Updated: Jul 28, 2020
This time last year, we were all over the place preparing for the July 27, 2019 grand kick-off celebration of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, Inc.’s (PJPS) 25th founding anniversary held at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex. This year, for PJPS’s 26th founding anniversary, the celebration is much more toned down. For one thing, it is impossible to be “all over the place” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which put the country (and the world) in various levels of quarantine. However, this year’s celebration is expected to be just as meaningful, inspiring, uplifting, and transforming for PJPS and everyone associated with PJPS – partners, donors, volunteers and beneficiaries. PJPS has organized a series of three recollections happening every Saturday from July 11 to July 25, 2020.
We cannot be “all over the place”, but thanks to technology, Zoom, in particular, we can be “all over the internet”, which enables us to gather virtually in one place, and be able to see each other and still draw strength from each other, despite the physical distance that draws us apart. This, while being fed spiritually as we listen to the speakers meditate on the topics for the three recollections.
Last July 11, 2020, a few minutes after 3:00 pm, Fr. Eli Rowdy Y. Lumbo, SJ, PJPS Executive Director, welcomed some 190 attendees to the first recollection via Zoom. Next was the opening prayer followed by the recollection proper with the topic “Finding God in All Things”. The speaker, Fr. Totet Banaynal, SJ, led us in meditating on this catch-phrase. He said that according to St. Ignatius, the basic step in finding God in all things is to realize that we are loved by God. God is happy with us, which is another way of saying God loves us – with all our faults & sins and everything bad in our lives. He then posed a hard-hitting question – “Can you accept that?” Our answer to this question, he said, will determine if we will be able to find God in all things. He also talked about his rich experience as a missionary in Cambodia for 26 years now. It was a truly heartwarming talk that left everyone uplifted and inspired. A perfect prelude to facing God during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
The next activity was the break-out session. The participants were divided into small groups for sharing their thoughts on the two parting questions posed by Fr. Banaynal: 1) Do I cherish the truth that God loves me? 2) For me personally, what does seeing God in all things mean?
And saving the best for last, the Holy Mass was celebrated at around 4:30pm, presided by Fr. Ro. Atillano, SJ, who delivered an impactful homily about the Gospel of Matthew 13:1-23 – The Parable of the Sower. He talked about how we are represented by the different types of soil in the parable at different times in our lives, but that it doesn’t matter because “the Sower will keep on sowing no matter what. This is the good news! After all, this parable is about the Sower and not about the soil!”
It was no doubt a successful and fruitful first round of our series of recollections (except sadly, internet connection or technical difficulties prevented some from being able to join in), having touched the hearts and stirred the souls of the attendees, as articulated by some:
Mayla S. Tinga, PhD shared, “The talk of Fr. Totet and the homily of Fr. Atilano about the Parable of the Sower, made me realize that indeed, we can find God always in different ways. The experiences shared by my prayer group during the sessions had strengthened my will in lifting everything to HIM.”
Janice Day Dautil found Fr. Totet’s talk meaningful, saying, “Like the cross which Fr. Totet showed us, Jesus is always with us and is willing to suffer with us and enter our chaotic world. I think that cross with the missing leg of Jesus on it is what best summarizes the talk of Fr. Totet which I find most meaningful. “
Sr. Sonia S. Rafael, OND from Notre Dame of Greater Manila was moved to want to say, “Fr. Totet, thank you very much for your life” and was inspired “to go on when the sailing gets rough especially at these trying and uncertain times of Pandemic”.
And here are some comments in the PJPS Volunteer chat group:
Again, we thank Fr. Totet & Fr. Ro as we look forward to “being with you all” again on July 18, 2020 for the second recollection – MAGIS: AMDG (For the Greater Glory of God), with Fr. Danny Huang, SJ as Speaker and Fr. Henry Ponce, SJ as Mass Presider.