The Seed That Became a Tree

By Nora Garganera

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives proof of what we cannot see.”

Because of our faith, we know that the world was made by God. We also know that what can be seen was made of what cannot be seen. Enoch had faith and did not die. He pleased God; and God took him up to heaven. That is why his body was never found. But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for Him.

Some 39 years ago, after going through much adversity, I was chosen to train with the first team of speakers who will be tasked to give Life in the Spirit Seminars (LSS) under the Catholic Charismatic Movement. I represented the parish of Singalong in the Archdiocese of Manila. It was then that I met Fr. Leonardo Polinar, who was to be our trainer and from whom we learned a lot. He explained the different topics very well, using not just his theological knowledge but personal experience as well.

After the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I began to grow in a very personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. I realized that in your relationship with Him, He makes you grow and be productive in whatever you are involved in, whether as a member of a prayer group, as a student, or as an evangelizer. I grew to love reading, studying and sharing whatever the Lord Jesus shared with me. I believe this is how our parish community, PACEM, came to be.

Last April, along with members of servant communities in Iloilo, I went to Bohol for their annual Servant Communities National Conference. I tagged along to renew my friendship with Fr. Polinar, who had come home from Australia to recuperate from an illness. I was surprised that the start of the conference was also a big dinner celebration for PACEM’s silver anniversary, held in the hotel’s ballroom.

Indeed, Fr. Polinar’s dream to have priests in the Charismatic Renewal Movement has become a reality. I was with Fr. Polinar when he began with only five seminarians, his ministries in lay communities in Sarawak and Kuching in Malaysia. I was exposed to what the Church is all about – universal, and coming together in faith. Before their community was named PACEM, they were already living in faith, trusting God for their everyday needs even though they still did not have a house of their own.

But God is really good because they were given a Bishop-protector at all times – Bishop Felix Zafra. Then Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, the Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, also helped the community. Bishop of Surigao, Antonieto Cabahug, also supported them. Today, Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran is their source of support. God ensured that everything would be doctrinally sound as they grew in their spiritual journey.

After 25 years, two of the original five seminarians have become superior generals of their respective communities. During the dinner, the community’s history was related by Fr. Edgar Boglosa, the first Superior General. How God provided everything for them, from basic needs to valuable properties, and a spirituality brought about by a special relationship with God. Many of the seminarians have late vocations; tired of the world, they discovered joy in Jesus in spite of their hardships.

During Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Leopoldo Medroso the following day, there were several who professed their vows, including two priests who made their final vows. It was truly a special Mass attended by more than 350 conference attendees from all over the country.

In his homily Bishop Medroso said, “We are here to witness the making of a community – a religious community. Our faith can only be expressed in a community (Matthew 18:19-20). This is where Christ lives. Christ is the beginning and end of community.” Early Christians were able to evangelize and convert pagans because of how they lived their life in community. Today, people leave their communities because of misunderstandings and scandals. As Catholics, we should study, understand, and live out our Faith as a people in relationship with Jesus Christ. “If you see me, you have seen the Father… The work of God is this – to believe in the one He has sent.” And who did God send? Jesus! In Him, God has placed His seal of approval.

Let us truly imitate Jesus, the Son of God who is the Living Water and the Bread of Life. In Him we find justice, love and forgiveness. Jesus, who was human like us, experienced hardships, pains and struggles. These are also part of our life as Christians. But He said, “Do not be afraid; it is I… I am the way, the truth, and the life. He who comes to me will never be hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:25). This is what I saw in PACEM. This is their way of life.

But there is more to this. The Lord gives us His promise in John 6:39-40: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on the last day.” Let us prepare now and follow Jesus in faith. Our bodies will grow old and die but our souls will live forever. Glory to God!

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