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CFC Leaders: Rekindled and Charged
Monday, February 19, 2018

January is always a special month for Couples for Christ top leaders. Aside from the fact that the community is coming from a much needed break during the Christmas season, the first weeks of January is the time when CFC leaders come together to receive directions for the new year that is beginning.

 

It is a time for seeking inspiration from God's message, usually revolving around the theme for the year that had earlier been discerned by the International Council.


Thus, in keeping with tradition, CFC leaders from the Metro Manila, Philippine and International Missions gathered for the Rekindle Conference at the SM MOA Arena on January 13, 2018, during which time the directions and inspiration for the year were given, and then motored to Baguio City the following weekend for the annual retreat, this year called the Solemn Charge Weekend Retreat.On both weekends, the leaders received powerful messages and mandates from the Lord through the sessions.


Rekindle Conference

The SM MOA Arena in Pasay City was packed with 13,000 CFC leaders from Manila, the provinces and from the USA, Canada, Australia, the Middle East, South America, and Europe, all eager to listen to the directives from the International Council.His Excellency Jose Palma, DD, Archbishop of Cebu, was the main celebrant during the afternoon Mass, concelebrated by Msgr. Allen Aganon, Fr. Joel Jason, Fr. Carlos Macatangga, Msgr. Von Dito Parilando, Fr. Marco Coloma, Fr. Ruber Martinez, Fr. Bruno, Msgr. Jay Bandojo, Fr. Cosman Siantury, OSC, Fr. Yusef Setiawan and Fr. Ed Abaño.

 

There were two talks during this conference — “Rekindle the Gift” delivered by Mi-chael Ariola, CFC President and “Fulfill Your Ministry” given by CFC Chairman Ermelo Villaroman, Jr. The year’s theme— Rekindle the Gift. Fulfill Your Ministry— is anchored on 2 Timothy 1:6 and 4:1-5 which state: 


"For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands."


"Solemn Charge. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry."

 

Ariola spoke of the gift of Light, Jesus Himself who is the light of the world, and proposed ways by which each CFC member should act in response to this gift from God. Ariola explained that the Father offered His only Son as a gift to mankind.

 

However, the offer came with the freedom to accept the gift or refuse it. For CFC, the gift was offered and was accepted when each member, during the Baptism of the Spirit, accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. 

 

But for the gift to indeed bring transformation to the receiver, each person must let go of vanities, pride and personal plans and allow the grace of God to work in his life, to in turn be the bearer of the gift.


“All of us in CFC are bearers of that gift, of that Light,” Ariola exhorted. “And we have a mission to fulfill. But somehow, the intensity of that light has diminished. And so we ask, What is the communal gift which God gave Couples for Christ that needs to be rekindled?”

 

Ariola continued, “God does not mince words when He calls us to REKINDLE THE GIFT. How do we respond? We look to 2018 and ask God for the grace to be able to prioritize and balance our time with God, family, work and our role as evangelizers in building the church of the home and of the poor.”

 

He enumerated three areas in CFC’s journey of faith that will enable every leader and member to help rekindle the gift: personal conversion, family transformation and leaving a legacy to witness. Ariola challenged CFC, “Let us examine our hearts and ask God to enable us to wisely use the gifts He has bestowed upon each and every one.”

 

Shine bright!

While Ariola’s talk was inspirational, Villaroman’s talk was directional as he spoke of the great responsibility that rests on each leader’s shoulders as a modern-day apostle. He urged everyone to keep the light alive by preparing the next generation of leaders and to indeed charge forth to be a light to all nations. 

 

Citing St. Paul, Villaroman reminded the congregation “to stir into flame the gift of God that is in us.”

 

He said, “All of us may be falling short of God’s bright glory, but something is at work in us that is much greater than our weaknesses, our blind spots, our guilt, our regrets!”

 

The fire within each person is the fire that transforms even the toughest, the fire that overcomes suffering and persecution, the unchanging fire that will shine the light of Christ brightly. How then, can one rekindle this fire?

 

Villaroman exhorted, “We must honor God’s vision for us, stand firm in our values, do what the Lord asks of us, and express love and kindness in all our personal encounters.”

 

Solemn Charge Weekend

Recharged from the Leaders Conference, the Metro Manila Mission Core, joined by delegates from the provinces and abroad, motored to Baguio City for the Solemn Charge Weekend Retreat. The retreat was held at the CAP Convention Center in Camp John Hay.The Friday activity began with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, presided by Rev. Fr. Benedict Jason P. Lopez from the Diocese of Baguio, and concelebrated by Fr. Ronald Magbanua, CICM, from Mongolia, Fr. Marco Coloma from Ecuador and Fr. Rober Martinez of Peru. 


Fr. Lopez’s homily was a fitting reminder that the next two days would indeed be a holy retreat, a time for reflection and for renewing commitment to the mission. Tribu de Cristo, a boho-themed fellowship, followed. After the party, it was time for quiet reflection the following day, Saturday. But first, as is usual with all CFC conferences, the day would not begin without the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the celebration of the Eucharist. 


The Saturday Mass, as well as the Mass on Sunday, was celebrated by Bishop Wenceslao Padilla of Mongolia, together with the priests from Mongolia, Indonesia, Ecuador and Peru who had gone up to Baguio with the CFC delegates.

 

The weekend featured five talks, four on Saturday and one on Sunday, all of them given by members of the International Council.The message of the first talk, given by Ricky Cuenca (“The Gift Within Us”), revolved around the gift given to each member through the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism, which opened up for each one the door to spiritual life. 

 

Cuenca exhorted everyone not to let the gift remain within but to give the gift to others. He also reminded the delegates that CFC’s response to the gift is gratitude for the gift-giver, God Himself. 


The second session, “Called and Chosen”, was given by James Solano, who explained that a Christian’s first calling is intimacy with Christ. This intimacy opens each person to the gifts available to him, and enables him to strive not only for personal holiness, but to build up the body of Christ, the Church, and community.

 

Solano explained that being called and chosen means each CFC member has the mandate to keep the fire in his heart burning and to mentor the next generation so that the mandate remains fresh. Solano used the example of the mentor-mentee relationship between the apostle Paul and the young Timothy.


“Regardless of age, we have to set a good example and witness to our members. Let us be salt and light to them,” he emphasized.

 

Solano likewise reminded everyone to rediscover the fire of passion and not let the passion cool down.

 

Passion was the highlight of Session 3 titled “Proclaim the Word” delivered by Reggie Ragojos. He emphasized that evangelization is passion but this passion must be proclaimed to the whole world. “In order to continue to proclaim amidst the challenges, one should be witnesses by being a good Christian, by witnessing through action, not simply words, and not just within community but even outside it.”

 

Ragojos underlined that no matter how difficult the mission becomes, one should continue to serve, whether convenient or inconvenient, and rekindle three things:

 

•  Rekindle the love for God. “We should rekindle our love for God, so that we can share His love to others,” Ragojos emphasized.

 

•  Rekindle the 'What'. CFC proclaims the beauty of faith through community. Ragojos said, “The beauty of our community comes from our household where we love and care for one another. CFC is not a fading community, but the community becomes more beautiful through time.”

 

•  Rekindle the 'How'. “We proclaim with joy—this is our ‘how’,” Ragojos explained. He added, “Christian joy is not simply a pursuit of an emotional satisfaction, but it is a profound joy born out of serving others."

 

The next session—Put Up with Hardships—given by Joe Yamamoto, expounded on the difficulties every missionary must face in trying to proclaim the Word to all, including distractions coming from community leaders themselves. 

 

Yamamoto cautioned: “Do not be distracted by the imperfections of your leaders. Focus on Christ and you will never fail.” The session, actually a refresher on leadership, provided a few pointers for leaders, all of them culled from the example of the apostle Paul who underwent many hardships but endured every suffering, confident that God will give him the strength to go on.

 

Yamamoto encouraged everyone: “The pain and suffering might be difficult to comprehend, much less accept, but in the end, with God’s grace, that sacrifice will be meaningful to each one of us and becomes bearable because we are beginning to understand. And when we understand, we know that we are not far from the face of Christ.”

 

The session ended with a pray over ceremony of the ‘Timothy Generation’ or the next generation of CFC leaders, symbolizing the preparation of the front liners in the battlefield. 

 

In the last session on Sunday morning, Arnel Santos reminded, “The journey continues—newness itself must be renewed. May it be in our lives as an individual, in our families or in the Church.”

 

He called the next generation of CFC the ‘Timothys’ and exhorted them that “The call is to journey some more. Let us pray to the Lord that his journey may happen in every minute of our lives. The empowerment that we need is written in 1 Peter 4:10: ‘As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s given gifts.” 

 

The session ended with the Solemn Charge rites, with Santos reciting the Solemn Charge for the Mission Core, citing the annual themes as clear directives from the Lord to CFC. 

 

Responding to the solemn charge, the Metro Manila Sector Heads led the assembly in proclaiming the new Mission Core Covenant, taking to heart “this deeper commitment to CFC’s vision and mission, dedicating myself to the Lord, to my family and my life and service in CFC.”

 

Almost to a man, the delegates expressed their thanks to the speakers for the powerful messages, commenting that these sessions were among the best they had everexperienced. Everyone drove back down to Manila exhilarated and indeed refreshed and renewed by the solemn charge they had received.




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