Vocation Story. The Miracle of a Cow

This year Father Bonifacio Autentico Apaap, a Comboni Missionary from the Philippines will celebrate his 20th priesthood anniversary. He tells us about his vocation journey.

My vocation journey began many years ago. I was still in elementary school when I began to be drawn to divine things and activities. These indicate that the Lord was preparing me for something bigger than I could have imagined.

Due to the lack of a priest for Sunday services, the Liturgy of the Word used to be directed by the elders. Everyone could share the Word of God. Our elders waited for my share. Sundays were wonderful times for me to deliver my mini-sermons. On Sunday afternoons, we pray the Rosary in various houses. After a week of staying at one’s home, we moved the statue of Our Lady to another. I felt a distinct kind of delight in my heart when I led the Rosary.

After finishing secondary school, a religious sister asked me what I wanted to study in college. I was embarrassed to tell her about my desire to become a priest. In any case, she took me as a working student at their convent in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I was enrolled in Bukidnon State College, taking a Bachelor of Education major in Mathematics. I only stayed in the sisters’ house for one semester since I wanted to accomplish everything in four years, which would have been impossible if I stayed with them.

The thirst for something heavenly persisted. I was a member of the charismatic group at Bukidnon State College. I was even going to different denominations for catechesis (Baptist Church, Born Again Christians, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventist Church, and so on) and dropping them one by one when they were about to baptize me. I was looking for something more but didn’t know what it was. I believed I’d discovered it when I took and passed the Diocesan Seminary admissions exam. My goal of becoming a priest was reignited, but my parents’ flat refusal quickly killed it.

Due to my financial situation, I explored every avenue for receiving scholarships to complete my education. I received a scholarship from the college choir for one semester, a Masonry scholarship for another, and a Study Pay Later Plan scholarship from the government. The latter took me to a different school in Cagayan de Oro. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, majoring in mathematics from Cagayan Capitol College.

I first learned about the Comboni Missionaries in this school when a Comboni missionary paid a visit to the school’s Campus Ministry.  While a teacher at the same school, I journeyed with him for several more years to discern God’s call.

When God summons, instant action is required. That was not the case for me. I had numerous reasons not to answer the call. One of the numerous reasons was my parents’ approval. I am the eldest of eight children, so obtaining their approval was challenging. My childhood lover and I had big hopes for the future. I just finished a year at my job. God bothered me, and I would not be at rest unless I abandoned my plans to become a priest, this time a missionary priest. I struck a deal with God: it was either now or never. If it was His wish for me to enter the seminary, I demanded He provide a way out of all my difficulties.

This was the breaking point; my mother paved the way. She would only bless my seminary entrance if I would give my father a cow. I didn’t have enough money at the time to buy a cow. My salary as a teacher did not allow me to save. That night, I got a pen and paper and sketched a cow on it before giving it to my mother. They mocked me, but I had faith. That night, I was restless and agitated. I couldn’t sleep because I was trying to figure out how the Lord would find a way out for me.

At daybreak, I heard the voice of one of my high school teachers: “If you need help, come see me,” Without delay, I began the three-kilometre walk to her. She handed me her cow, which was a miracle. I returned home with a cow, enough money to get to Manila, and tears in my eyes. I left my parents that day and joined the Comboni Missionaries’ seminary.

Indeed, God will make a way when there appears to be none. He is capable of doing miracles.  What follows thereafter are many adventures and surprises.

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