That I was saying good-bye and relinquishing the office that I had as Dean of Students (or Prefect of Discipline or whatever you may call it) was consummated last Sunday evening during the gala tribute rendered by the College Seminarians on the last evening of the academic year 2010-2011. We did something new this year, by suggesting that we be attired formally for the evening (hence that explains the sartorial and clerical elegance of yours truly in the picture. The photo doesn't show however how stuffy black clericals and coat could get in the tropics). I believe that the seminarians looked eagerly to being dressed to the nines that night. The evening's main event was actually the tribute and farewell paid to the graduating class of 2011.
Another tribute was paid to me as I was leaving for further studies very soon (I hope to take up licentiate and most probably be continuing to take doctoral studies in Theological History at my alma mater, the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain)
That was one tribute which shows how these boys are also very much in touch with their heart. God bless them and God knows how much I love them. During his inspirational talk Fr. Gil Manaog, the Rector, mentioned that it makes him happy to observe that these seminarians were unaraid to express their love for their brothers. I mentioned it as well when I made my response. I feel rewarded and happy to think that there is this fraternal love in the community, and that people here are not afraid to express this noble love that has its center in Jesus Christ. My only regret, I said, was that, though of course I loved each of them very much, I had not loved them even more. Truly, these three years that I had in the pastoral ministry of seminary formation are destined to be one of the best in my whole priestly adventure. As I have expressed in my last weekly Prefect's Conference, I have learned much from them, and have learned much about relationships, in how to love people, ultimately, what fatherhood means, with all the joys and sorrows that it entails. Of course I'll learn more, but at least I've started to learn it here in the seminary. My highest dream for these seminarians, and the guiding desire for which I have spent myself for them, was that they become better than me, holier than me, that they become the best, and that we may be faithful together as we answer the call of the Lord. I shall certainly miss them (actually I shall still be living in the seminary until July, when I finally leave for Spain), along with my fellow formators. It's a good thing to realize that not all farewells remain good-byes forever; sometimes they serve as a prelude to a reunion. I pray that this is not the end of my stint in the formation ministry.
This love was evident when the collegians welcomed the Pre-Collegians into the community. That night, not everything was about farewells. I could see that some were moved with the ardent welcome that their elder brothers accorded them. I myself was moved when I witnessed this manifestation of solidarity and fraternal love between these young men. Please Lord, guide them well into your holy priesthood, and give them hearts as big so as to engulf the world!!!