‘Padre’ de Pamilya

By Bernie Durangparang

The author, originally from Oslob, Cebu, is a teacher by profession but has been a member of the Columban Vocation Team for 19 years. He lives in Ozamiz City.

Bernie with Father Kurt

I recently cried at an ordination. Kurt Pala finally made his commitment at the altar as a priest on 21 November 2015. I was more than happy to have accompanied him in his discernment process since he was in 4th year high school. Truly it is a joy to be part of the vocation team for 19 years now.  The greatest moment for me at Father Kurt’s ordination was when I approached him after the ceremony to kiss his anointed hands. He instead spontaneously embraced me and whispered, ‘Salamat kaayo, Kuya’ (Thank you so much, Elder Brother’). I could only shed a tear at that humbling moment as I uttered, ‘Congratulations, Kurt. Na-pari na gyod ka. (You are now truly a priest).

For me, being a vocation promoter is not just an ordinary job but a commitment. This work is special because we are dealing with souls. Fulfilment is achieved when I get to see the young men we are accompanying grow as responsible persons in their chosen vocation. To see someone I have accompanied become a priest is a big bonus that I am grateful for. It is that fulfilment and satisfaction beyond compare, for the journey to the priesthood isn’t easy.

Bernie, Father Kurt and John Yecyec

My work entails much traveling, crossing seas and mountains. Sometimes I need to travel at dawn or at night to catch up with the schedules as the vocation team conducts recollections and seminars, visits schools, meet interested inquirers and follows up on candidates from different towns and regions. This is the reality of my work. It is tiring, and I have to be away from my family most of the time.

Bernie's Family

Being a family man I experience various challenges. I have to attend my family’s needs in the limited time I can spend with them. The greatest challenge was when my wife Laga was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2011. She had two operations in the same month, because of an infection after the first. The aftercare was quite demanding as I had to look after Laga myself. The healing process was slow until a follow-up operation in 2014, in God’s mercy, made her condition much better.

This period hasn’t been easy. Sometimes it has been just like a blur. At the height of Laga’s condition, having to take care of her and of my children, I reached a point where I almost gave up.

What helped me continue was the love and support of the Columbans. They did not put pressure on me but rather allowed me to find the rhythm needed to juggle my family situation and my work responsibility.  They have been very generous and understanding. In return, I have found ways of accomplishing things even if I have to be with my wife and children.  In spite of the challenges I face each day, my enthusiasm to continue inviting young people to follow Christ as Columbans is still burning.

Bernie with the vocation director, Fr Jovito Dales

A vocation is always a gift. Embracing one’s vocation is more than a gift because it is through following it that you can use your talents to fulfil Christ’s Mission. Oftentimes in our vocation promotion, students ask me, ‘Pari pud ka?’ (Are you a priest too?).  I usually reply in jest, ‘Dili uy! Padre de pamilya ako.’ (Of course not! I’m the father of a family’.) Father Kurt’s vocation as a priest and my vocation as head of my family may be different. We follow our different paths but are both heading towards the same goal, the ultimate purpose of continuing Christ’s mission here on earth.

Vocation team on a family visit

 ‘Kumusta naman ang college student? (‘How is the college student?’) I asked my eldest, Billy. ‘OK ra man’ (‘Just OK’), he replied. ‘Ug kumusta man ka sa imong course?’ (‘And how are you doing in your course? ‘OK ra man’, again, came his uninterested reply. So I asked him another question, ‘Wa ka nagplano nga mag-pari?’ (Are you not planning to be a priest?’) His reply struck me, as I hadn’t expected it, ‘Naghunahuna pud ko ana, Pa.’ (I’m also thinking about that, Pa.) It got me thinking. Why not?

Billy Durangparang, eldest son of Bernie and Laga, in Ozamiz Cathedral.