Metanoia: a transformative change of heart; especially : a spiritual conversion
By: Ms. Cristine B. Amontos
It all started at the St. Vincent School of Theology (SVST) last 2010 when I took Masters in Pastoral Ministry. I was introduced to a new way of doing theology and I painstakingly embraced the process of deconstruction to reconstruction. Through the Vincentian way of doing theology I was exposed to the real world of poverty and marginalization in our society.
As an SVST student, I, together with my classmates, had an immersion in the Payatas Garbage Dumpsite for one year where the reality of poverty penetrated my whole being. The Dialogue of Life allowed me to experience the different forms of injustices and marginalization. During the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) sessions, the poor openly expressed their pains and struggles. I became truly immersed in the community and the cry of the people there became my inspiration to continue the journey. Having listened to them, I began to raise questions about the several forms of injustice and inequality that deface the dignity of the poor. The immersion posed greater challenges of how to effectively help those living in the fringes given the unjust social structures in our society. Gradually, my perspective of service had changed. And true enough, the change was hurting me and the people who were instrumental in bringing me to SVST. For some, it was a rebellion, but for me, it was a conversion. It was my metanoia experience.
My life had changed since I opened myself to doing theology from, with and for the margins, the Vincentian way of doing theology. I have been brought closer to the Vincentian spirituality and charism. I fell in love with St. Vincent de Paul. His heart for the poor has inspired me to follow his footsteps. His own metanoia experience has affirmed me to soar greater heights and be a woman whose voice can be heard in a male-dominated society. As Vincent de Paul once said, “Love is inventive unto infinity,” so then, I allowed myself to be transformed for the sake of the voiceless.
Falling in love with Vincent has moved me to tread his way of evangelization and charity. Gratefully, the Institute for Religious Education Department (IRED) of Adamson University became my community. I taught Theology following the method of see – discern – act and this ignited more my passion to serve the poor. Ka-Enteng (as we fondly called St. Vincent de Paul) opened door widely for me to join the Vincentian Popular Mission of the University and of the Congregation.
The Vincentian Popular Mission has brought me to the world of voluntary service for the poor. I am a volunteer Vincentian lay missionary who envisions to be a companion to the pilgrim people of God in the peripheries. My first mission experience was in Tugop, Tanuan, Leyte in 2014 where the Adamsonian Vincentian Missionaries chose to be in solidarity with the victims of Super typhoon Haiyan. It was very challenging because I found myself listening to devastated souls. Being with them was my ultimate expression of solidarity. They were in trauma, in pain, and were barely hanging on to their faith. I thank God for the gift of music because it helped the people and the children in their trying times. Though I felt exhaustion of my body, I remained grateful for I had shared the gift of music, the music that calmed the troubled and aching hearts of God’s people. God’s mercy and compassion slowly renewed their wavering faith.
My participation in the Vincentian Popular Mission has continued after Leyte. God carried my wings to four other depressed islands in the Philippines. The various threats in the mission areas such as the presence of leftists, extreme poverty, long and grueling walks in unchartered territories and indifferent community leaders did not hinder me from journeying with the people. The best part was I learned so much from the people I served. My love for the mission helped me withstand the struggles and difficulties of my personal life. Like Vincent de Paul, encountering the poor brought me closer to God. The poor had evangelized me. It had been a blessing to have walked with them in their plight because I was reminded that I could triumph in own adversities. Vincent de Paul also said, “Go to the poor. The poor have much to teach us.” In similar experiences during my immersion in Payatas, my intimate encounter with God happened when I had lived with the poor. Even after the mission service I am doing my best to practice daily the missionary virtues of simplicity, humility and zeal.
According to Vincent de Paul, “It is not enough to do good. It must be done well for the sake of the poor.” At present, I am opting to do volunteer work at the Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) of Adamson University. Believing in the Vincentian formation, I am doing an intensive preparation so that I could be an effective Vincentian Volunteer for the World. I trust that through this volunteer work, I will become more like Vincent de Paul, growing in loving the poor who are our lords and masters.
A song goes, “Because of you, my life has changed. Thank you for the love and the joy you bring. Because of you, I fear no shame. I tell the world, it’s because of you.” The lines captured my commitment as a volunteer Vincentian lay missionary. These paraphrase my metanoia.