Vice-Province of Manila Retreat: “You are the Light of the world”

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April 18-20, 2024, the Vice-Province of Manila held a retreat in Montserrat, Silang Cavite, Philippines. The retreat lasted for 3 days. It was participated by the confreres and lay missioners of the Vice-Province of Manila. The retreat was facilitated by Fr. Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R. He draws us towards an intimate understanding of the Communicanda, which centres on the gospel “You are the Light of the World.” The Communicanda speaks of the pressing concerns in the world today and, at the same time, a continuing reminder for us religious to carry the light in confronting the pressing concerns. Fr. Ivel reminded us to persevere in following the footsteps of the Redeemer, especially in the midst of the darkness. And in following, we as Redemptorists might also experience this darkness in ourselves, in the community, and even in our vocation.

On the first day, Fr. Ivel talked about the realities of each time-period and how some of these realities are still dominant to this day. The challenges of insecurities, crisis, corruption, abuses, and so on have also been trials for the Church. These challenges inevitably also affected our lifestyle as Religious until today. Some have fallen while others have been able to surpass these trials, these different crises became a culture that presents itself as normal. However, despite these trials, it is a constant call for us to live differently, and it is expressed through our religious vows. Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience are gifts that counter-culture the normalized crises. Only by living differently can we become a bearer of hope like the Redeemer, a hope that sheds light in the darkness.

On the 2nd and 3rd day, Fr. Ivel pointed out the response of our religious identity to those pressing concerns. This is reflected in the gospels where Fr. Ivel emphasized the role of community life and prayer life in that constant dialogue with the world, which was first practiced by the community of apostles. We draw inspiration from their life in following Christ the Redeemer. Our evangelization starts in our life as a community, redemption should be the first witness in our apostolic community. For this reason, we can further the content of our preaching of that good news, experiencing that goodness in our own life as a community. An apostolic community is bounded by our life in prayer, where everyone is centered in that encounter with Christ. Following Christ, the Redeemer means we are also called to be apostles of conversion, as Fr. Ivel emphasized on the 3rd day. To embrace our humanity and, at the same time, to touch the woundedness of Christ through the reality of the world. The cross symbolizes the suffering of Christ which we are to face in following Him, this cross may be reflected in the issues and crises we might face in ministry or our vocation. Fr. Ivel then reminds us of that continuous response of embracing the reality of the cross in our world today. As missionaries of hope, we hold unto that perseverance and grace, to guard ourselves from giving up.

The witness of living differently does not mean escaping the world, rather it is a grace for us to have the courage to face the world. This courage brings us to an intimate following of Christ, the Redeemer and Shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep. The retreat concluded with a reminder of the cost of discipleship, responding to His call means leaving everything behind and freely living the life of Christ. Being bearers of truth despite the possible criticisms and persecution, to carry that light despite the darkness that surrounds us, and to dwell that hope despite the frustration faced by our confreres and of the world.

Bro. Sigfrid O. Rosin, C.Ss.R.