Monday, April 26, 2010

Despedida: Saying Goodbye

This evening, friends of the community we call "Centennial Group" came over bringing food for my despedida - their way of sending me off as I leave for my Sabbatical. It was also a belated celebration of my 29th anniversary of my priestly ordination. We were also celebrating in advance the birthday of Fr. Tito Pascual. After the meal we had spontaneous singing and dancing. I accompanied with the guitar Fr. Senen who sang two of his favorite songs. I really enjoyed the whole evening.

I have already finished packing up. Tomorrow I leave for Cebu where I will make my final preparation before leaving for Rome in June. I will spend one month living as a hermit in the mountain of Busay, then the next two and a half months I will be journeying as a pilgrim in Rome and in the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (from the south of France and across northern Spain). I come back to the Philippines in late August and spend the last two months as hermit in Busay. So I will be away from Davao for only six months. This is actually part II of my Sabbatical. I had part I in 2005 where I spent 2 months as a pilgrim in the Holy Land and 5 months as a hermit in Busay. I couldn't take the whole year off since I had to be back in Davao to teach in the second semester, so this year I asked for the remaining months of my sabbatical.

I have been assigned here in Davao since I came back from my higher studies in 1995. This is my longest assignment in one community - 15 years. So far, my life as a priest can be divided into three periods: The first 8 years as a missionary (in Leyte and Mindanao). The next six years as a scholar (2 years in Berkeley and 4 years in Rome), and the last 15 years as a theology professor (also a peace & pro-life advocate). I am beginning to feel restless and I want to move on. There are other things I want to do as priest, besides spending most of my time inside the classroom. Well, for brief moments I have acted as parish priest (less than a year) but I want to be more involved in pastoral ministry among God's people and really be a good shepherd to them. I also want to have more time giving clergy retreats and conducting seminars on Basic Ecclesial Communities.

As I go on Sabbatical I have a strong feeling that a period of my life as a professor is ending and another period will begin. Whatever it is, this is something that I will find out in the mountain of Busay and along the Camino de Santiago during this sabbatical.

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