Fr. Rey was ordained on July 16, 1993. His 25th anniversary celebration took place in the Parish Center on July 21 where he shared the following story of his vocation journey.
"Why did you become a priest, Fr. Rey?" I always encounter this question. For me, priesthood is a gift and a mystery. It is a mystery because it is only God who knows the answer to why I became a priest in spite of my weaknesses. It is a gift given, and once it is a gift it is always embedded with mystery. The receiver doesn't know the inner motive of the giver.
This is the story of my calling. I grew up in a very religious community. My family, especially my mother, went to church daily and was very active in the parish activities. I remember when I was a little kid, she always asked me to go with her to attend the Mass, especially on Sundays. When I was an adolescent and entered high school, I became an acolyte boy. I felt attracted to the life of a priest in our parish. Before graduation from my high school education, I began to reflect what career or course I should I take. Full of youthful idealism, my ego dictated that I should be popular, great and successful in the world of business, or become a politician someday and have a family. One day, I read the Bible and two passages struck me: "If you want to be great you must be a servant to your brothers and sisters" and "what can it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul." With this in my mind and with God's grace, our school principal recommended me to a vocation director, who was having a vocation campaign in our school, to take the exams. I passed the qualifying exams and I was accepted to study in the seminary.
Seminary is a seedbed, a place where you will grow to become a mature person. It is an environment where you can purify your motivation for becoming a priest. I remember in our batch, there were about 32 college seminarians. By the end of every year, there were always seminarians that were either asked to leave or who left the seminary voluntarily. Only twelve of us graduated, and only five of us continued our theological studies.
Life in the seminary was really a struggle. You have to keep up with your academics and you should have good relationships with others. You have to grow in your spirituality by following the spiritual activities and you must have the ability to demonstrate the things that you have learned to the outside world, we call that "apostolate." There was no time in the seminary that you were not being challenged and personally questioning the authenticity of your vocation. You'd always ask, "Is God really calling me?" You were always being confronted by your youthful ego of becoming successful in a worldly endeavor. As St. Paul said, "You are tested
like gold in fire."
To make the story short, after ten years of struggles and series of temptations, I was still in the seminary. I concluded and discerned that probably this is the destiny that God wanted for me—to be a priest. The point is, that the priests always go through a conscious process of discernment with the help of God's grace before they become priests. It simply means that a priest did not come out of his mother's womb already wanting to become a priest. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, "God does not call those who are qualified, he qualifies those who are called."
Every priest has a different story to tell of why he became a priest. The thing that we know, is that they are called by God. God uses different instruments and He calls His priests in several ways. Once you are called you can't resist. God's will always prevails and He will provide the means to follow him.
To be a priest is not easy. It's not a bed of roses. The life of the priest is to live the paschal mystery. You have to experience the suffering of Jesus. Jesus, despite all the good things he had done with people, was scourged, his heart was pierced. The priests should allow their hearts to be pierced. Criticism, failures, frustrations, affirmation, success—all these are spears piercing the side of the priests.
Priesthood is really a gift; they are called to serve God's people. For me, to be a priest is to be an instrument of his grace and it is my greatest joy in my life. It is humbling to know that Jesus uses my hands and voice to bring his presence and mercy to his people through the sacraments, especially through the celebration of the Mass and confession. It shows that God is not far away from the needs of his people.
I am grateful that God has given me the grace of good health, a happy disposition in life coupled with a sense of direction and a special charism and personal power that draw people together in unity and solidarity in my twelve years of ministry in the Philippines and thirteen years in America. In spite of my weaknesses and my unworthiness, God still loves me, protects me and guides me to be his servant in my simple capacity. I am happy and thankful to God for giving me this vocation to serve him and his people for 25 years in my priesthood.
I thank all of you for coming and celebrating with me the importance of the gift of priesthood to the church. I thank Fr. Chad, the Parish staff, especially Barb and Carol, and the other volunteers who prepared the food and this place, and lastly, thank you all for the prayers you said for me and for all the priests. God bless all of you. "Be happy."BACK TO LIST