The Our Lady of Sheshan, Major House of Formation in the Philippines had the blessing and privilege of hosting conferences by speakers of Human Life International, the world’s first and largest global pro-life apostolate. Human Life Internation (HLI) was established in 1981 in the United States by Fr. Paul Marx to spread the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Dignity of the Human Person, the importance of defending human life and to build a culture which fosters and cultivates human and family life.
The Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) which has recently been entrusted with the school chaplaincy of La Purissima Concepcion Academy organized a youth day solely for its students on March 3, 2020, to give them a solid formation in the rudiments of the Catholic faith especially regarding the Gospel and Magisterial teaching on life and the family. A total of 600 youth ranging from grade six to twelve were present for the event along with their teachers, the principal and the board of directors. The plenary conference was given by Fr. Shenan Boquet, the President of HLI, on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Family as an essential element of Human Life. The family, he said, is the first hospital where an individual is cared for, the first government which provides the basic essentials needed for the growth and development of the individual, the first society where the individual associates with others, the first school where the individual gains the necessary knowledge and acquires skills to live in society and to be a good citizen, and most importantly the family is the first church, where the individual is brought up in the catholic faith, where he is taught about God and is made aware that man has a supernatural end and his very existence must be directed and ordained towards achieving that end.
The next talk was given by Dr. Brian Clowes, the Director of Education and Research at HLI on how can one raise a family, a ‘catholic family’ in a contemporary world which poses a treat to the family. Young people need to be educated on the benefits of raising a family, not just for the individual but also for society. The next conference was given by Dr. Ligaya Acosta, Regional Director of Asia and Oceania on Love, Intimacy, and Life. She spoke of chastity that is lacking in many young people, the need for this virtue, sexual intercourse as a gift of God that must be exercised within Marriage and is ordained for the main purpose of procreation and mutual love. At the end of the conference, the youth pledged to live chaste lives.
The youth day ended with The Holy mass presided by Fr. Shenan. In the Homily, Fr. Shenan exhorted the youth to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They could do this by telling their friends and family members all that they learned during the conferences and thus be young advocates of life.
The next day, Fr. Shenan came back to the Seminary to give a conference to the members of the IVE, SSVM and Third Order. This conference was more directly linked to the mission of the church and the work of her religious in combating the culture of death, which is determined to destroy the family and disregards the Gospel and the Natural Law. There is a growth in the legalization of Abortion in many countries, young people who prefer live-in relationships rather than be united in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, an unprecedented rise in the usage of contraceptives, promotion of mercy killing to ‘escape’ suffering, recognition and legalization of same-sex unions and much more. The world has become so degraded and distanced from the Gospel, that its conscience has been dimmed not knowing the evils it has wrought upon itself. Man has lost a sense of sin and what would be a scandal a couple of years ago, nowadays seems to the perfectly ‘normal’. Amidst this chaos, the church and her ministers cannot be silent. They must speak up, they must stand by the truth because only the Truth will set the world free. A priest in order to preach the truth must be well acquainted and immersed in it, and hence he encouraged the seminarians to have a great love for study. A priest must never stop studying, he should always feed his mind so a to expound the truth in the best way possible. A priest who doesn’t have a love for study will not be able to satisfy man’s deep yearning for the truth.
He also lauded us for being ‘Identifiable’. A priest he said must be identified amongst people. A priest who dresses like one represents the Church and makes her present in a broken world that craves for Christ and can only be healed by His saving power. We ended the conference with lunch and a short fogon.
To ‘Inculturize the Gospel’, to extend the Incarnation to all men entails defending life and the dignity of the Human Person, who has been created in the image and likeness of God. It means to be a sign of contradiction in a culture that promotes death under the pretext that man has absolute freedom to do as he pleases. To be a pro-Life advocate belongs to the essence of Catholicism, for Christ Himself died to restore life back to man. To be Catholic is to be like Christ, to be another Christ, to be Pro-Life. The conference helped us realize the importance of being advocates of Life and teaching this important truth to others. May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to zealous missionaries for life and the family.