The year 2020 would be memorable in history due to the Corona Virus Pandemic which has hit the world and paralyzed many aspects of social life.  The dangers caused by the disease COVID19 had terrible repercussions such as the ban on mass gatherings; the restrictions on religious and social activities; the implementation on precautionary measures and vigilance on the possibility of infections.  One of the hardest hit is the education sector which, because of the quarantine measures imposed last March, was forced to stop the conventional classes and resort to other means such as internet based platforms.

Despite of the havoc wrought by the pandemic, the grace of the Lord continued to guide the graduating students of the Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay as they were able to accomplish their requirements and receive their respective degrees.  Nine Capuchin brothers crossed the finish line of their Theological studies – four brothers from the fourth year finishing the Four Year Ecclesiastical Degree and Master of Arts in Theology, Major in Mission Studies, and five from the second year with their degrees in the Bachelor of Arts Major in Theology program.

Because of the ongoing restrictions, the Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay was not able to hold the annual commencement exercises but had the conferment of the degrees in a localized celebration.  For the Capuchin brothers, the graduation rites in the Eucharistic Celebration  held last May 31, 2020, the Solemnity of Pentecost, at the Santuario di Padre Pio.  The solemn mass was presided by the Provincial Minister, Br. Eugenio Juanilo P. Lopez, OFMCap.  Concelebrating in the mass were Br. Francis M. Mesina, OFMCap., Rector of the St. Lawrence of Brindisi House of Studies and the homilist for the mass; Br. William T. Bustamante, OFMCap.; Parish Priest of Our of Lourdes Parish, Tagaytay; Br. Flavio M. Lacson, OFMCap.; Parochial Vicar; Br. Paul Vincent A. Perlado, OFMCap., Provincial Secretary and Fr. Antonio Gilberto S. Marquesses, SVD, Dean of Studies of the DWST.  Also present in the mass and graduation rite was Br. Rex I. Cutamora, OFMCap., Capuchin National Vocation Director.

The holy mass was a truly solemn celebration as the scholastic brothers served as the liturgical ministers – acolytes, lectors and choir and Br. Garry C. Andres, OFMCap. served as the psalmist.  In his homily, Br. Francis emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in forming and guiding the brothers as they went through the rigors of academic formation in Theology.  He also took the opportunity to show his gratitude to the people of God who, through their spiritual, material and financial support – were able to help the brothers tread their journey and finish their studies.  He aptly called the graduates “Iskolar ng Bayan ng Diyos” in reference to how the graduates were helped by the generosity of the faithful.

The awarding ceremony was conducted after the post-communion prayer.  The Dean of Studies – Fr. Antonio Gilberto S. Marquesses, SVD announced the names of the graduates and Br Eugenio P. Lopez, OFMCap. handed the degrees and awards.

The Capuchin graduates of batch 2020 are the following:

Br. Jusfer John A. Albert, OFMCap.             (AB Theology)

Br. John Rey P. Baalan, OFMCap.                 (AB Theology)

Br. Tony Bingkuan, OFMCap.                       (AB Theology)

Br. Denver F. de Leon, OFMCap.                  (AB Theology)

Br. Ericson D. Pendoy, OFMCap.                  (AB Theology, Summa Cum Laude)

Br. Garry C. Andres, OFMCap.                      (4 year Ecclesiastical Course; MA Theology major in Mission Studies, Cum Laude)

Br. Vincent Paul B. Bitong, OFMCap.           (4 year Ecclesiastical Course; MA Theology major in Mission Studies, Cum Laude)

Br. Jasper G. Española, OFMCap.                 (4 year Ecclesiastical Course, Cum Laude; MA Theology major in Mission Studies, Magna Cum Laude)

Br. Michael Angelo V. Flores, OFMCap.       (4 year Ecclesiastical Course, Cum Laude; MA Theology major in Mission Studies, Cum Laude)

The graduation rite was followed by a simple agape for the brother graduates at the fraternity refectory.  It was indeed a day of gratitude for the brothers for the blessings they received at the end of this stage in special formation.  It is at the same time a moment for them to prepare for the challenges to come as some of them will be moving on to new formation stages and fraternities..  A chapter in the journey has ended and it is a time to begin anew as they continue their journey in the Capuchin life.