Thirty-six young seminarians composed the 15th Batch of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey (NCALJ) conducted in Cagayan de Oro City last May 8 to 10, 2015.
The first batch of seminarians, also the fourth NCALJ run done in Mindanao, came from the San Jose de Mindanao Seminary, an archdiocesan college seminary, established in 1955 by the late Archbishop James T. Hayes. The NCALJ program was specialized to their context as young seminarians, discerning for priesthood. But more than the objective of becoming good priests, the program’s core value of spiritual leadership remained with the aim for the participants to become good individuals.
Fr. Gil Escalante, the current rector of the San Jose de Mindanao Seminary, opened the 3-day leadership journey by welcoming the seminarians into the retreat experience, as well as welcoming the NCALJ Team to the community: “We are happy to have you here and you are most welcome. Hopefully, the God who has welcomed us, who has shown Himself and blessed us, will also bless you in this retreat.”
The participants were given the privilege of listening to different speakers who shared their own experiences of God and insights into a deeper relationship with Him and His people. Dom Bulan, a newly accepted novice of the Society of Jesus, shared his own vocation story to the group, leaving an important reminder that “The least I can do for God is everything.” Fr. Joel Liwanag, SJ, a newly ordained Jesuit priest and current campus minister of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, talked about the call of Christ for all us. He emphasized in his sharing that, “We can never put limits at how God would like to express His love for us.” And Fr. Jboy Gonzales, SJ, a known speaker from Jesuit Communication’s Kape’t Pandesal, talked about the challenge of Pope Francis to the entire clergy: “Do not wait! We must not remain in our churches but go out and interact with the people! You [seminarians] bring Jesus to the world and give the people a model to follow!”
Other speakers during the retreat included Ms. Queeny Velasco, the wife of renowned painter Joey Velasco, best known for his re-envisioned Last Supper painting named Hapag ng Pag-Asa; Bro. Kim Buñag, SJ, a scholastic Jesuit brother newly assigned in Cagayan de Oro; Roberto Guevara, an Ateneo de Manila Theology Professor; Niko Capucion, a speaker and church builder from Bo Sanchez’s charismatic community: Light of Jesus Family; and Bro. Rolly Cabuga, a former San Jose de Mindanao Seminarian, now in St. John Vianey Theology Seminary.
As the leadership retreat ended, many of the seminarian-leaders shared their own learnings and realizations from their Journey experience. Christian Jun Presillas, a 1st year seminarian, expressed his appreciation for the experience: “I’d like to thank NCAF for giving us this opportunity. As a young seminarian, I know I have a lot of doubts still, a lot of question, but … from this retreat, I learned the truth that God is with me.” Michael Andrew Yu, a fresh graduate of San Jose de Mindanao Seminary, likewise spoke of his gratitude for undergoing the program: “I am grateful for the opportunity for being here. I know that the things I have learned here I will bring with me all the way to theology. What I will bring with me as I return to my home is my gratitude that I am loved by God.” He added, “The challenge for me is to purify my intention, I must be courageous enough to serve my people. Being a priest, being a seminarian, Christ must be at the center of your life.”
The Ninoy & Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) traces its roots to the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation (BSAF), established by the late Senator’s widow in November 1983 to perpetuate his legacy. It seeks to build on the legacy of Ninoy and Cory Aquino by supporting activities that embody the spirit of People Power as a strong and positive force for social change in a robust democracy. Since 2008, the Foundation has made a deliberate effort to strengthen this advocacy through leadership formation development.
The San Jose de Mindanao Seminary was founded by the late Archbishop James T. Hayes S.J., D.D., in 1954. Located on top of Camaman-an Hill in Cagayan de Oro City, it was the first college seminary established in the island of Mindanao. Based from Archbishop James T. Hayes’ original vision, the seminary aims to form good pastoral priest-leaders in Mindanao, who are after Christ’s own heart of love and service for others.