Fr Vicente Cervania first profession

Fifty years after his first religious profession (left), Fr Cervania continues to celebrate the Lord’s unfailing fidelity (shown right, playing the guitar with Fr Rafael Dela Cruz Jr, SDB).

Reflection on his 50th anniversary of religious profession
 
On the afternoon of July 16, 2015, while on my way to the church in order to celebrate the thanksgiving mass on the occasion of my 50th anniversary of religious profession, a friend greeted me: “Congratulations, Father, for your fidelity to the Lord all these years! You are an inspiration to us!” I smiled and said, “Thank you.” But deep within my heart I felt, “I am not celebrating my fidelity to the Lord. I am celebrating the Lord’s fidelity to me all these years!”
 
Together with my two companions, Fr. Larry Tamonan and Fr. Danny Torres, I celebrated the Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, at St. John Bosco Parish in Makati City. During the homily, I sang two verses of Mary’s Magnificat “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name!” (Lk 1:46, 48). Mama Mary sang it in praise of the Lord’s fidelity to her.
 
As I renewed my religious profession in front of the altar, I remembered the first time I did it many years ago on July 16, 1965. On that day, after the Holy Mass, I hurriedly went to see my novice master, Fr. Jose Luis Carreño, SDB to thank him and to ask for a souvenir. He wrote the following words in my diary, “Health, enthusiasm, courage – even alas! – charity and grace may be damaged in this warfare of life: but one thing must never die, or be damaged or decrease, but must always increase: confidence in the one that loves you infinitely, in the One on whom you may always count: our Savior.” Yes, this memento kept me going all these years!
 
Fast forward to October 30, 2007, at age 59, I underwent quadruple heart by-pass surgery. The operation was a very delicate one; and, a few days before, I experienced a tremendous fear that this procedure might end in failure. I called for the hospital chaplain to help allay my fears. My whole body was trembling. The chaplain, Father Jesus, came to my room; he listened to me. Then he held my hands with the assurance, “When you became a religious and priest, you entrusted your whole self to the best of hands, didn’t you? Renew now your entrustment to the Lord; place everything into his hands.”
 
I was inspired to compose a little prayer which I repeated often during those trying moments: “Abba, Father, your will be done! Jesus, Son of the living God, heal me! Holy Spirit, strengthen me! Mama Mary, stay by my side!” Slowly my fear started to fade away. I began to feel peace in my heart. I decided to prepare myself for a happy death, just in case…. That evening prior to the surgery the following morning, I prayed, “Lord, please give me a sign to calm me down.” While saying my evening prayer, this verse hit me, “I shall give you a new heart and a put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:26)!
 
The surgery was successful! The doctor visited me in the recovery room. He said, “Congratulations, Father, you are doing well. Thank God for this your new lease in life. I believe you still have a mission!” As soon as I got back onto my feet, I paid a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I asked him, “Lord, what is still my mission in life?” He answered, “You know it already. I want you to be a good and holy Salesian priest.” The whole experience was indeed a conversion experience for me!
 
From that time on, I always sang the Magnificat everyday to thank the Lord for my new life. I also decided to quietly prepare for my homecoming to the Father’s house. When that great moment comes, the first thing I am going to do will be to look for Mama Mary and invite her to join me in singing the Magnificat before the throne of the Almighty. Amen.
 
Fr. Vicente Cervania, SDB, SThL is a professor of Catechetics. He received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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