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NOVEMBER 2012

Blood

Brothers saved by the blood of Christ

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ABOUT THE COVER

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The photoshoot was light and breezy. Perhaps it’s because of the homily that Fr. Jordan gave earlier at the chapel, or maybe the full sit-down breakfast which rarely happens in the Servants of the Word house. One thing is for sure: the two brothers, busy as they are in their own ministries, are very comfortable to be in the same “frame� of heart and mind.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ramoncito dela Cruz MANAGING EDITOR Aly Sulit-Placino EDITORIAL BOARD Gary Mendoza (coordinator-in-charge) Berry Marfori Anna SobrepeĂąa Chito SobrepeĂąa

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ART DIRECTOR Cleowe Flores CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Manny Manuel Mars Quizon Therese Pelias Mich Cruz-Villar Ellen U. Virina Jun Viterbo CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Mike Villar John Rich Villas

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In navigational parlance, True North is a constant that guides travelers. In the course of our lives, our True North is Jesus Christ, the constant for all times. True North is a publication of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (www.lnp.org.ph) and its partners – Christ’s Youth in Action, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon, and the Institute for Pastoral Development. LNP is a member of the federation of communities around the globe, Sword of the Spirit (www.swordofthespirit.net).

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IN THIS ISSUE 3

WHY TRUE NORTH

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Editor’s Note O, brethen, where are thou? TEACHINGS Renewed Conversion in the Year of Faith

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 1

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The Upward Call BROTHERS IN ARMS Two Brothers, Two Vocations YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING A Sister's Dance with the Lord

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SHARING AND SERVING: FAITH IN PRACTICE VIews from Singapore Youth BRIGHT LIGHTS IN THE TWILIGHT YEARS A New Take on Re-tire-ment GOD@WORK We Walk by Faith SOWING GOD'S WORD LNP's First Ministry 10 QUESTIONS Confessions of a Priest

WE ARE OPEN True North is inviting all engaging storytellers - through words and pictures. We are expanding our pool of writers, editors and photographers for our forthcoming issues. But before we can write beautiful prose and compose inspiring pictures, we also need story ideas. Interested members of Ligaya ng Panginoon and all its outreach organizations are welcome to email or call Monching dela Cruz at ramoncitodelacruz@yahoo.com or 0917 891 7644.

TRUE NORTH BEAT 2

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Lead On, O Lord PASSAGE TO INDIA Moving with the Lord O COME, O YOUNG FAITHFUL Three Perspectives

OUR PHOTOGRAPHER John Rich Villas

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EDITOR’S NOTE

O, brethren, where art thou? I come from a migrant family. My grandparents were from China. And in just one generation, the nomadic gene has kicked in again. My father and siblings are now themselves immigrants in the United States. I won’t be surprised if the next generation in our family will move to other countries as soon as they are out of college and striking it out on their own.

Good News and the good deeds in their neighborhood.

Such is the reality nowadays. Many people – by chance, circumstance or choice – are working and living outside the country, leaving some family ties frayed, or even in tatters.

Our youth are not far behind. Three young University District members reflected on their mission to Singapore and how they infected their deep love for God to other youth in the Servants of the Lord Community.

That is why I’m very grateful for the community which has given me opportunities to forge new ties (while at the same time strengthening my own family’s) – not just within the community, but also with those in the outreach programs, such as Pathways. The love and support that we receive and share have inspired many of our brothers and sisters to help build and uplift other communities in the country and in other parts of Asia.

OOOPS... We made the same mistake like many other people have done on the San Pablo twins. Lot San Pablo-Cabasug is on the left, while Sol San Pablo is on the right. We regret the error.

In 2011, the Icasas couple took on the missionary mantle as they helped build a Sword of the Spirit community in Pune, India. They were inspired by what they saw and experienced in that young community. In this issue, they share their awe and joy in affirming a message Nini once encountered: “When God moves, move with Him”. The de Ocampo couple, members of the Nuggets of Wisdom segment of the community, is tirelessly serving the underserved brothers and sisters in our society through the Tahanan ng Panginoon outreach program. Their story is a beacon for those who have grown weary in their years of service. Instead of retiring in their twilight years, the de Ocampos, together with their fraternal members, have changed their worn-out tires, a.k.a. “re-tired”, to better spread the

The struggles and victories are also highlighted in the journey of two young professionals who responded to the calls to help build new chapters of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon in Marikina and Singapore.

Reaching out to others, spreading the Good News and being good witnesses to God's love through our work are not new to the community. In fact, the very first outreach that our community built was The Word of Joy Foundation, which has been evangelizing and helping deepen the spiritual life of members and non-members alike. In the spirit of brotherhood, we are featuring the Orbe brothers who have encouraged and inspired each other (and hopefully many more young men through the article) to explore and live consecrated lives as singles. Another interesting journey shared in this issue is that one of a LNP sister who is now a nun in the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate convent. Sr. Arlene recalled the many happy twists and turns before her divine appointment with the sisters in Bronx, New York. Amid our different circumstances, we are assured by the truth that the ties that bind us are truly fueled by our love for God, and blessed by the love of God. And so, you may ask, where are my brothers and sisters? I’m proud to say that YOU are my brothers and sisters.

MONCHING DELA CRUZ

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TEACHINGS

Reversion = Renewed Conversion We are called to grow in our knowledge of him whom our soul loves, for we cannot love what we do not know. By Jhola Salazar

nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide.… Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ and you will find true life.” When knowledge of Christ fills our heart, it overflows to others. Out of the fullness of our hearts, our mouth speaks of the marvelous things He has done for us.

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In the opening of the Synod of Bishops in Rome last October 5, Pope Benedict once again reminded us that the Church exists in order to evangelize. “This faith should show its fruitfulness by penetrating the whole life, even the worldly activities, of those who believe, and by urging them to be loving and just especially towards those in need.” To love Christ is to love those whom He loves. t the heart of our faith is a Person who is the image of the invisible God. – Colossians, 1:15

and His teachings, but is also and above all a trusting commitment to Him. We are invited to a personal relationship with Him.

The “Year of Faith”, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI is an opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge of and intimacy with Jesus our Lord. It’s a time to rediscover the beauty of Christ who taught us how to live, showed an example, died for our sins, resurrected and defeated the last enemy, death. What better way for us to learn more about him than through the inspired word of the Scriptures and through the vast deposit of faith, as we can find in the various Church documents especially that of Vatican II.

St. Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see beneath the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God. No one can force us to believe, but we are drawn to what delights us, and our lips confess what our hearts believe.

However, having faith is not only a belief in and an affirmation of knowledge about Jesus

Our beloved Pope declared in his homily: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing,

Faith in Christ demands a personal response. Jesus asks of us one thing: our everything.

As 1 John 4:17 puts it: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” We put ourselves in the same position assumed by Christ, washing one another’s feet and responding concretely to the needs of those around us. As we put our faith in action, we hear Jesus say: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” The Pope further said: “Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.” The New Evangelization calls all the faithful to genuine conversion, to renew our relationship with

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PHOTO CREDIT: ROSRY AND FAITH IN CHURCH FROM FREEDIGITALPHOTO.NET

Christ and with His Church. We also are to revert to the faith.

THE YEAR OF FAITH' PRIMER

In a prophecy in the Sword of the Spirit we heard: “I have set before you an open door: walk through it. I have set before you an open door: move forward, go through it. I am going to provide for you abundantly, to give you resources – financial resources, gifts, new brothers and sisters. I am going to provide for you so that you can enter into a new era of mission.”

What is the Year of Faith? The Year of Faith is a summon to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one “Savior of the world.”

God is moving powerfully by His Spirit in the world, in the Church, and among us in covenant community. He has been preparing us all this time for yet another “year of faith.” It is so striking that the “Open Door” prophecy corresponds to the opening words of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei: “The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.”

What is the reason? “To rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” We want this year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.

We have entered the open door with the rest of the Church and a new mission awaits us. We have indeed found the Messiah, and “without having seen Him [we] love Him; though [we] do not now see Him [we] believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.” (1 Peter 1:8) As the Holy Father prays, “May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in Him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love.”

When is it? October 11, 2012 until November 24, 2013.

How can we celebrate the Year of Faith? The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the Notes with pastoral recommendation for the Year of Faith. These proposals are intended as examples to encourage a ready response to the invitation of the Holy Father to live fully this year as a special time of grace. (FAITH, 2011) Some of the recommendations are the following:

1. Read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei. 2. Intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist. 3. Promote missions in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness. 4. Go to pilgrimages to the See of Peter and to the Holy Land, the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his Mother. 5. Turn with particular devotion to Mary: organize pilgrimages, celebrations and gatherings at the major Marian shrines. 6. Hold symposia, conferences and large gatherings, even at the international level, to encourage encounters with authentic witnesses to the faith and to promote understanding of the contents of Catholic doctrine. 7. Deepen knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 8. More attentive reception of the homilies, catechesis, addresses and other speeches and documents of the Holy Father. 9. Communicate experiences of faith and charity to our brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. 10. Solemn renewal of the profession of faith. Opportunity to Study the CCC The Vatican issued plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith. One of which is attending at least three sessions on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). The Bethany Association Philippines is organizing sessions on CCC which began October 17, 2012. Find us on Facebook for details.

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Three Callings

One Upward Call

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Stories of three people who hear and obediently follow the sacred call of the Lord to His mission.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 1

Brothers in ARMS by Jun Viterbo

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t was April 14, 2012. And it’s now almost lunch time as Brother Jerome "Jim" Orbe of the Servants of the Word brotherhood was busy overseeing the details of the reception. Hours earlier, his younger brother Jordan Orbe was ordained as a member of the Society of Jesus. Bro. Jim spearheaded a gathering of family and friends from all phases of Fr. Jordan’s life for a celebration of his ordination. With many people around, the two brothers didn’t actually get to talk to each other much, but through familiar body gestures and facial expressions, the brothers can know and anticipate each other’s actions.

By the time their father, Fras Orbe, gave a glowing speech for Fr. Jordan, the Orbe brothers, born five years apart, were seated beside each other with similar grins and controlled chuckles just like two mischievous kids playing hooky. Born in a brood of five siblings during the height of the religious conflict in Lanao del Norte, Bro. Jim and Fr. Jordan did not exactly stand out as two who could be considered "called" for the Lord's service. Bro. Jim, a computer science graduate from San Carlos University and doing sales and marketing for their father's business, was expected to settle down and raise a family in Iligan City.

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

When a loving video tribute for Fr. Jordan, produced by Bro. Jim, was shown, one could sense the mutual affection the brothers have for one another.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 1 But several of his friends prodded him to join a men's retreat called the Crossroads Retreat given by Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (Lingkod) - Iligan City. Feeling lost at that time, Bro. Jim joined the retreat. In time, he began serving as an Action Group Leader, then a Service Council Chairman and was even being groomed to be the next branch leader of Lingkod - Iligan, then one of the biggest branches of Lingkod nationwide. However, a weekend invitation in 1995 from Lingkod's then-National Director Francis Iturralde to spend a week with the brothers of the Servants of the Word seriously altered Bro. Jim's planned path. "It was when I saw solid men who exemplified Christian manly character that I began to seriously consider giving up my (present) life to follow their way of life,” he said. Entering the formation for a single life was easier said than done. Bro. Jim had the more difficult task of breaking the news to his loved ones. His mother's intuition of what he was about to say made it easier. To cushion the blow, he told them that he was to investigate the single life on a year-to-year basis. That "yearly basis" investigation (which included a formation for two years in Ann Arbor, Michigan) stretched to eight years. It was only on that eighth year that he formally asked his father's opinion on what he thought about him making a lifelong commitment to the Servants of the Word. And then there was the matter of breaking it gently to his then girlfriend. In his initial years of investigation in Manila, Bro. Jim would serve as the National Administrator of the National Office of Lingkod. He then started inviting Fr. Jordan, then a fresh graduate of Broadcast Communications at the University of the Philippines (UP), to the same men's retreat that made a difference in his life. Fr. Jordan had trekked a more risqué lifestyle since studying in that melting pot of academic freedom. Away from the guidance of his family, Fr. Jordan went through a gamut of parties, wine and relationships with gusto. A cushy job at a PR firm charted him on a path to financial security and a lavish lifestyle. By God’s grace, Bro. Jim was able to convince Fr. Jordan after a year of trying to participate in the Crossroads Retreat. The older brother remarked that he just wore Fr. Jordan down that the latter just said yes to finally get him off his case. The younger Orbe recalled it somewhat more tenderly. It was serendipitous that Fr. Jordan was also feeling kind of stressed out with work and the thought of a retreat might do him some good. “I had no expectations whatsoever. I was surprised with how sensible it (the retreat) all was! No hysterics, no larger-than-life testimonies, just persons who were sincerely searching for God and for a meaning in life. Something about living passionately for God and seeking

The Orbe Clan

to love Him and make Him loved spoke to me.” The world’s allure suddenly seemed empty compared to the fullness that God was offering him. It was a radical call indeed that can be somewhat likened to St. Augustine's. Pretty soon, his housemates and officemates began to be “weirded out” by his changing tastes in music. Later though, they would become one of his proudest and staunchest supporters of his vocation. In fact, many of them went to the ordination and it was a profoundly moving (and tearful) experience for them. Of course, the default community for Fr. Jordan to enter was the Servants of the Word just like Bro. Jim. But God had a separate call for him. “Knowing the brothers of the Servants of the Word has been a crucial part of my own discernment. It was in them that I first saw up close what it meant for men to live

with passion for the Lord. However, early on, I had already been drawn to the Eucharist and the sacraments. Somehow, I sensed that God was leading me to ordained ministry,” he said. Fr. Jordan, La Salle and UP bred, surprisingly chose the Atenean Jesuit vocation. He always considered the Jesuits as “cutting edge”. His decision did not surprise his elder brother. “I saw the Lord’s hand already moving in his life and knowing his gifts, I thought the Jesuits was just the right group for him,” Bro. Jim said. Fr. Jordan had to go through the same route of disclosing his plans of investigating single life to his parents, just like Bro. Jim did a few years earlier. With his elder brother now living single for the Lord certainly softened the shock, and explanations were not as necessary. It also helped that his parents already have grandchildren from their eldest brother, Randy.

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also missed his family terribly and the discipline of not having your own time was difficult at the start. Being on guard in maintaining purity in relating with women was also a struggle. After all, consecrated men did not surrender their humanity when they entered their formation. Bro. Jim would eventually make his life-long commitment in 2003. Neither was Fr. Jordan spared from doubt. When he first completed his pre-novitiate with the Society of Jesus in 1997, he was asked to wait another year and discern some more if he was really called to their life. At the time, he took that as an indication that maybe God did not really mean for him to be a Jesuit. Fr. Jordan then opted to teach in the Jesuit-run Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu for a year. The teaching post that was his intended halfway stint before leaving the Jesuit life altogether, instead became a stepping stone in his resolve to continue his formation. True enough, when he reapplied at the end of the school year, he was accepted to the novitiate.

"But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.”

He also had to deal with burnout when he was finishing his MA in Psychology and juggling ministry assignments. It was again a provincial posting in Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan that provided the necessary respite for him. From those experiences, he learned a lot about his own limitations when it comes to work. He admits that learning to live a balanced life and preventing himself from just taking on work is a continuing struggle. Currently, Bro. Jim has his hands full doing youth work as National Director of Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA), one of the outreaches of Ligaya ng Panginoon. He also does some community building work for the Sword of the Spirit and is a trustee of Lingkod. While his undergraduate Computer Science degree is not crucial to his line of work, his MA in Religious Education has more use for his vocation. He has also tapped, who else, Fr. Jordan as a consultant in his own ministry to the youth.

From then on, the Orbe brothers’ formation dovetailed one another: Bro. Jim as a consecrated brother for the Servants of the Word and Fr. Jordan as a Jesuit scholastic. But the path to a lifelong commitment of the brotherhood and the ordination for priesthood was not without struggles.

Fr. Jordan’s first assignment since his ordination was serving as one of the chaplains of the Philippine General Hospital and ministering to the sick there. While his college undergraduate degree was in Communications, as his Jesuit life evolved, he found himself being more drawn to spirituality, psychology, formation and accompaniment work. But still he realizes that his ministry as a priest involves being an instrument of God’s communication. “I have come to realize that embedded within my calling as a Jesuit is the calling to be a ‘companion’ to others in their life journeys. I hope to train to be as competent as I possibly can, especially for people in the margins, those who feel lost and ‘un-listened’ to.”

Bro. Jim went through a lot of inner transformation and dealt with the reality that he was still a great sinner who needed God's constant mercy, amid his desire for holiness. He

Now that both of them share a common love for God and service, they continue to be each other’s source of strength and inspiration. Bro. Jim will readily make known that Fr. Jordan has

Psalm 73:16-17

always been “a source of pride in our family”. Once when Fr. Jordan’s book review won a prize in a newspaper, Bro. Jim, like a proud kuya, showed the clipping to all his fellow Servants of the Word brothers, leading Francis Iturralde to jokingly remark that the Jesuits beat Servants of the Word to that Orbe brother. But similarly, Fr. Jordan never tires of telling how one senior Jesuit half-jokingly said after meeting Br. Jim, “Tsk, tsk, we got the wrong brother.” It’s no surprise then that their signature biblical passages match each other. Bro. Jim’s is Psalm 73:16-17 “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.” While Fr. Jordan’s is Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you: He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” Both passages reveal the peace that ensues in responding to the Lord’s call and participating in His mission.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you: He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 1

Your servant is

Listening By Jhola Salazar

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

“Be like Mary, open to the word of God. Listen to Jesus, be not afraid.”

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 1

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hile taking her final exam at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Arlene Macalintal was approached by her Theology professor, Ms. Belen Pereras. She asked her if she had plans for the summer and invited her to attend a seminar. Arlene thought she had to obliged since her professor might flunk her if she did not go. In the summer of 1983, she found herself attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) with the Awit ng Panginoon, an all-women group in UST which eventually became Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA). The members of Awit seemed so excited to welcome her since she would come all the way from Lipa to attend the LSS every week (one incentive for her to attend was that she would watch her favorite movie right after each seminar). Arlene noticed that there was something different in the way that they loved and served one another. This impression paved the way for her to seek out members of

Awit when the semester began. She became an active member of the group since. By the next year, she was invited to investigate being part of the Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP). After college, she felt the call to serve as a full-time worker for CYA. She liked the idea of continuing to evangelize other youth believing that the young people are the best evangelizers of their peers. During this time, she went around different campuses and would enter different classrooms with other students and co-staffers and proclaim the gospel by giving short presentations and skits. She spent her time as a staffer discipling and training students and leading small groups. While as a staffer, she lived with some sisters in Quezon City and experienced the joy of sharing a common life with other sisters in the community. It was here when she went through her State of Life Discernment. Arlene reflected on different Scripture passages every week and interviewed people living the different states of

life. Entering a religious congregation was far from her mind then. Eventually, she decided she would pursue married life as her vocation. She was grateful for the time of discernment for the Lord had shown her many things about herself and it made her grow in her relationship with Him. She became part of the University District (UD) then when during a prayer meeting after her discernment, she asked: “Lord, who among these brothers are you preparing for me?” A vision was set before her: she saw herself dancing alone in white as a bride. The Lord seemed to have other plans for her. In the summer of 1988, Arlene attended her brother’s wedding in Bronx, New York and spent a few weeks there with her family. She made a habit of going to mass daily in the nearby parish. There, she was intrigued with a group of nuns regularly attending the mass too. She was so curious about them that one day after the mass, she followed them to their convent and was delighted to see that they reside near her place.

PHOTO CREDIT: FREEDIGITALPHOTO.NET

A vision was set before her: she saw herself dancing alone in white as a bride. The Lord seemed to have other plans for her.

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The next day, she decided to wait for the sisters and talk to them.

do so and leave LNP for the meantime in good standing.

It was a divine appointment. Sr. Dolores Marie, the Vocation Director of the Convent, also had plan to talk to her that day and to invite her to their convent.

Lastly, she went back to the Lord and asked if she heard Him wrong when she made her SOL discernment. The Lord revealed to her that He told her what she could understand at that time. It seemed that the Lord waited for the right time to reveal to her His plans for her – until she was ripe to understand. If the Lord showed her much earlier her call to religious life, she might just be confused on where to go. She felt that the Lord orchestrated everything in her life, allowed her to meet the PVMI sisters first and then heard the call. She gained her peace and entered the PVMI sisters’ main house in Monroe, New York on March 25, 1991 and made her final vows in 2000.

As Arlene wanted to keep her decision to have daily a prayer time, she asked permission to have her daily time of prayer inside the convent. She began enjoying her friendship with the nuns, and sometimes she even joined them in their mission – visiting homes of their parishioners introducing and re-introducing Jesus to them. Excitement filled her as she went with them. She likened the experience to her work as a CYA staffer where they go where the students are. Some of the people they visited told them that they experienced the presence of Christ in their visits. She came back to the Philippines and continued to work for CYA. The PVMI sisters would regularly send her their magazine and she would gladly share them with the sisters living with her. In 1989, she finished her commitment to work full time for CYA for three years and decided to visit her family once again in New York. On September 8 , 1990, the feast day of the Nativity of the Holy Mother, she attended a mass and the priest gave a beautiful homily about Mary. The priest described Mary as the disciple par excellence because of her fiat, her immediate and definitive “yes” to the Lord. She asked herself: “What could be my higher call after CYA staff work?” It was then that the PVMI sisters came to her mind and she paid a visit to them.

Seven years ago, the PVMI sisters sent her back to the Philippines to start their own convent here. Sr. Arlene’s day begins and ends with a thought of Christ. Prayer and the sacraments are at the center of her life now. She recalls that all her experiences in the community has been the foundation of her vocation now. The radical decisions she made when she was in college she continues to live out now. The relationships she formed when she was in LNP continues to be her strong relationship. Whenever she can, she still attends community gathering. “Never was there a time that I asked if this is for me, I am here to stay. I am here because I am where the Lord wanted me to be,” Sr. Arlene said.

Amazingly, for three consecutive days she would wake up at three in the morning. She would say: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And all that she would hear was: “religious life.” She brought this experience to prayer and asked for God’s direction.

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Arlene discussed her call with the PVMI sisters. She wanted to settle three issues first: her family’s consent, her status in LNP and her initial SOL direction. She talked to her family first. To her relief, they gave her the freedom to choose and said they would support her in whatever decision she will make. Ken Noecker, her UD Coordinator that time, was in Michigan. She called him. She was encouraged when Ken affirmed that if she wanted to investigate the convent life, she could

The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate is located at 40 Anak Bayan Street, San Francisco del Monte Quezon City, Philippines 1105. If you have questions about the congregation, you may write to pvmanila@yahoo.com.

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Lead on,

O LORD

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Tales from Ligaya brothers and sisters who go boldly to the mission fields with hearts and minds enflamed.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 2

Passage to India By Mich Cruz-Villar

PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE VILLAR

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od ordained the time and place where we would be so that in that place we would seek and find Him. For Rey and Nini Icasas, that place was India. It started in 2010 when Rey, then one of the Coordinators for the South Sector, and his wife Nini were invited to be part of the Visitation team in Vasai , India to assess the readiness of the Community of Good Shepherd to be a full-member community. The team was led by no less than the President of the Sword of the Spirit, Jean Barbara. The Icasas went there with fellow LNP members Dojie and Berry Marfori, Ken Noecker, Jake Yap and some Sword of the Spirit members from Lebanon. “It was definitely not planned. Rather, it was an unfolding of God’s plan in our lives,” Rey recalled.

INSPIRED BY THE COMMITMENT Soon after Rey and Nini immersed themselves in the community in Vasai and the Indian culture, they fell in love with the people. Nini shared a story of an Indian woman who declined a part-time job of playing piano on Sundays because it came in conflict with the schedule of their community gatherings. On the other hand, Rey recalled the time when one of the Indian men lost his job and was struggling on how he would deliver the news to his wife. He turned to his brothers in the community to ask for prayers. When he came home, he was surprised to see all the brothers there at his house to give him moral support and to cheer up his wife.

“Their commitment to the way of life, to community, to their prayer time, the way they love and relate to one another, it was all very inspiring,” Rey said.

THE CALL AHEAD When they got back to Manila, Rey and Nini were all fired up. Rey wanted to replicate the intimate and closeknit relationship he saw among the members of a small community in the South Sector. He aspired to provide the sector an environment for bringing people even closer to God, to grow more in holiness and Christian character through prayers , Scriptures and the community way of life.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 2 Before long, God’s plan continued to unfold. When there was a vacancy for a Sectoral Coordinator, Rey was eventually selected. “As leaders, our responsibility is to provide that environment so that members can grow and mature in their faith. I think Vasai gave me that insight and I think that was the inspiration for my having accepted the role of Sectoral Coordinator.”

RETURN TO INDIA In 2011, Rey and Nini went back to India - in Pune this time, as part of the community-building team. To prepare for the mission trip, they attended formal training through seminars and teachings for the community-building team. They were also given briefings by those who are familiar with the place. But most importantly, the best preparation was all their years of experience, of study and of involvement in LNP and with its partners in mission. “So you can see God’s hand, that He was really equipping us all these years for the mission for India,” Nini said. It was indeed an affirmation of Nini’s leading as she discerned being part of the community-building

team. In her prayers, she was struck by a reading in a daily devotional which reads: “When God moves, move with Him. These are divine opportunities. They may never come your way again.” Rey and Nini did not let the “divine opportunity” to serve in India pass by. There, they gave talks, they encouraged the leaders and talked to the members. They tried to get a good sense of their culture and needs, to find out who and how they could be of help to the communities in India. As they blessed the people whom they visited, they too were blessed in return. Their Indian hosts took good care of them. They were met with ready taxis, welcome drinks and flowers, even welcome signs in their homes. They would also prepare special breakfast for the Filipinos – a toned down version of fiery Indian cuisine as the Indians were conscious that the Filipinos might not be accustomed to spicy food (which were later debunked by the Filipino guests). Rey and Nini were in awe of the Indian brothers

and sisters’ desire to serve their community. In fact, there was a group of Indian women who could not speak English and thus could not get involved in the different ministries. But since they wanted to serve, they put up their own ministry – a cooking ministry wherein they would prepare the meals for community gatherings.

UNIVERSAL CHURCH “It really hits you that you think you are the only ones committed to this call, to this type of community living…travelling all the way to India and finding out that these people are actually living the same way of life…we’re just the same,” Rey said. As there are more communities in India to build, the mission continues for Rey and Nini. This is God’s ordained time and place for them. As they sought and found the Lord, they have also allowed others to seek and find Him. “We’re just a small part in God’s work,” Rey said. A small part that will hopefully change the lives of many, thousands of miles away from home.

God’s hand in foreign land NINI ICASAS “I never travel by myself, it was always with Rey. During one trip to India without Rey, I found out that my two other companions were not coming home at the same time with me. It dawned upon me that I had to struggle with my own suitcase, my hand-carried bag – and my back problem. Just as we were about to go to the airport in Mumbai, there was an announcement that there was going to be a brownout that evening. I was so scared I called Rey, “Dad, I wish you were here with me”. Enroute to the airport, I received a text from a priestfriend who I had not gotten in touch with for a long time. From the Philippines, he texted me, “May God’s reassuring presence be with you!” When I read that I cried, “Dear God, You’re with me all the way, wherever I am!”

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REY ICASAS “When we were in Vasai during their community gathering. The prayer leader said ‘If anybody has a word to share or to prophesy, come forward.’ In that particular assembly, all the leaders were there and you know who was the first to approach? A 12-year-old boy. The fact that there’s this young kid doing that while older people would hesitate, wow, that tells you a lot!”

Rey and Nini at the Bishop's Palace in Pune, India with Ken Noecker, Joe Abreo, Luke & Tricia Lobo. Andrew and Louella Fernandes hosted Rey and Nini in Pune, India

Rey and Tony Maron,Coordinator from Lebanon, joins a Men's Group meeting in Vasai, India.

Nini and Maha Fadh, from Lebanon, with Romeo Fernando and two brothers of the CGS in Vasai, India.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 2

O Come, O Young Faithful as told to Manny Manuel

A three-day mission trip (June 15-18, 2012) to Singapore turns out to be a lifechanging and faith-building experience for three young missionaries from Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP). True North asked the three teenagers to share their experiences that led them to live out the “disciples on mission” tenet that they are exposed to. I’m Valerie Anne Angeles (Rienne), the daughter of Mike and Jenny Angeles. I’m 19 and I’m in my 3rd year of studies in UST. I was still at my school a few hours before boarding our flight to Singapore, stuck in a crucial meeting with a professor. I was so stressed out knowing that I had to miss classes and I wouldn’t be able to submit my papers and projects on time. But I just knew I had to be on this mission, and that I had to leave my worries behind.

“Mission” could be a scary word. For the many times that I have said “yes” for the sake of just saying “yes” to something, I’ve always been given so much in return. There is something about the “giving up” that terrifies us. In fact, that kind of giving up requires us to allow Him to take a good hold of us so we can see the more important tasks beyond our worries.

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

The whole trip was grace-filled. There’s a simple but deep joy I felt by saying “yes” to God.

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gave p i r t n o e issi The m ew perspectiv me a n ommunity life. on c Coming back from this meaningful mission, I have learned to trust God to be there to restore and generously replace what I’ve lost in saying yes to Him. At the end of it all, He knows best. There were several surprises during the mission. One of them was when we attended the community anniversary of the Servants of the Lord (SOL). The community was very appreciative of any blessing that went its way. I was able to observe this by the way everyone greeted each other with warm smiles that let you know your mere presence was really precious. During the program proper, they showed a video of their community through the years. I felt like I was looking at a video of a family, very similar to the one I grew up with in LNP. And in just one night, it felt like I’ve been attending their community my whole life. And just like in our own gatherings here in the Philippines, we started singing Christian songs and jamming with the Singaporean youth right after the formal ceremony. For us Filipinos, it was something we just do. But our Singaporean friends told us that, through our worship music, we’ve let God work that evening as the singing attracted many inactive youth members to sing along with us. At some point, even the elders were singing with us. It felt like an extended celebration – a celebration of gratitude to the One who brought us together that evening. I still cannot believe the amount of appreciation I received from my Singaporean friends that time. I honestly felt undeserving at first because I know I didn’t exactly serve during my stay there.

But I’ve learned to humbly accept their gratitude and I felt genuine joy. I gained so much more than I expected during this mission. It was definitely heartwarming to experience community life in a different way. I think it’s always amazing how our “living a life for God” binds us to people who would even further strengthen us during our struggles and keep us seeking more of Him. Being there reminded me how big God’s working hand is – and how bigger it is than the worries I left behind in the Philippines. I’m Christopher Lasa (Chris), the son of Charlie and Peggy Lasa. I’m 18 and I’m in my 2nd year in UP Diliman. I wanted to be part of the mission team because I heard that it would be a good learning experience. My sister, Elyse, was part of previous Singapore and India mission teams. She enjoyed her mission trips and shared with us her stories and experiences about community life in those countries. I was interested to do the same and experience community life in Singapore. This mission trip gave me a new perspective on community life. It taught me that we should value our community life and serve more in the community. Don’t take community for granted for God guides us in our lives. With this learning, I will offer my service in more community events and improve my personal spiritual life.

The whole experience was simply awesome! I really enjoyed the experiences with the mission 0!)Čŏ+1.ŏ Singaporean friends and the SOL community as a whole.

The community in Singapore is a very small community compared to LNP. The SOL community is only as big as one district in LNP. They were celebrating their 25th anniversary the weekend that we were there. It’s inspiring to see that they stick

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 2 to each other despite people and families moving in and out of the community. During an honoring session in the Kairos Weekend youth retreat in The Salvation Army, David Fong from Singapore told me that there’s a fire burning for God in our hearts and we should continue serving God in our lives and reach out to our friends back in Manila (It’s hard to evangelize in Singapore because majority of the population is not Christian). After hearing this message from David, I decided I will try to evangelize more friends in the Philippines as there are many Christians who are longing for God. I will continue to evangelize more friends in school and invite them to Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) events. The whole experience was simply awesome! I really enjoyed the experiences with the mission team, our Singaporean friends and the SOL community as a whole. We, in the mission team, have built on our friendships which started in the Life in the Spirit Seminar of the Young Adult program in Manila some years ago. I’m Nicholas Robert Tan (Nick), the son of Timmy and Guia Tan. I’m 19 and I’m in my 2nd year in UP Diliman. I expected the mission to be an eye-opening experience for me. Though small in size and more ecumenical in their belief, the people in the SOL community were truly one big happy family. It isn't like here in the Philippines where the community activities are synchronized with the Church events, just like an add-on or an enhancement to our religious activities. In Singapore, it is really something that people choose to be part of and go to because of the relationships they have with one another. During this trip, I really experienced God asking me to let go. The main message I heard repeatedly in the course of the retreat was to "let go and let God". I could do things my way, get the job done, but "unless the Lord builds the house, the builder labors in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

"Let go and let God". I could do 0$%*#/ŏ)5ŏ35Čŏ#!0ŏ0$!ŏ&+ŏ +*!Čŏ 10ŏŅ1*(!//ŏ0$!ŏ +. ŏ1%( /ŏ0$!ŏ $+1/!Čŏ0$!ŏ1%( !.ŏ(+./ŏ%*ŏ2%*ċŅŏŏ The message came during our game time, during my prayer time, during the exhortation, and during prophecy time, and it was even confirmed in one of the talks. God’s message was truly obvious and speaking to me incredibly clear. Another realization that I had is that our journey requires companions. And the community gives you just that – an army of siblings joined in Christ as we all journey toward the Father. We need to upbuild and catch each other, giving our support, but, more importantly, trusting others to support you. What I learned from the trip is that it's really the positive environment and the committed Christian relationships that are at the center of our community. This is what sets us apart from other Church

groups where people go for the prayer sessions, for their songs and ceremonies, blinded by the trappings and tradition; not seeing the truth or the reason we worship. They sometimes focus so much on the gifts, that they forget the Giver. In our community, we first acknowledge the Giver, and we don't lose sight of Him.

Who else could have been at work here, but the Lord? He who provides each one of us opportunities to be disciples on mission in the different mission fields.

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tion that a z li a e r Another that our journey I had is companions. And requires munity gives you the com ust that. j

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Sharing and Serving: Faith in Practice Compiled by Blaise Fortuna Young members of the Servants of the Lord Community in Singapore share their personal experiences and reflections about their mission trip with the Ligaya ng Panginoon Community youth. Being young disciples on a mission, they open their lives to God’s leading, initiate bonds with other brothers and sisters and share the same heart of service to others. Esther Lin, 27 My whole family is part of the Servants of the Lord Community in Singapore, where my father serves as the leader. I've been serving as a youth leader for the past four years. I saw the mission to the Philippines as an opportunity for the youth I serve to really put into practice their Christian faith: letting God work through them, loving others just as Jesus did in spite of the many differences in background, culture, habit, language and even age. In the same way, I also saw the mission trip as a way to reach out to these brothers and sisters, to really get to know them from the heart. Yet as I would discover later, God's ways are much better than mine, and I had to leave room for obedience, and expect the unexpected. The most memorable experience that I've had happened in Pampanga. It was the last day of the trip, and we woke up at wee hours of the morning. Arriving at the chapel just in time for the 5am mass, I was amazed to see so many people inside the chapel! I struggled to stay awake in the mass, and suddenly, the phrase 'god forsaken place' popped into my mind. The place is in the middle of nowhere, it's so far up in the mountains, it has been forgotten by humanity, yet no, God had not forsaken this place. That was when Acts 1:8 came to mind. Acts 1:8 is a verse that I am so familiar with that I can recite it on the spot, and it was right there and then that I finally understood the entirety of the verse. '... and you will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth.' He had left witnesses in this seemingly forgotten land. I realized that I have to be more active in sharing my thanksgivings and be more mindful of my role as a witness. To know that God is bigger than we can ever imagine and that God is always there for each of us in every situation.

I am a firm believer that everyone should experience a mission trip. In a society where we feel the need to be in control all the time, it's good to take a step back and allow faith to rise and let God be God in situations we cannot be in control of. I'm definitely looking forward to a yearly mission trip, be it to the Philippines or somewhere else. But just as we were called to be witnesses, let us never cease to speak of God's grace in our lives to the people around us and may we be attentive to the needs of people in our sphere of influence.

Seow Zhen Xiang Nathaniel, 23 During the mission trip to Pampanga, I relished the chance to work, learn and serve with brothers and sisters who were of different backgrounds, and from another community. After a long hiatus from the community back in Singapore, owing to studies abroad and National Service duties, it was a rare chance for me to be able to spend time and catch up with the youth from the Singaporean community. It is also a chance for me to do something meaningful to touch the lives of others, as well as grow in a personal capacity together with the other youth. I was glad to have had the opportunity to apply a practical aspect of service in my spiritual walk. I had attended a Lasallian school in Singapore, and the Brothers always sought to inculcate the value of servant leadership, and nurture their students to be men for others. On a personal level, this mission trip put all those lessons into practice, and I gained a deeper insight into what it means to serve and share God’s love.

This mission trip gave me the chance to put faith into practice. It was also extremely encouraging to see the younger youth step up and out of their comfort zone, to embrace new experiences. Through this trip, I was able to stay in the Brother’s house as part of a household. The daily routine of morning devotions, chants and evening prayers were totally new and refreshing, being something that I have only experienced in Manila. Fellowship with other youth and Brothers also broadened my view of things and the shared experiences have forged friendships, that assure me further that I will not be alone in my spiritual walk.

Eunice Lin, 23 When I learned about the mission trip, my plan was to get out there to know more about others, and to be of service to them. Service is an area that I challenge myself every day. From this mission trip, I have realized how amazing it is to encounter God through the different people I meet. It is very encouraging to see brothers and sisters in action, to see first-hand how they put their complete trust in the Lord in what they do. It inspired me to do the same. I also realized how truly God has blessed me materially. But given these blessings, it occurred to me that I should not get too comfortable in this walk with the Lord. Rather, it should move me to help others, to serve them and to learn from them as well. Because of these realizations, I have started to look beyond my needs, to not sweat the small stuff, and just enjoy the experience and the fellowship with other brothers and sisters. Given another chance, I would like to be a part of a mission trip again. I believe that God will use me to be His light for others.

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TRUE NORTH BEAT 2

T

he De Ocampo couple has been “the pillar” and “the light” (haligi at ilaw) of the biggest Tahanan ng Panginoon (TNP) group within the Ministry of Compassion (MOC) of the Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP) community. In December 2011 , Ronas Garden, a crowded low-income area in Katipunan, was razed by fire. Months later, it was submerged under floodwater. But the TNP members from other areas led by Rudy and Marilou de Ocampo, were quick to help their brothers and sisters in distress. “This is what serving the Lord is all about – brothers and sisters helping each other in times of need,” said the 68-year old Rudy, more popularly known as “Papa Ru”, who is the LNP Worker overseeing almost 600 members in five shanty communities around Our Lady of Pentecost Parish in Katipunan, Quezon City. He is lovingly supported by his wife, 65-year old Marilou de Ocampo who people fondly call “Mama Lou”.

Bright Lights in the Twilight Years By Ramoncito dela Cruz

“Our house was like a relief operation center (during the heavy monsoon rain),” Mama Lou recounted. The leaders and volunteer workers all came to the house to help out. “Some were packing relief goods in our living room , and some were cooking food in our terrace. It warms my heart to see people giving their all despite their own dire circumstances.” The love and compassion of TNP members went even beyond their neighborhood. Just before Christmas last year, they decided to donate their old clothes and household items, and even raised around 10,000 pesos, to send to the flood and landslide victims of typhoon Sendong in Mindanao. Even their children donated onepeso coins for this purpose

ADULT CONVERSIONS “That’s what keeps us going. We have seen the transformation in their lives,” Papa Ru said.

Š”‘—‰Šϐ‹”‡ƒ† rain, their hearts for service never waned.

TNP has been giving Catholic seminars and teachings for the spiritual nourishment of the TNP members in the parish. Every year, it has been conducting the Bagong Landas sa Espiritu Santo Seminar (BLESS) – which is the TNP version of the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS). One of the major dramatic conversion stories of

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BLESS is the recent baptism of a former Muslim woman, whose father is an imam. TNP members respond very well to TNP’s evangelization program. It was not difďŹ cult to invite people to attend BLESS and their other meetings, as many of those who are inviting are their own friends and neighbors in the same area. They enthusiastically attend meetings and actively participate in the praise and worship, as well as in sharing their faith experiences with the group. One of the areas being served by the group is Ronas Garden, which used to be a lair for thieves and thugs. Even police ofďŹ cers dared not venture in. But with the outreach program of TNP among its residents along with efforts of a number of parish organizations, the area has become more peaceful and trouble-free. “When I go there, the children will call us ‘Papa Ru’! ‘Mama Lou’! It makes me happy and fulďŹ lled,â€? Papa Ru added.

reconnect the group with LNP. “We didn’t think twice about accepting the TNP service. Our age was not a hindrance,â€? Papa Ru proclaimed. “One of my gifts, I believe, is that I can relate to the less advantaged easily. I’m very comfortable dealing with them, as I had to interact with them during my military years as part of our psychological operations against the insurgents in the Bicol Region. Kaya natuto akong makipagsalamuha at makipagkapwa,â€? he said. Mama Lou (aka Ma’am Malou) is presently a professorial lecturer at the Graduate Studies Department of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication where she obtained her Ph.D. in Communication, and retired as Associate Professor in 1997 after 21 years of service. She also taught Integrated Marketing Communication Research at the University of Asia and the PaciďŹ c (UA&P) for six years.

WISDOM AND PATIENCE The Lord has prepared the couple for TNP service. When he was still in the military, Papa Ru used to conduct civic action and medical services in remote rebel-infested barrios in the Bicol region where he was assigned. On her part, Mama Lou was part of the social development program of the Sta. Maria della Strada Parish which involved the urban poor. Papa Ru is a retired military ofďŹ cer who served the country for 20 years. He retired in 1987 with the rank of Colonel. In the same year, they were invited to join Couples for Christ in their own parish at Sta. Maria Della Strada church. Despite initial resistance on the part of Papa Ru, the couple was able to complete their Christian Life Program (CLP) with perfect attendance. Little did they know, they would be organizing a similar program for their less-fortunate neighbors some years later. The de Ocampos were invited to the LNP community weekend in 1992, and became covenanted members four years later. They volunteered to help organize TNP in the Katipunan area in 1990. From a small team of 12 couples, the community has grown to almost 600 individuals (including the youth) as of the latest count.

To help her understand and respond to the problems of TNP members and other families, she pursued a Professional Diploma in Family Ministries at the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM). She is a weekend catechist in the parish teaching six-to eight-year olds, many of whom are children of TNP members. Blessed with their years of experience, the couple brings in tons of wisdom, patience and understanding into the service. “Now that we are in our senior years, we are happy to see how the TNP members have matured spiritually, especially the leaders who have emerged,â€? Mama Lou said. “We no longer have to do the legwork, because the area heads, area servants, unit heads, and the household heads can competently implement the plans and activities decided on by the leadership.â€? The TNP succession program is ongoing. One TNP couple is now underway in LNP and four more couples have been invited to join the Community Weekend in November. The battle cry of our frat group (made up mostly of senior citizens) which was ďŹ rst articulated by Eli Lademora, is “WE WILL DIE WITH OUR BOOTS ON.â€? Besides, there should be no retirement when one is working for the Lord, they added.

AGE NOT A HINDRANCE In 1999, Papa Ru had a heart attack. They stopped their service for 10 years. When LNP set up the Ministry of Compassion, four original elders of TNP approached Papa Ru and asked him if he could revive TNP in their parish and

As Dr. Bernie Villegas of UA&P once said, there is no such thing as retirement. You only need to change your tires (re-tire) so you can resume your journey - maybe at a faster speed, knowing that time is getting shorter.

Tips on serving the poor: Čˆ‡…‘Â?’ƒ••‹‘Â?ƒ–‡ Čˆ‡Š—Â?„Ž‡ ČˆÂ?’ƒ–Š‹œ‡™‹–Š–Š‡Â? Čˆ‡‡–Š‡‰‘‘†‹Â?–Š‡Â? Čˆ‡•’‡…––Š‡Â? Čˆ‡‡–Š‡ˆƒ…‡‘ˆŠ”‹•–Ȁ Be the face of Christ Čˆ‘˜‡–Š‡Â?

How to recharge and re-tire? ČˆƒÂ?‡‘Â?‡•–‡’„ƒ…Â? Čˆ‡‡Â?–Š‡‘”†ǯ• guidance even more Čˆ‹•…‡”Â?™Š‡”‡–Š‡ fatigue is coming from Čˆ‡•–ˆ‘”ƒ™Š‹Ž‡ Čˆ”ƒ™•–”‡Â?‰–Šˆ”‘Â? your men’s and women’s group ČˆŠ‡Â?Â?‘˜‡‘Â?–‘ wherever the Lord is calling you

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GOD@WORK

We Walk by

FAITH W By Therese Pelias and Mars Quizon

hose status updates do you “like”? What messages do you share or re-tweet? Who do you follow?

Family and friends – and even celebrities – invite us to follow them to get updates on their lives. It’s easy to follow in this context, because acceptance is just a click away on your computers, laptops or smart phones. But what if the invitation to follow requires more? In Matthew 4:19 (NIV), Jesus called his first disciples also through a short message, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” Peter and Andrew (and later James and John) had to leave their familiar occupation of being fishermen to serve as fishers of men. Like them, two young professionals from the community share how they experienced God’s similar invitation to the unknown.

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Joey Sapon, a seasoned bank account officer was getting too relaxed in his comfort zone of so many years in a particular branch of the community of single professionals where he started out, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (Lingkod)-Makati.

“Come, follow Me and I will •‡†›‘—‘—––‘ϐ‹•Šˆ‘”’‡‘’Ž‡Ǥdz Matthew 4:19

He was invited in 2006 to be part of the Mission Team to be sent to a place where he has actually never been to all his life – Marikina. The team was composed of brothers and sisters who came from three Lingkod branches – Greenhills, Makati and Quezon City. Despite fears and apprehensions, Joey recalled being guided by both prayer and obedience

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GOD@WORK

when he said ‘yes’ to the Lord to join the Mission Team and later to step up as the leader of the new branch. The many calls from the Lord on Mel Llesol, a qualified IT professional who subsequently became a dedicated college professor, came at serendipitous moments. Guided by ample prayers, he was moved to help set up, along with other brothers and sisters, Lingkod-Singapore in 2005 while working there. After returning home to the Philippines in 2009, he stepped up as the branch leader of Lingkod-Makati. Both had been journeys that were marked with an animated spirit of faith and simplicity of heart knowing that it was the right voice they were following – the Lord’s. Guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Joey and Mel persevered in spreading the Good News and in bringing more men and women to God despite challenges, risks and uncertainties. Looking back, they realized that the Lord was equally interested in them as He was in the services He sent them to do.

Mel shared that the Lord’s tugs in his heart had also been very personal. He said that his consistent quiet times with the Lord has blessed him with clarity about his mission to be part of the team in building a community branch in Singapore and also about accepting to serve as branch leader in Makati despite health concerns and the need to forego his own plans.

FOLLOW AND BE CLOSER TO THE LORD

BE COURAGEOUS

For Joey, his mission in LingkodMarikina deepened his personal relationship with the Lord and allowed Him to know God more. Joey said: “I learned to trust in the Lord more – for His provisions and grace. Every night when I go home from the prayer meetings, I think about how our activities went and I can’t help but thank the Lord on how He sustained us and blessed our day despite of all the challenges.” Joey learned to take inspiration from James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

In responding to God’s call, Joey has had his share of giving up everything, taking risks and jumping freely into the Lord’s arms. “I think I was one of the last persons who said yes to the invitation to join the LingkodMarikina mission team. It took a while for me to make the decision. I was deeply attached to LingkodMakati. But I prayed hard about the decision and in the end I felt the Lord wanted me to go to Marikina and so I obeyed.”

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:14

Like Joey, Mel originally had no big dreams in doing service beyond his comfort zone. “We did not know where to start and what to do with Lingkod Singapore in the first place.

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But it was the Lord who moved all of us individually but in a very organized fashion. From simple meetings over coffee, we eventually settled in a very conducive venue, achieved regularity in meetings and the rest, as they say, is history.” Mel also shared another leap of faith experience when he decided to step up as branch leader of LingkodMakati. He was hospitalized due to a heart condition at the start of his term. He remembered praying to the Lord: “This is Your work. I will not give up because of the challenges, my circumstances. I will give up only if You tell me to give up.” But the

Lord never made that call and had actually sustained him.

BE AMAZED BY GOD’S GRACE “When you are called, challenges became very frequent. I have witnessed the truth to this saying: ‘When God calls you, he equips you and gives you grace.’” At the time he fell ill, the devastating Typhoon Ondoy also came. He felt powerless at a time when his members needed him most. In the middle of his sea of doubts, the Lord showed Mel what he needed to learn – to share the task of leadership and to surrender his apprehensions over day-to-day provisions. This was a moment of grace. “I was taught to surrender and allow the Lord to fill in the gaps especially the spaces where you cannot give anymore,” Mel said. He recognized that the Lord had sent him loving and supportive people who helped him in his practical concerns. Joey remembered the phase when he got sickly at the time the Lingkod-Marikina branch was facing a lot of challenges including brothers and sisters facing their respective challenges at work, in their families, health, finances and others. “How we are surviving this, I really don’t know. I believe it’s pure grace from the Lord and the desire of the brothers and sisters to do the mission that God has called us to do no matter what,” he proclaimed.

Mel shared the same joy: “You have to search for your special place in the Kingdom of God where your specific talents and gifts can be best offered to the Lord. We are blessed to be at the center of the mission and we must persevere despite uncertainties – keeping in mind that nothing happens by accident but rather by the plan of the Lord.”

RUNNING THE GOOD RACE He further exhorted his brothers and sisters to be joyful in serving and giving their all for God – one day at a time. He mentions, “it is already fulfilling to just have deliberately brought and shared the love of God and our way of life to single men and women in Marikina and its periphery – to be working and be part of God’s bigger plan.”

The stories of Joey and Mel clearly show that God knew what He was doing when he called them. Walking by faith and not by sight should be our response to His invitation. Follow and be eternally blessed and be a channel of eternal blessings!

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Sowing God's WORD By Ellen U. Virina

Two months after the Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP) was founded, the Word of Joy Foundation was set up. It was the first ministry that LNP began with seed money given by Hindang Herrera (the one whose name is used for the main hall of the LNP Center). This is hardly surprising since Biblical accounts of people encountering Jesus joyfully proclaimed the good things that happened in their lives. The foundation’s mission was clear: to support the growth in the Christian life of the men and women who were hungry for God as they experienced the power of the Spirit in their lives. After being exposed to the teachings, songs and sharings at the prayer meetings, community members felt the need for resource materials to help them establish and deepen their knowledge and faith. Word of Joy made available songbooks, reprinted instructional and inspirational materials, books written by LNP members, tapes then later CDs of community songs sold on book tables, inside the small Word of Joy bookshop and various outlets they began tapping as distributors. "We in Word of Joy continue to work to help evangelize and strengthen the spiritual life of those who have been evangelized so that they are more rooted in God. We do this mainly through the written word and media that are available to us," said Elsa Unson, president of Word of Joy Foundation.

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"One of the ways by which we are able to strengthen spiritual life is through scripture guide meditations made available through The Word Among Us," she continued. "We desire to make this available to more Christians hungering for the word of God. At present, we distribute this product to groups like LNP and other prayer groups. We also make it available in hospitals and in some schools. We believe that the Lord wants us to make this scripture guide available to more parishes, individuals and to patients in hospitals." The Word Among Us (TWAU), a globally distributed devotional magazine for Catholics with daily meditations on the mass readings and with other inspirational essays and stories of saints, is Word of Joy's top seller. Even priests praised this publication that has helped inspire them in some of their homilies and meditations.

SOWING ON ROCKY GROUND And like all well-intentioned and purposedriven evangelists in the past and present, many Word of Joy has encountered many challenges. If there was a dearth of inspirational materials in the late 70s, today's media landscape has changed dramatically. The number of regular subscribers to the Word Among Us, even among community members, dwindled.

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Bookstores now have aisles upon aisles of self-help inspirational and spiritual books and audio books. Apps for iPads, iPhones and android phones, free and subscribed online meditation materials abound. Who hasn't received meditation guides or forwarded "God-messages" in their email, texts or Facebook messages and posts?

Readership habits have declined as people turned to other media sources for information and education. Even technological changes like photocopies, scans, soft-copy sharing and downloads have altered people's access to materials, made these easily available, unmindful of the intellectual property violations. On the brighter side of things, subscribers from other communities or individuals not aligned with partners in mission increased. Some people started getting TWAU as gifts, gift subscriptions, or from samples at the parishes.

THE MISSION REMAINS THE SAME Do these changes bode ominously for WOJ? Not at all. At one point, while keeping someone company at a hospital, Elsa had a sense from the Lord asking her "Why am I not here?" At a place where people are often brought very low by sickness or a loved one's sickness, she noticed an acute lack of spiritual materials for the patients and their watchers to read. While the ubiquitous Gideon bibles are there, this was clearly an area and situation where the Lord is always called upon.

project for the second year. The Bible Diary carries the scripture readings for the day together with prayer intentions for sponsors. It is an ideal companion for The Word Among Us which provides reflections on the readings and Gospel for the day. The Bible Diary called God's Word Among Us, is an evangelization tool any Catholic can use to gift friends and loved ones so they can experience God’s presence in scripture and prayer and thus receive the grace of the Spirit more deeply in their lives. It also helps the sponsoring LNP Districts raise funds to support their own evangelization programs. The Word of Joy Foundation is a selfsustaining ministry. Margins from their sales fuel their ministry and they help keep their books available to more people at affordable prices and to give out the free copies of TWAU to Hospitals and Prisons. Of the 5,000 copies of the TWAU that’s printed, 1,000 copies are given out for free. The Word of Joy Foundation has a very lean but dedicated team joyfully serving as co-sowers in this very challenging field. With hard work, a lot of prayers and God's Word, they know that while some turf to cover may be rocky, sandy, shallow or choked up with weeds, there will be areas of promise where seeds will take root, and root deeply – maybe yielding thirty, sixty or a hundredfold.

The WOJ now has a subscription scheme that will help raise "chairs" for an ICU at a hospital. By chair means that if a waiting area in the ICU section of a hospital can accommodate a certain number of seated visitors, WOJ aims to match each seat with a free copy that can be read. This year, they are working on what they call the Bible Diary

"We in Word of Joy continue to work to help evangelize and strengthen the spiritual life of those who have been evangelized so that they are more rooted in God."

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10 QUESTIONS

Fr. Dave Concepcion

Confessions of a Priest:

Whispers & Shouts As told to Aly Placino

1 3

10 words to describe yourself

(which most people might not associate you with)

Sinner, Hard-headed, Obedient, Strict, Persistent, Organized, Does Things with Excellence, Introvert

Most memorable teenage experience

My near-death experience as a victim of a “hold-up” case in the corner of Morayta and Recto at the age of 19. It left me with multiple stab wounds and I needed an operation because the most fatal wound was only two millimeters away from my lung. It was a wakeup call from God. As C.S. Lewis said in the Problem of Pain: “Joys are the whispers of God and pains are the shouts of God.”

2

Most vivid memory as a child.

I remember being scolded by my mother when I was in Grade One for insisting that she buys me a Bic ballpen. Dahil sa aking kakulitan, pinalo ako ng maraming beses at nagtampo ako. Nagtago ako sa ilalim ng hagdan kasama ng mga manok ng lolo ko at doon ako umiyak ng umiyak at nagsabing, “Paglaki ko, bibili ako ng madaming ballpen.” I could not understand why my brother Titan could have a ballpen and all I had was a fat black pencil with rubber band tied at one end to serve as makeshift eraser. Every time I used it to erase my mistakes, it not only made the paper dirtier, it even created holes on it. I kept buying ballpens until it was processed by my spiritual director as an area in my life that needed to be healed.

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4

When did you join the seminary?

I joined the seminary in 1993 at the age of 31, after working for 10 years of which the last five years was as a full-time worker of LNP.

5

Can you briefly describe your discernment process?

I answered three simple questions: Do you know that God loves you? Do you love God? What are you going to do about it? In the end, I was not afraid to make a painful decision for God because he already did it for me.

6

How did LNP help you in your vocation?

PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN RICH VILLAS

Tinuruan ako ng Ligaya ng magmahal at dahil dito, natuto akong maglingkod. Pwede kang maglingkod ng walang pagmamahal pero kailan man, hindi ka pwedeng magmahal ng hindi ka naglilingkod. You can serve without loving but you can never love without serving.

7

Funniest experience as a priest.

Presiding over a street mass in Taguig with a very bad case of LBM as a young priest. Pinapawisan ka na ng malamig at nangigilabot pa, minamadali ang misa pero yung choir kinakanta lahat ng responses! Bago pa kantahin ang final song, inutusan ko na ang sacristan na kumuha ng tricyle at pagkatapos ng final blessing umalis ng walang paalam, nang hindi nagpapalit ng damit at sumakay nang nakadamit pangmisa.

8 10

When was the last time you cried?

When my father was very sick in the hospital and passed away last June 30, 2011.

9

How do you deal with wordly temptations (especially those near impossible to resist)? Hindi lahat ng nagkamali ay nagkasala, pero lahat ng nagkasala ay nagkamali. Even though you will not be tempted beyond your strength, you should never play with temptation because the moment you say you will not be tempted you are already tempted. I keep in mind two things: Avoid occasions that may lead me to sin and most of all, increase my love for God so that this love will give me the power to despise sin. Hindi sapat ang disiplina laban sa kasalanan. Dapat mayroong malaking pagmamahal sa Diyos.

What would you tell your 18-year old self?

Have peace. Do not be afraid to love because sometimes life is unfair but God is always good. What really matters is not what your hands can hold but what your heart can keep.

Fr. Dave Concepcion celebrated his 14th year as an ordained priest on September 19, 2012. Currently, he is the Dean of Seminarians and the Vocation and Pastoral Director of the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Rivers of Living Water Catholic Community as well as the President of the Catholic Travel Inc.

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True North Magazine November 2012  

Blood Brothers - Saved by the Blood of Christ

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