Saint Paul Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota
My religious vocation started early in life at 15 years of age in Manila (the Philippines). I had a lofty goal back then, become the next St. Francis of Assisi! I tried to join the Capuchin Franciscans but was told that I was too young (seems ironic now). Evidently, God had other plans as I ended up joining the Salesians of St. John Bosco. The Salesians gave me my first true experience of religious formation. I stayed with the Salesians through my senior year of high school and two years of College-Seminary where I learned about Don Bosco's love for God through service and education for disenfranchised and neglected young people.
I immigrated to the United States (New York City) in 1980 at age 18 where I attended St. John's University. I also joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a non-resident postulant for another three years of formation while attending St. John's until I earned my Bachelor of Science degree. After graduating from St. John's, I decided not to continue with the Capuchin Franciscan novitiate program and instead started working in New York City where in 1988, God led me to meet a wonderful woman named Rae, a native of the south side of Des Moines. She converted to Catholicism and we became active parishioners in the Jesuit parish of St. Francis Xavier in New York where we got married in 1992.
In 1997, I accepted a job working for the Public Information Department of one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. Rae and I moved to Geneva, Switzerland for my UN job where she and I lived and travelled the world together for ten years. My UN work contract ended in 2007 and Rae and I moved to her native Des Moines where I accepted a job working for the Communications Department of the Iowa Department of Human Services (the Iowa Medicaid Program). Sadly, my beloved wife and best friend, Rae, died suddenly on December 15, 2016.
St. Thomas Aquinas believed that when something bad happens to us - like losing someone we love profoundly - we often miss the merciful grace and redemptive gift that God wishes to bestow amid the grief and sorrow that we feel. I miss Rae every day with all my heart. But I truly believe that God has used my profound loss of her physical companionship as a means to draw me closer to himself in prayer and in his service. The beauty of this grace from God is that I do not feel that my relationship with Rae ended with her death but rather, it continues to live and to grow in answering God's call to love and serve him. I can only hope and pray that in my time of formation at St. Paul Seminary, God will continue to reveal to me why he thinks I am worth calling back to his service.