Faith and freedom are integral to each other | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Allow me to share three stories of faith, hoping that these stories will help you reflect on your own story.


For almost two years now, our work has been focused on helping the senior high school program. A big challenge and also a great opportunity is making the students and their parents believe in the program as a chance for a better life.


We are aware that the initial reaction to the senior high school program, the additional Grades 11 and 12, is that it is simply additional expense, and delays possible additional income.


This was corroborated by one of the German consultants we met in exploring putting up an agricultural senior high school. He shared his experiences in running training programs for the youth in Germany, Africa and Asia.


Early in his work he realized that no matter how well planned and prepared their training programs are, they do not guarantee success. He said that the first step is to make the young people these programs are intended for believe that they can have a better life.


When the school year started last June, the enrollment in our partnership public senior high schools was below projections.  This prompted us to embark on a recruitment caravan towards the end of the month.


Graced moment


In the two-day caravan, we visited six schools and pitched to over 8,000 students. The caravan was a graced moment. Seeing how a simple event could inspire hope and make young people believe that they have an opportunity to dream and fulfill their dream affirmed our work, that we are doing the right thing.


This is the story of faith in dreams, believing in dreams and allowing dreams to inspire us. Perhaps this is one of the greatest injustices we can commit against the poor, to rob them of the ability to believe in dreams.


Journey of faith


The second story is my own journey of faith in my ability to communicate, a skill which is very important to my work now as a priest and as a teacher.


When I was in senior year high school, our school newspaper asked me to write a regular column as the student council president. A few days after I submitted my article for the maiden issue of the school year, I bumped into the editor in chief who very curtly told me, “I edited your article, just so you know. Your mother might think you write well.”


As funny as it may sound, this incident made me doubt my ability to write. This faith was restored 10 years later.


Our third year in the seminary is called Juniorate, where we are trained to communicate well in English and Filipino. We were given the best professors. Mine were some of the Jesuit giants, Fr. Joe Galdon, SJ, and Fr. James Donelan, SJ, for English and the equally great Dr. Benilda Santos for Filipino.


Father Donelan was a great teacher and one of the esteemed communicators of his generation. He made us write and write, and analyzed both our works and classic works.


 Positive reinforcement


The first thing he said was, “You write so well. We don’t have to talk about that,” motioning toward my folder of papers. “How’s your mother?” Then for the rest of the hour we talked about my mother, whose health was starting to deteriorate.


The third are the stories of my students when I was principal.


This is a personal dialogue I have with my students because I always told them when they were in high school that the most important thing for them to discover is their mission, the meaning and purpose of their life.


I would also emphasize that their passion is very much a part of their mission.


These are stories of faith. The line from today’s Gospel is the perfect synthesis to these stories, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree,  ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”


Reflecting on these stories and your own stories of faith, I pray we will see how faith and freedom are integral to each other.


Faith gives us the freedom to choose and to act. Freedom nurtures our faith; more on this next week.


Let me end with a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.”


“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.


“The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.”

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