Vocation Story. ‘Seedbed of the Voiceless Call’

Vocation is a special part of life. It is like a tiny seed that grows and blossoms. Romeo A. Boncales, a Filipino Comboni Theology student, explains how.

I lived in an environment of strong religiosity. I grew up in a simple family with a robust religious heritage as the youngest of four children. We are fashioned to appreciate others’ goodness and fear God. My mother is the light and our first teacher. My father is a quiet man, the pillar of the house. He makes us strong amidst the difficulties we are facing. As a young boy, I always participated in Sunday Masses. Whenever I refused to join, my mother would find a way for me to attend.

As a young adult, becoming a priest was not my option. Moreover, God works in a special way. He uses people as an instrument to manifest His voiceless call. At a certain moment, I joined the Altar servants in my home parish. I served the parish for quite some time. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last long because I went in the wrong direction. I stopped going to church. But, the prayerful image of my mother and her strong spirituality became the seedbed of my vocation.

After finishing my secondary school, my friend invited me to take an entrance examination in the diocesan seminary. Before that, I had already taken an entrance exam with the ‘Missionary of the Poor’ (MOP). But my parents said ‘No’ for missionary life.

Providentially, two of us passed. We joined the diocesan seminary together in the Autumn of 2010.  I spent five years in the diocesan seminary and was dismissed. I thought it was the end of my calling and decided to enrol in a secular school.

However, a priest encouraged me to continue my vocation. I stayed at my home parish and gave a helping hand with some parish works.  Later on, I met a Comboni Missionary who is currently working in the Sudan mission. He introduced me to the vocation promoter of the Comboni Missionaries in the Philippines at that time. He helped a lot in my journey towards religious life.

My former parish priest also encouraged me. I knew that I would struggle in the international formation house. I was scared. However, I asked myself, do people not experience struggles? I said, ‘Bahala na’ which means ‘to let go and let God’. On the evening of June 2, 2016, I arrived at St. Daniel Comboni Seminary in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

In the postulancy, I was with three Vietnamese and another Filipino from Cebu. A postulant is a person who makes a request for admission to a religious life. The formation in the postulancy is very rigid. I thought I could not manage to finish this period of formation as I discovered a lot of wounds in me, wounds that I carried still from the womb of my mother. The healing process was tough. In March 2018, I completed my philosophical study and was admitted to the Novitiate.

On the Feast of St. Daniel Comboni, October 10, 2019, I began my Novitiate with two Vietnamese novices. Our experience in the Novitiate became an essential tool in our journey. The intense time of prayer helped me a lot in my formation to be closer to Jesus.

Novitiate formation is divided into two periods. The first part is called the desert period whereby we are called to encounter God, ourselves, and others. The second period is the apostolic experience and the preparation for the first religious vows.

The silence during desert time was the scariest thing for me because I heard a lot of noise. But in the silence God speaks. Novitiate is not an easy formation. We are taught to be equipped with the Rule of Life of the Comboni Missionaries, the life of the Founder, the three Vows (obedience, poverty and chastity) and learn to live in the community.

We were sent to Pasbul, Camias in the community of Aetas in Pampanga for apostolic experience. And on May 23, 2021, Pentecost Sunday we had our First Religious Profession.

Lastly, on July 30, 2021, I arrived in Pietermaritzburg Scholasticate, South Africa. My vocation story does not end here. Living in Africa where there are various cultural heritages is very challenging. Besides, it is my first time to be out of my country.

After a few days, I was thinking of going back to the Philippines. But this voice stopped me. I do believe that it was the voiceless call of God. This time, I am happy with my vocation.

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