BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Rituals I used to call “religious” no longer excite me now but there is at least one that still fires me up and that is reunions of alumni of the seminary where I studied.
One of these is the “family day” every May 1 where we gather at a nunnery in Pavia, Iloilo with families of seminary students of the congregation where I once aspired to join.
This will be my fourth year attendance to the reunion but I already have a glimpse of what’s going to transpire. Tony Tantoco, vocation director of the CICM and another confrere would arrive to join the seminary students and their families. The alumni or the “ex-seminarians” or simply “ex” would arrive.
The gathering starts with a mass with Tony and one or two priests concelebrating, followed by lunch, then the plenary sessions.
The nuns would again be very accommodating hosts and vowing to be ever loyal vocation scouts, untiring in looking for young men to enrol at the seminary. And as usual again, Tony would rue on the “crisis” of low enrolment; he would say only one or two young men are enrolling this year. Last year, he admitted the congregation had none.
Last year’s family day, Tony Samonte, retired guidance counselor of one Catholic college and de facto vocation scout of the congregation, beckoned me to join him in the kitchen. I was listening to a vocation pep talk but Tony’s invitation looked more tempting. He was with a nun in a spirited exchange of heretical thoughts.
Why is there a shortage of enrolees for priesthood? For nuns, that’s not a problem, says Sister. They always have ample postulants.
Tony was seated on an icebox stocked with beer which enlivened our discussion. Why are we obsessed in solving a problem that other religions already solved eons ago, I butted in. The main obstacle to vocations in the Roman Catholic Church is “celibacy”, the oft-violated vow of living pure and single. Tony and the nun seemed convinced.
Rex Salvilla, newly resigned CICM father provincial, proffered another heretical idea: empower women to perform some functions of priests, particularly curates or those given the charge to nourish the spiritual needs of parishes. He fell short of asserting women as ordained priests though.
Jim Gatusang, another de facto vocation scout for the CICM, joined us to laugh at stories real and invented, spun during our seminary days. Anyway, he agreed with us that celibacy is one major stumbling block in the recruitment of young men willing to become ministers.
Another obstacle to raising vocation is male chauvinism or patriarchy. Catholic priesthood is an-male business, just as this faith worships nothing and nobody else but a male, Caucasian and Christian god and his army of angels and saints who are predominatly whites and males.
Muslims don’t find vocation a problem. I lived for a time in Muslim communities in Mindanao and was surprised to realize that men of families farming or fishing were themselves ministers of the masjit or mosques during times of worship.
Other religions, to include Catholics of the Anglican (UK), Eastern, Patriotic Church (China) and Iglesia Independiente (Philippines) churches, are unperturbed by shortages in vocation. The English Church now ordains women while the rest consider celibacy optional. Women as priests or married priests proved no problems, after all.
Vatican has to learn.