WHY AM I HERE ANYWAY?

By: Niño Roise M. Feliciano, OFM

1st Year in Theology

Not all vocation stories start with a dramatic calling. For some, it starts on the 'TO BE' of the soliloquy "TO BE OR NOT TO BE"" uttered by Prince Hamlet. Some have tried and lived the life and they are convinced that they have the vocation.

I am now a professed friar of the Order of Friars Minor, Custody of St. Anthony of Padua. When I was fourteen years old, I decided to join the Diocesan Seminary because I have not passed any entrance exams in the Universities and Colleges and my friends were there in the seminary too. I had five colourful, fruitful years of praying, playing and studies. It is there that I recognized my desire to love God and serve His people with an unknown expression yet.

I am from the island of Basilan, Southern tip of our country, the Philippines, where Christians and Catholics are the minority. Priests and religious are scarce. Faith and culture are woven in the fabric of society that is in tension. Yet, I made good friends among them. It is in this island that the desire to serve His people was nurtured. It is here where I met a Franciscan Friar who was serving the Prelature. I got attracted in his religious habit. With the brown habit, he is like a character in a video game known as DOTA (Defense of The Ancient).

I got the desire to wear it.

When I had a chance to stay in their community and witness their fraternal living, It was from there that I experienced what was unknown expression of the desire to love God and serve His people was put into language. I want to become a Friar Minor. With so much courage, I asked the Bishop to recommend me to join this fraternity. With consideration on my desire, the Bishop announced during the 2016 Chrism Mass of the Prelature of Isabela de Basilan in the presence of the clergy and the congregation, that I am transferring to the Order of Friars Minor. The words of the Bishop to me after his announcement is still vivid, “it is the same Church that you are serving. Be good and be happy where you want to be.”

I was so sure then, that this is where I belong. I received and wear the habit of the Friars Minor. But, in my Novitiate Year, I decide to leave the Fraternity. It was not to search for another life outside the Order but to make sure that this life matters the most.

As I progress and mature in the Fraternity, I realized that the formation taught me to have an authentic offering of self. They have guided me to deepen my vocation to follow the Lord in loving Him in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

Furthermore, I realized that this vocation is not mine. It is a gift from the Lord. I believe that He, who brought me here, will keep me to the farthest. This is true enough for on the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul 2020, I made my Profession of Temporary Vows of Obedience, Without anything of one’s own (sine propio) and in Chastity, on the hands of the Minister Custos, Br. Renee C. Dean, OFM.

This is indeed another kind of a not dramatic calling to be a Friar Minor, from the religious habit to the habit of life.

Looking back, it was the humble and unassuming witnessing presence of the Friars in Basilan, the simplicity of their life and down deep to the joyfulness of their hearts that brought me here.

I could have regretted a life that could be mine if I have not been here in the Fraternity.

A new “TO BE” begins. Dare to be, because you’ll never know.