By Ria Montelibano

The Old Girl-ASA volunteers, with the Bishop, Formators and the seminarians of Bacolod

How do we start the Christmas Season?? With a GRATEFUL heart!!! The AAA Bacolod Chapter’s volunteer teachers of the Assumption Seminary Apostolate (ASA), have been holding English Conversation Classes at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Bacolod for almost 25 years. We have seen batch after batch of our student seminarians come and go. Some continue on and take Theology while others find a different path. A handful from each batch becomes priests. They are ASA’s pride and joy! But each seminarian enriches our lives, each one his own distinct color of a gemstone. Like the three kings bearing gifts to the Christ child, our boys bring us the gift of Jesus himself.

The ASA Titas around the table of the Bishop and the Priests Formators
Everyone listened to Tito Joe Mari Chan’s special video message for the ASA Titas and the seminarians

“I am looking at my Lord. It is in looking at Him that we learn how to love.”

The ASA English Conversation Classes continued through the pandemic years via Zoom, but not without challenges. The ASA volunteer ‘Titas’ (as the seminarians call us), had to learn to adapt to the new platform. Our Old Girl volunteers sometimes ‘poofed’ and disappeared due to technical difficulties and slow internet service. So the flow of conversation would sometimes be stilted. But we were there. We accompanied our seminarians through those stressful years that were sometimes fraught with loneliness and anxiety. At that time, they were cloistered in the seminary with only a few scheduled home visits as part of the safety measures of the seminary compound.

And I must say that they were there for us, too, an endearing online presence that we looked forward to Thursday after Thursday during the pandemic. Together we shared newfound little joys, our fears of fatal infection, our hopes that we could all get by unscathed til the pandemic got resolved, jokingly saying that one day we can cough again without anyone running away. We found laughter as we took up idiomatic expressions and riddles, and enthusiastically exchanged opinions about the local and national electoral possibilities. We discussed the gospel readings and how hard, or conversely, how easy it was to become a saint if only we really tried. Somehow our conversations would lead to stories about their families, how the simple ritual of daily prayer, a Lola’s persistence in bringing them to mass, and adversities and tragedies that befell their families –lack of financial resources, family members who fell victim to vice– led them to search for a deeper relationship with Jesus. And we told them that it was much the same for us. In our Thursday hour, as our lives were magically intertwined through conversation, we gave each other the gift of Jesus. All this is grace and we are grateful.

The seminarians dance competition
The Butterfly Dance of the winning group, 2nd year!
The Old Girls get their groove on!
The Bishop and the Sacred Heart Seminary Priest Formators open the Dance Fest

“I want to seek God and His love and to give myself generously in God’s service”

In a season that brings a heightened sense of kindness and generosity, joy in mission is palpable in the AAA Bacolod Chapter. As we’re finally emerging from the pandemic, our classes with the seminarians are held face to face again. And we began the Yuletide season with a bang!!! AS IN!!! Our ASA Christmas Party at the seminary was graced by no less than the Bishop of the Diocese of Bacolod for the first time ever. Plus, we had a specially dedicated video message from Tito Joe Mari Chan. To everyone’s delight, Bishop Pat Buzon, SDB, DD, gamely donned a silly Christmas headband like the rest of us. We held a dance competition among our seminarians and it was so much fun. And when the Bishop, the Chancellor,  the Rector, and the Priest Formators agreed to put on their dancing shoes to open the program, the Old Girls got their groove together and showed their best velada moves!

Licuit insanire semel in anno, (It is alright to be crazy once a year), reminded Bishop Pat. And for the rest of the year, we focus joyfully on shining our light as bright as we can to invite God’s will into our lives and to all those who are with us in our little sphere. Oh what a bright place this will be!!

After all is said and done, the true meaning of Christmas is irrepressible, awesome true LOVE. Our beloved St. Marie Eugenie was spot on… “Love never says I’ve done enough!”

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