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This Morning’s Interview: The Questions I Would Have Liked to Answer

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Interviews about the priesthood especially when done by students doing an assignment are predictable.  The questions don’t give the priest a chance to say something that really comes from their heart of hearts.  I’ve heard this morning’s questions so many times before that I just gave the answers that the students themselves expected or would like to hear.  I wish that students, before going to interview anyone about anything should first consult this article entitled “Asking Great Questions.”
If the students had asked their questions in a different way.  Or if they had first studied something about the priesthood before asking me about my priesthood, it would have been a learning experience for all of us. 
Here is a sample interview that I would have liked to have participated in:

How long have you been a priest?
I’ve been twelve years a priest.  I was ordained in December 22, 1992.

Has your knowledge of the priesthood grown throughout these years?  In what way?

Yes.  Cognitively, what I learned about the priesthood from books and lectures in the seminary have been deepened by experience.  There were also a lot of things that we didn’t get to learn in the seminary that I discovered only later when I was already in priest, like how to use the Missal for “relevant” celebrations, or making use of the Mass as an opportunity for catechizing,etc.
Affectively, I am getting to know what it means to be acting “in persona Christi” not only in the liturgy, but also in dealing with people from all walks of life.  In other words, those twelve years in the ministry have helped me to see myself as a priest.

Would it have been different if you were not a religious priest?
Yes.  A religious priest is different from a diocesan priest (those we earlier called “secular” priests).  A religious is one who intensifies the way he lives his baptismal consecration through the practise of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience within a way of life that is approved by the Church.  Religious are not required to become priests. However, some religious do become priests.  If I wasn’t a religious, but an ordained priest, my life would have gone a different direction.  In the first place, I won’t be assigned to this Augustinian parish now, if I were not an Augustinian.  I’d probably won’t have the experience I’ve had these past twelve years if I had been a diocesan.

As an ordained priest, what were your activities (= activities deriving from the priesthood) in the past before coming to this parish?

The things I’ve done as a priest has varied from assignment to assignment.  From 1992-1994, I was assigned in the seminary.  Though the seminary was connected to a parish, I wasn’t assigned full-time to work with the laity, although I enjoyed participating in developing our Parish formation program.  From 1994-2000, I was, first a Campus Minister and then an academic administrator in the University of San Agustin, Iloilo.  Those were years when I was most involved in giving training programs for both students and professionals.  I said Masses and heard Confessions then to be sure, but what I most liked was preparing retreats, para-liturgical activities and the like.  Those were years when I was experimenting with Augustinian spirituality and how it can be experienced within a school context.  From 2000 – April 2004, I worked full time as a school administrator.  “Pastoral” activities were attenuated, I had more time to study other things (like internet technology) and work on purely academic matters.  These past few months, I have been exposed to working in a purely pastoral field.  It is in a sense new to me; in another sense however, it is something I’ve wanted but could not have.

Throughout your years as a priest, when were you most happy?

I was most happy after giving a recollection or retreat or completing an activity that involved integrating a “profane” field like education and the proclamation of the faith.  An example of this latter for example is the first time I held a seminar workshop for the Ten Augustinian Values for integration in instructional syllabi in our schools.  That gave me a sense of achievement.

Have you had any “low” moments?  Could you please describe these “low” moments?

There may have been “low” moments, but as to details, I can’t remember much.  All I know is that when I am down, I sleep it off.  There isn’t much sense in dwelling in it, di ba?

What do you like most doing as a priest?  And why?

Giving retreats and recollection, seminar workshops or delivering lectures.  I don’t know why, but it seems that I find fulfillment in the the task of teaching more than in others.

Do you get a sense of fulfillment out of your being a priest?  Please explain your answer.

Tell you what, I cannot imagine myself doing or being something else.  I could be a teacher or a writer or a webmaster, but it wouldn’t be the same if I were not also a priest and a religious.  I discovered my capacity for teaching, writing, and webmastering only when I already decided that I’d be a religious priest.  It is as if it was only within the context of the religious priesthood that I really got to know myself.

If priests were allowed to take up optional celibacy, would you marry?

If priests were allowed to take up optional celibacy, the people of God in the long run will choose to go to Masses celebrated by non-married priests.  This was the reason why celibacy was imposed on the priesthood, anyway.  Priests who are religious would be excluded from optional celibacy since chastity is one of the sine-qua-nons of religious life.  To a religious, celibacy cannot be optional.  If I should take advantage of such a possibility, I should leave the religious life first. 

In your opinion, does celibacy work for the benefit of the Church?

Yes, if you consider the fact that there are a lot of saints who were celibate priests and what these did for the growth of the faith and the nourishment of the Church.  Besides, the presence of authentically celibate persons guarantee that there would be men working with total availability for the Church.

What is the role of prayer in your life?

Big.  I don’t think I would have lasted this long without prayer.  We priests, are required to recite certain prayers a day.  But I get more “highs” in prayer when I add some private stuff:  spiritual reading of the Scriptures (lectio divina), the rosary (when I get my insomnia attacks, especially), and prayer before the  Blessed Sacrament.

Throughout these years as a priest, did you ever wonder whether it would be great to have children of your own and be called “Dad”?

Many times.  But I also realized that marriage is not for me.  (A personal quirk.  I cannot imagine any  woman wanting to spend the rest of her life with me.) New idea.

Did you ever regret becoming a priest?

Update: January 13

From an actual interview made by a student from the La Salle University (August 14, 2004)

The other day, a young college student came to me asking for an appointment. She is taking up a course on the Sacraments and was given the assignment to interview a priest about how he got into the priesthood. I gave her the appointment but required her to read an account of my journey into the priesthood that I have written some years ago*.

This morning, she came with her pen and notepad, and soon I found myself under a barrage of embarassing questions. Some of these were:

Did your parents encourage you to enter the seminary?
Just before high school, my mother asked me whether I’d like the idea of entering the seminary. The high school seminary of the Society of the Divine Word was near our home and one of my older cousins was already there. At that time, I said “No”. When I graduated from high school, I was asked what course I am going to take. I said I would like to be a priest. My father objected; so did my grandfather. My grandfather even asked some of his friends to convince me not to waste my life in the priesthood. The main objection was that I am the eldest and presumably, the one to follow in Dad’s footsteps as an Engineer. My mom objected to but her reason was different: she said I am hurting my Father’s feelings. But I stuck to the decision and they learned after a while to respect it.
Did you have any problems with celibacy while in the seminary?
I didn’t. I have seen too many priests who seemed to be happy with the celibate life even before I entered the seminary. The fact that my two cousins never got to be ordained because of “girl problems” didn’t trouble me. Nor did the fact that I discovered some of my companions in the seminary had girlfriends posed any hindrance to my resolve.
Are you happy being a priest?
Let me put it this way: There was a time before I entered the seminary that I agonized over the decision. To me then, the question of becoming a priest or not also meant whether I liked to be happy or not. When I chose the priesthood, I also made a choice for happiness. Am I happy NOW being a priest? I guess so. I can’t imagine myself with a different lifestyle.
How would you feel if a girl comes up to you and confesses that she has a crush on you?”
I’d be flattered of course.

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