prevalent feeling we experience over the whole weekend. All the tensions of the study disappear behind the happiness of having met so many people.
“Challenging”, because of the many differences. I am dealing mainly with young people, and I am constantly aware of the distance between me – Italian, 29 years old, living in Tagaytay, belonging to the upper portion of society – and the people I meet. Of course, this fact doesn’t make my work impossible, but it surely challenges me in some aspects.
Finally, “Formative”. I often feel that I am not necessary. The altar boys could find somebody else to give formation; the youth are structured enough to walk on their own yet, I don’t feel out of place. I’m convinced that I am in “my” place, the place that God has prepared for me. Therefore, I am at peace and happy.”
Mikele is so eagerly waiting to tell all of us that his experience is a gift from God. He says: “ First of all, I would like to thank God for giving us this beautiful experience which I never had before. Our presence amidst the people is important. Sometimes we may not do anything for them but because of our presence they are happy. I consider that sharing is very important in our apostolate, by expressing our sharing to one another, we get to know each other and become instruments of concern and care in society.”
It is true that the people are looking forward to be healed and to be cared. I wish to mention one of our experiences with a family. On one of the Sundays we heard about the death of one of the altar boys in Phase II. On hearing this news we visited the family and gave our condolence. This simple gesture of visit by us brought a kind of atmosphere in that family. The aspect of concern and care elevates even the heavily burdened heart.
We are all constant learners in any fields of life. In the pastoral filed the learning is very much a reciprocal activity. We learn from the people and other hand the people learn from us. Here Raja supports the point of learning by his sharing of experience with the legion of Mary.
He says: “ I appreciate greatly the devotion to our Lady. And so this attitude led me one day to attend the meeting of the Legion of Mary in the Parish. From then on I continued to take part in their meeting. Besides reciting the rosary, the groups have different activities: visiting sick people in the hospitals, helping the poor and the needy in their difficulties. They commit themselves to be faithful children of Mary. These meetings bring unity and peace among themselves and in their families.”
They are many experiences which are floating in our minds, but we pause here for a moment to thank our superiors, the priests and all the people of Mary Queen of Apostles for giving us many opportunities to grow more and more in order to become worthy servants of the Lord