I know what my plans for you are’
By Lester Alamares
Lester Alamares, a teacher, is a former seminarian with the Columbans.
In high school, I heard many stories from my teacher about ordinary people making a big difference in the lives of others. These stories so inspired me that I wished that someday I, too, would make a difference in the lives of other people.
During my third year, our school chaplain asked my classmates and me if we would like to go with him to a far-flung municipality in our province where he would celebrate Mass, because the priest there was sick. Seeing his sense of duty and dedication as a servant of God brought me to the point that I wanted to be a priest too.
A year later, I attended search-ins of all congregations that visited our school. Unlike my classmates who joined the search-ins for the free snacks and to avoid lectures from our teachers -- that's what they said to me -- I attended because I wanted to be sure whether the priesthood was my vocation. My parents at the time strongly disagreed with my desire to enter the seminary. If I was sure, at least there would be no regrets on my part if I went against their will.
I finally decided to enter the seminary and joined the Society of St Columban. I had my formation inCebu/st. For nearly three years I enjoyed my stay there because I lived with students from different parts of the country, was directed by exceptional formators, and inspired by many other priests and lay missionaries. But in my third year, it seemed that I lost focus about my calling. The formators saw this and decided to let me go. I was hurt and it took me a while to accept their decision because I thought it was unfair. I had done nothing wrong to deserve it. My whole world collapsed, like it was hit by a great tsunami. I even condemned God because I thought that that was what He wanted for me. However, I continued by studies in Cebu but after graduation decided to go home to Legazpi.
For a year, I didn't attend Mass because I still questioned God's plan for me. However one day, two friends from high school, whom I met in a mall, invited me to attend a Christian Life Program (CLP) of Couples for Christ - Singles for Christ (CFC-SFC). At the time, I was already teaching, because that was the only job available with my degree. After a year in SFC, my friends gave me duties such as giving talks to other young professionals, and later leading a CLP for the group.
After four years of active service in SFC, I’ve realized that I have actually been serving God through the movement and many have said ‘thank you’ for being an inspiration to them as a leader/speaker. I’ve even learned to love teaching now since it has given me an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students. I once received a comment in an evaluation from a student, that he perceived me as a priest giving a sermon. That gave me a pleasant feeling because I knew that my students learned much from me, especially about life.
Looking back, I have no regrets. I don’t resent the fact that my formators asked me to leave the seminary. It was a blessing, actually. If not for that decision, I might not have seen that I can serve God in other ways. I'm beginning to understand God's plan for me. He allowed me to experience these things in life because He is preparing me for a big challenge, I'm not sure what it is, but I know it will be BIG.
‘For I know what my plans for you are, plans to save you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and to give you hope. For when you call on me, I will listen; you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
At present, I serve in Gawad Kalinga, a housing project of CFC-SFC in our area. Aside from teaching, I coordinate the National Service Training Program - Civic Welfare Training Service of our school. I'm even considering working full time or serving as a missionary for my community in the future. I'm also open to the possibility of fulfilling my first love, to be a missionary priest someday. Who knows what the future holds, but at this point of my life, I'm pretty sure that I'M HAPPY SERVING GOD!