Our Formation House Community in Manila consists of different members from Tanzania, Vietnam, and India. Fr. Amandus Kapele, our formator, comes from Tanzania. Fr. Joseph Okoro and Fr. Joseph Quoc also live in the community for their further study. At present, 12 brothers are pursuing theological studies at Loyola School of Theology, and three brothers studying at Maryhill School of Theology. All of us are happy to respond to God’s call and make effort to work, study, and make a home together.
I remember when I was in a first-year theology at Loyola School of Theology, the question I usually asked myself was why I needed to study theology. Gradually I understand that studying theology is none other than to help me deepen my encounter with God, the maturity of faith, and witness in the world. It is in the community that also helps me grow up in faith and love. Over and above else, in my study and community life, there should be love in everything I do and seek to become. Life in the community is a gift of God inviting me to encounter and lay hold of the way of Jesus and share that love with zeal for the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel. Even though we are from different cultures, backgrounds, languages, we are invited to build a home together with our differences. I know that it takes time for me to understand other confreres and commit myself to build a home, “‘one heart and one soul.”(Acts 4:32) Our Founder, Fr. Libermann stated that community was not simply a physical place for people to live together under the same roof but a “union of minds and hearts for a common purpose.” (E.S. 141) Therefore, collaboration among community members is considered most helpful in making a home to work together for the common goal. Our community activities such as prayers and celebration of liturgy, recollection day per month, community sharing and recreation, house cleaning, shopping and cooking, sports, pastoral works that we are willing to fulfill always need our collaboration and dialogue for the sake of love of God and fraternal love.
It goes to say that community life provides ways and means of nourishing the personal relationship of its members to Jesus who is the reason and the source for our coming together. It is Jesus’ love that turns our community house into a home where everybody is making effort to build up a home as “a life shared in authentic (Consecrate, no 42) We worked out a vision for our community life which was to aspire for nothing less than to be committed to a life of love which invited me to renew my commitment to religious life to respond in love to the love of God. I always keep in mind that it is God who loves me first, invites me to the consecrated life and enables me to respond to his loving call by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then leads me to share God’s love with others.
When I visit the poor or street children, I have learned a lot of things from them. I realize that I cannot reach out to them with an attitude of superiority. It is not primarily a matter of doing things for people nor can I presume to do what is best for them with my own mentality, but I should listen to them first, to be in solidarity with them to know what is happening in their lives and understand their desires, needs, and dreams. One of the most challenges for me is how to effectively communicate with them in their Filipino language, Tagalog. I think this is not only a challenge for me but also other members of the community. As a member of the Spiritans, I am always called to make a home with others wherever I am. This is made possible by the love of Christ that impels us (2Cr 5:14) and unites us together in his love. By “being rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3: 17), I believe that our formation house community will be able to commit ourselves to the life of witness and that witness only become credible and effective when it begins from the home where love is the sign of Jesus’ disciples, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have a love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)
Joseph Tien Manh Phung, CSSp