ANNUAL RETREAT AND RENEWAL OF VOWS AT AIFC
By Gustavo Henrique Silva de Paulo, cicm
As a usual part of our formation program, we, AIFC seminarians, renew our temporary vows in the Congregation every June 8 of each year. This year, however, what already seemed so usual to us, that is, our renewal of vows on the same exact date as we are used to, turned out to be something that none of us could have ever expected. The usual became unusual. It is true that we did renew our vows, but the circumstances in which we find ourselves right now changed, in many possible different ways, the course of how things usually ran in the past.
To begin with, it is known that in order for one to renew his vows in the CICM, he needs to first undergo a period of retreat of at least five days. This year, due to the current situation that the world is facing, COVID 19, we couldn’t have, as customary, the preparation for our renewal of vows at the CICM Mission Center, Bukal ng Tipan, Taytay, Rizal. Instead, we had to remain confined within the limits of AIFC and be contented with having this very place of ours as our meeting place with Christ. However, “it is not about the place, but about ourselves,” said a fellow seminarian at a table just one day before we began our retreat. And indeed, towards the end of the entire retreat, many of us could testify to the fact that if one is well disposed, anywhere may turn into an oasis of God’s abundant love, presence, and grace. Thanks to our retreat master, Fr. Louis Vuadi, CICM, who managed to guide us so well throughout this experience, we were able to maintain the quiet and silent mood required for any deep encounter with our God to take place.
Moreover, this year’s renewal of vows at AIFC was very unusual for the reason that, for the first time, I believe, we couldn’t invite anyone from outside to witness and celebrate with us once more our yes to the Lord. Except for the presence of our very own General Superior, Rev. Fr. Charles Phukuta, who himself accepted our renewal of vows, no outsider could come in to be with us during this special time. Nonetheless, I do believe that the presence of our General Superior was able to make up for the absence of many of our friends and confreres who wished to but could not join us. After all, to have your renewal of vows accepted by your General Superior himself is something that happens once in a lifetime. And this, perhaps, is a great reason for us to rejoice and be happy despite all frustrations and uncertainties that plague us during this difficult moment.
As we move on to another step of our formation, we would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who, though from afar, joined us in prayer and thanksgiving before, during, and after our renewal of vows this week. To all our families and friends, to all CICM confreres, thank you so very much. That we may always find the source of our strength in the Lord so we can go through this period of world crisis full of hope that in God’s grace it will come to an end soon. That God bless you all!