The celebration of the 150 years of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the CICM missionary presence in the world is an auspicious occasion to thank the Lord of the harvest for the foundation of the historic congregation in Scheut, Belgium through His servant Fr. Theophile Verbist in 1862. Central to the foundation of the CICM was the care of children, especially of the abandoned ones in China.
Likewise, this milestone for the CICM today is a moment of sustained reflection on the role of CICM schools in the work of evangelization and mission, especially in the changing times.
This aspect of CICM mission through the educational apostolate is crucial, since it has been shown throughout the CICM missionary presence in the Philippines that it is an effective means of carrying out the mission in partnership with dedicated lay people -- of bringing the good news to the youth as hope of the society.
Saint Louis University, a CICM school, has embraced this educational apostolate since her foundation in 1911, beginning as a small school for the children of early Baguio.
Today, as an integral part of its formation program on Christian Spirit, SLU through her Parish Office, spearheads every school year a series of recollections or retreats for her faculty, personnel, and students.
Recollections are conducted at the start of the school year and another toward the end of the academic year especially for graduating students to give them time and opportunity for reflection and spiritual nourishment.
These spiritual exercises given to students recently involved the nine sections of our Grade Six pupils in the Laboratory Elementary School in preparation for their graduation. Bro. Roger Montecalvo, a CICM postulant, facilitated the recollection.
During the recollection, an activity called “Palanca” was introduced which is the giving of a parent`s letter to a child. “Palanca” is a Spanish term for lever which is used to lift and move heavy things. Thus in this case, Palanca helps to lift one`s spirit.
The activity was conceived to enable parents to participate in the recollection even if they were not physically present, as some are working abroad. Since it must be a surprise to the pupils, I had to think of a strategy to get the palanca letters from parents by either asking them to hand the letters discretely to the teacher advisers or sending it to my e-mail.
Some days before the scheduled recollections, my e-mail was already inundated by the letters of the parents of different lengths and originating from different corners of the world. In opening the emailed letters, it dawned on me how happy the parents were to be able to write their sons and daughters, let alone the emotions flowing from their children who received those letters.
Kudos to the parents
During these happy times of school graduation exercises, let me congratulate the proud parents out there. This important milestone is also the fulfillment of your dreams for your children.
This is one of the shining moments in your children’s lives that you should take credit for. Graduation day would not be possible if it were not for your sacrifices, persistence, and determination to see your children through all the highs and lows of their academic life.
This is also the best occasion to recognize the significant role played by mentors, teachers and administrators -- the very people who selflessly shared their knowledge and expertise, and who painstakingly guided their students during their academic life. As CICM partners in providing quality education, may you continue to do your part in molding the youth to what God wants them to be.
Remarkably, it is timely that the Easter season -- a time when we both remember and celebrate the new life which comes to us through our risen Lord -- is celebrated simultaneously with graduation exercises. These are moments of victory, of rejoicing, and of hope. Hope, not only in one’s existence and the life hereafter, but hope that transforms the world into a better place to live in.
Congratulations to all the graduates of 2012. A joyous Easter to all!
Excerpts from parents’ letters:
• “We came to know that you will be having a recollection today. And we thought that this would be a good time for your mama and I to let you know how precious you are to us.
The best way to start this up is by telling you a little something of what your mama and I had gone through before you were born. Son, you know for a fact that your mama and I were what you consider a “young couple”. We started out our family life at a very young age, to explain it further. And with that having said, I can tell you that life was a bit of a struggle. As much as we would like to spend time together and watch you grow, your mama and I still have to go to school. We then did not have jobs yet to buy you the things that you need like milk and diapers. These are just a few to mention.
By the time you were born, you have given us so much joy and laughter. You have inspired us to tackle on life’s difficulties head on. You have given us the privilege to enhance our skills to become more mature and responsible parents. With all the troubles and struggles we had in life, you gave us the strength and courage to overcome it. You gave a reason for us to be together. You reminded us to keep our heads always held up high and assured that you shall be there to support us when we needed it the most. You showed us how to be more optimistic with our lives. You continuously inspired us to do well with our daily tasks. We would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We hope that you continue on with your good deeds.
Anak, we know and admit that we have a lot of shortcomings, and for these we ask for more understanding and forgiveness from you. We may not be the perfect parents for you, but rest assured that we will continue to do our best to improve as parents.
We would like you to know that as you end your elementary school and prepare yourself for high school, I and your mama will continue to support and guide you to become a responsible and loving person. We love you so much and we are very proud of you!”
• “The days have gone by so fast. It was only very recent in my memory when we, both you and I trekked to SLU LES to start a new adventure. Remember how we shared our fear of you being in a new environment, having no old friends to support you, getting used to unfamiliar places, having new teachers that didn’t know you. Dad and I were worried and realized how you were placed in a really stressful condition... I was as stressed as you when you would come home everyday and then bravely face another day. I was amazed by the daily progress of your being able to handle stress after stress and it was during these times when I really felt close to you and really got to know how strong and brave you were.
And in my heart, there arose great admiration and pride at having a daughter like you. My heart still claps at the memory of how --- as the difficult challenges faced you---you would handle it like an athlete, overcoming one hurdle after another...becoming stronger as you faced even more difficult and impossible challenges. And now.…YOU win first place in my heart!”
• “First of all I would like to let you know that I am so proud of you for being a good son to us that even if we are not around you never let us down. I know that being away from each other is so hard for all of us, but I know you understand why I have to work so far away from you. I wanted so much to give you a very good education and very good future. And I am also so thankful that even if I am not there to watch you, you are still growing to be very responsible, God fearing, respectful and intelligent kid that I always wanted. I love you so much and I will be seeing soon. Take care always.”
• “Your graduation from elementary is coming near and you will soon be a high school student. Oh how time flies! It was just like yesterday when we held you in our arms the very first time you were brought into this world. We were beaming with joy as we gaze into your innocent sleeping face. We cannot thank the Lord enough with the great blessing He has given us and that is YOU.
We know that you wanted to be a medical doctor someday but not necessarily becoming a pediatrician because as you always say, ayaw mo ng mga makukulit na bata. We wouldn’t want to impose on what we like because it is you who holds your future, we are only here to guide you.
We are also confident that you will succeed in life because at this stage, you already know the value of money and the value of growing your savings account for your future needs. Whatever you save from your daily baon you make it a point to keep it in your piggy bank at home and when the amount is already sizable you deposit it in the bank.
And most especially, your love for Christ and His teachings will be your life support more that the guidance that we are giving you. We know that we have taught you well because your actions translate to the love and respect you have shown to us as your parents.”