The first Marist Novitiate held in the Philippines is truly international. From the six Novices currently taking part in the Novitiate, five countries are represented in three continents! Below is a brief biography of each of the Novices…
My name is Thilo (pronounced: tea-low), I’m from the north-western part of Germany and I’m 33 years old. I grew up with two older brothers and a younger step brother. After I finished school, I studied religious education, mathematics and German in order to become a primary-school teacher. After 3 years of teaching I decided not to continue my teaching career within the German school system. For the next 3 years I took up employment in a security company. The idea of becoming a priest was already in my mind before I decided to become a teacher, but I hadn’t had the courage to knock on the seminary’s door. At the age of 28 I thought: why shouldn’t I do what I wanted to do when I was 20, but hadn’t had the courage? So I made contact with some priests who I knew from my voluntary work in my parish and looked for a spiritual director. To make a long story short: during this time of searching I met the Marist Fathers. I spend two weeks with a Marist Father’s community in Ahmsen (Germany) and stayed in contact with the confreres while continuing my work. Experiencing the way the Marists live and how Marists approach people and how they support them I felt very much encouraged to join the Marists. I wrote a letter to the Provincial of Germany and asked if I could become a candidate. I was very happy when they accepted me. From September 2006 until January 2009 I lived in a Marist Father’s community in the very south of Germany and studied philosophy, history of the church and introduction to the Old and the New Testament at the local university. Since February 2009 I have been in the Philippines for the International English speaking Novitiate.
Maayong Adlaw mga Higala! (Good day friends!)
I am Niño Paulo Memorial, 23 years old. I was born on January 19, 1986 at Sto. Niño, South Cotabato Philippines. My place is in the Southern part of Mindanao, and 4 hours away (by bus) from Davao City. I am the 8th sibling in our family. I was educated in the elementary public school and at Notre Dame High School.
Right after my high school (2003), I entered the Marist Fathers through its MICS (Marist Interested College Students) Program, and continued my college years with this program. During my college years, we were exposed to different ministry places of the Marists, namely: a Street Children Institution (founded by the SM Fathers), Rehab Centers for Young offenders, City Jail, Mental Hospital, etc.
In 2007, I got a chance to go to a Mission Parish in Maguindanao which is run by the Marist Fathers. The place is more or less 10 hours away from Davao City, and is composed of 50% Tiduray Tribe (natives), 25% Muslims and 25% Christians. The experience was really very good, and it made a great impact in my journey in the Marist way of life, and at the same time, was the reason I wanted to become a Marist in the future. I want to discover more about this way of living here in the Novitiate.
Daghang Salamat! (Thank you very much!)
Ni hao, wo shi John.
I am from China. I was born on October 16 1981, in Gan Su province. My parents generously gave not only life to me, but also the greatest inheritance —–Faith in Jesus Christ.
Three years ago, I met a Marist priest, due to God’s plan for my life. He led me to know the Marists, and then I came to the Philippines to be a Marist.
Right now, my life, as a Marist International Novice, is enriching as well as challenging.
I am quite happy because I saw the light of my life. It is a great choice to be a Marist because I am learning to taste God. To live the culture of the Gospel of Jesus within a multi-cultural Novitiate is an abundant blessing in my life.
My name is Phil Bennenbroek and I am 37 years old. I grew up in a Catholic family in a small rural town called Pokeno, just south of Auckland in New Zealand. I studied electronics and computer technology and worked in New Zealand for 11 years before doing my “O.E” (Overseas Experience) in London for three and a half years. While there, I worked as a software developer and lived in a lay Augustinian community, which is where I got my first taste of community life with all its joys and challenges.
When I returned to NZ in 2006, I started my own business as an I.T. contractor, then, in 2007, moved into the Catholic Discipleship College community in Auckland where I worked part time. It was during this year that I began to discern more closely the possibility of joining the Society of Mary and becoming a Marist Priest. I didn’t have any idea at that time that I’d be living in the Philippines within 2 years! If I had, I probably would have said, “Thanks, but it’s not for me”. However, here I am and loving it. It just goes to show that we often don’t know what we will enjoy, or what we are capable of, until we give it a go.
Maayong Adlaw sa Tanan!!! (Good Day to All!!! Greetings from my own dialect)
I am Roque B. Rebito, 22 years old. I come from a little village called Villamonte in the town of Lebak-in the southernmost part of Mindanao, Philippines.
I first knew the Marists when I was 4th year high school. The vocation promoters of the congregation went to my school and looked for people who were interested in joining their formation. At that time I wasn’t sure at all but I took the exam and luckily passed it. That was the start of my journey; my “Marist Journey”. I was a MICS (Marist Interested College Students) for four years. I did all my academic studies under the supervision of the Marist Fathers and really enjoyed this time. It was a worthwhile experience which taught me a lot of lessons and which I consider one of the greatest things that ever happened to me, even if I don’t become a full-blooded Marist in the future.
The Marist Fathers here in the Philippines don’t have a seminary, so I wasn’t called a seminarian. I was like the other college students but also different in a deeper sense. I lived in a boarding house for three years together with the other MICS and with the other college students. The freedom was enormous there and it was very tempting to overuse it, but that freedom that the Marist Fathers entrusted me with taught me a great lesson which I found essential; setting first things first.
I chose Marist because Marist was the only congregation who went to our school. But deeper than that, I had already heard some things from other people about them. Lucky enough, a Marist had sowed a great seed in my place. My parish was run by the Marist Fathers when they first landed in Mindanao. It was one of their first mission areas. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of that missionary action…. to be baptized by a Marist Father.
I’m Daniel Fernandez from Spain. I was born and grew up in a town called Coslada, very close to Madrid and I am 31 years old. I have two sisters and no brothers. My parish is managed by Marist Fathers so I’ve known them since I was a child, and my faith has grown up among them.
When I was 19, I enrolled in the Army and I spent 3 years there. Although now I don’t like the Army and the weapons, that was a great experience – getting to know myself, and getting a closer relationship with God. After this I studied a diploma in Electronics and another in Networking. Then I spent 5 years working in different jobs, repairing electronic devices and programming. At the same time I kept up my commitment in my parish with youth pastoral work, which made me feel fulfilled and happy. I thought a lot about what God’s plan is for me, and thought about becoming a Marist Father, but my relationship with a great girl stopped me. One day my girlfriend asked me for some time to think about our relationship and I told myself: “Maybe this is the chance to try to become a Marist Father”. And now, after 2 years living with a Marist community, I am here, in the Philippines, doing the first English speaking International Novitiate of the Marist Fathers.
Why the Marist Fathers? The answer could be simple: Because I’ve known them all my life. But actually my reasons are deeper. My main reason is because I feel that the Marist spirituality fits me like a glove: merciful, faithful, humble, simple, taking care of the neediest and close to the Church. You might think that this is very difficult, but what can we get from comfort? Just fat, fat in our body and in our soul!