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Deeper, Deeper Still: How Adonai Keeps on Changing Lives

February 15, 2018 was a sea of stars. After the students’ eardrums were beaten with the furious clashing of cymbals and the trumpeting of voices echoing delight and admiration, UST-Legazpi had to stand still and let creation take its turn. And as the darkness turned into light, and the seemingly-endless lava oozed along Mayon’s calloused façade, so was thesurge of hearts being made new.

The Dominican Network, or more popularly known as DomNet, organized Adonai as a grand religious activity with the aim of helping Dominican students get deeper into their relationship with God.

Adonai was supposed to be held on January 19-20, but due to Mayon Volcano’s turbulent and consistent eruptions, Rev. Fr. Felix C. Legaspi III, O.P., Sr. Ma. Remia T. Catoera, O.P., Sir Fernandino J. Pancho, and the rest of the management of the Office of Religious Affairs (ORA), including the Center for Religious Education (CREED) and the Center for Campus Ministry (CCM) had to move the event to February 15-16.

Participants from different Dominican schools across the Bicol Region attended the event, which began at about 6 pm and went non-stop until morning. These included the Dominican School of Pilar, the Dominican School of Camalig, Siena College, St. Benedict’s Academy, and the University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi. Excluding the facilitators and the organizers, the participants numbered to 362.

Adonai is a Hebrew word which has been used frequently in the Bible to refer to God, specifically emphasizing His character as “Lord.” And if we are to reacquaint ourselves with the word to its full integrity, it should mean that as Christians, we should be yielding our lives to God totally and relentlessly.

As what had transpired during the overnight event, many of the participants understood the gravity of God’s lordship not only in every Dominican institution but in the very hearts of every person who are striving to bear His name. And as if by consequence, the event has become an avenue for the participants to improve in different areas of their lives, along with their deepening relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Surrender

For Julius Czar Angeles, a Grade 11 student from Bl. Villana, Adonai has made a profound impact on him despite his first time attending.

“I’m not a godly person; not really,” admitted Czar, who explained that he only attended the eventfor a better academic standing. At first, he just went along with the program and did as was told. But little did he expect that he would encounter God, both gently and sweepingly.

“As I saw the music team close their eyes while singing to God, I did the same. Ten seconds later, I felt goosebumps all over my body,” he exclaimed, saying that he couldn’t recall any other experience when he felt the same. “This is different,” he said. “This has to be God.”

Later on, as the program came down to a segment wherein the participants were asked if they wanted to recommit their lives to God, Czar had already made up his mind that he would say yes. “I have been busy in doing all sorts of things in my life, but this one thing, I knew I had to do.”

True enough, Czar was not disappointed. “I am glad I went to Adonai, and I’m comforted by the fact that I have good parents. I may not have had a date during Valentine’s, but others do not have a mother to embrace during Mother’s Day or a father to salute during Father’s Day. But I do.”

Passing the Legacy

Marjorie Azurin, a senior in Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, recalls with nostalgia as to how they started with the concept three years ago. “We were only composed of five members by that time, and we didn’t have much by then,” Marge said.

Marge and her crew had to operate by faith, for they had never organized an event similar to Adonai. What empowered them to push through with their vision wasthe unwavering support of their advisers. “Knowing that these people always had our back was something,” Marge said.

Now, this wasthe third Adonai, and insofar as the number of attendeesshould be taken into account, the network is thriving.

“Many people assume that religious activities are boring, but Adonai is different,” Marge said. As evident in the excitement of the participants, this event has something different that makes others come back. Some, according to Marge, have been attending Adonai consistently since year one.

Marge hopes to pass on the legacy that they have built and that others would step up and respond to the call. “One part of me is saddened that we are leaving, for we have really come to love this special place and thing that we have,” admitted Marge. Nevertheless, she is happy to pass on the legacy, knowing that the ones who consistently had her back would show the same support for the succeeding years.

“I am proud to have been part of a Dominican community, and that we were able to create this,” Marge said with poignancy. “Even though I am leaving the university, but this has become a part of me, and it forever will be.”

Into the Waves

No one has a perfect life. But with the faith that God loves us very much, and that He is faithful to fulfill His promises to us, we can survive against the pressures of trials and whirlpools of self-doubt. That is what Claudine C. Balana, a fourth year Financial Management student, could testify.

While studying and serving as a student assistant at the Office of Religious Affairs, Claud got acquainted with a group of UST-Legazpi students who volunteered to a common cause – to lead the participants in worshiping God through songs and dances. “At first, I was baffled by how others would talk to God and sing to Him with all their hearts,” she said. “They must have this very intimate relationship with God.” And as she consistently committed to singing worship songs at every Adonai, she felt closer to God.

“I like a particular line in one of the songs we sang, which says that God makes me brave and that He calls me out beyond the shore into the waves,” said Claud, hoping that as she steps out from college to venture into new seas, she would remain brave and confident not only in God but also in the talents and skills that God bestowed on her.

The Paradox of Leadership

For Sr. Ma. Remia T. Catoera, O.P., the director of the Center for Religious Education (CREED), the transformation is a lifelong quest, and no amount of recognition should hinder us from deepening into the faith. As she listened to Rev. Fr. Roman L. Santos, O.P. deliver his homily, she remembered the paradox of leadership.

“For us to become good leaders, we must first learn how to become good servants,” explained Sr. Remia. Indeed, this world has a very different definition of leadership, but for Sr. Remia, the best leadership example is the one exhibited by our Lord, who became the greatest servant of all.

It has been etched in the Dominican identity the very idea of democracy, wherein we take the liberty of choosing our own leaders based on our own perception of what is good, and what is right. For Sr. Remia, there are a couple of qualities that Dominicans, especially those who assume various leadership positions, must possess – the very qualities that Jesus Christ Himself displayed roughly 2000 years ago.

“One is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the cause,” she explained. “Jesus went and sacrificed His very life for the sake of the people – a clear proof of God’s love for us.” Another is self-control. Also, leaders must be visionary, “that is why we must have purpose and direction, and that we must think of ways to achieve our goals.” And finally, she cited wisdom to complete the list.

Deeper, Deeper Still

The Dominican identity is built upon the backs of tightly-knit communities that resound with God’s fierce and sacrificial love, pure wisdom, and sure purpose. As the participants have witnessed, there can be a triumph of unity through a deep and mutual respect to diversity, and a constant yielding to the doctrines of our Lord.

And as the event has taught Czar, Marge, Claud andSr. Remia, along with the other participants, it’s that God is present within and without, and that their quest for the grueling discovery of their identity and purpose isn’t meant to be a solitary voyage, but could only betravail successfully with a motley crew of likeminded sojourners, pressing hard against the tides of doubt, confusionand opposition on sails of love and purpose.

They have begun to seek for the ultimate treasure, and as they go deeper and deeper in the faith, they will be sure to find it. But as they have said so rather indirectly, they already have, and it’s none other than the Adonai Himself.

Posted on: 02.19.2018

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