On March 27-29, 2019, two of our confreres, Fr. Ariel Tecson, RCJ, Provincial Councilor on the Religious Life, Formation and Vocation Ministry and Fr. Wilford Urmaza, RCJ, Vocation Promoter at the Fr. Hannibal Formation Center, attended the Seminar on Gender Orientation for Formators, organized by the Office of Women and Gender Concerns (OWGC) – a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. Held at the Betania Retreat House in Baguio City, this 3-day seminar-workshop endeavored to: 1. explore the gender and sexuality issues in the religious formation, 2. critique formation plans and processes vis-a vis gender and sexuality perspective, and 3. find common ways (especially best practices) on how to deal with these issues.
On the first day, Ms. Merian Aldea (resource speaker) defined and contrasted man with sex. She said that what makes a man, man or a woman, a woman is not what dangling between their legs, it’s not also their preferences or the way they present themselves, but the way they think and rationalize. She passionately explained the various concepts and misconceptions on the understanding of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions and sexuality. She shared some delicate and disturbing stories on the issues of sexuality that emerged in some formation houses. She challenged the participants to be in touch with one’s humanity, to be open to various thoughts and trends in the understanding of sexuality and to be critical and discerning on how this would affect the formation of the candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life.
On the 2nd day, Bro. Fermin Paniza, OH, of the Order of the Hospitaller, gave the participants an extensive understanding on the formative process and issues concerning the growth and maturity of the candidates. He also deepened their knowledge on the current trends in formation, then at the end of the said talk, he asked each participant to make a case analysis and conceptualization which will in turn be used in the formulation of the individualized formation plan. Again the day was closed with the celebration of the holy mass presided by our confreres. It was then followed by a fellowship which the organizers beautifully termed as the “encounter of the eggs and peanuts” which led every participant to confront their vulnerabilities and naked self.
Then finally, on the third day, Ms. Merian gave a concise explanation on the circles of sexuality. She put premium on the idea that sexuality is not simply a physical or biological reality but more than anything else it is a Divine Fire. It is a powerful fire existing not only in the bodies of each individual but also in every dimension of our being.
The seminar which was attended by more than 30 participants from various congregations ended with a souvenir group picture radiantly portraying a healthy and happy integration of one’s sexuality.