I was still a college student then when I started to become fascinated with the Sta. Cruz Church. From my long break in class, I was exploring the nearby places in FEU (the University where I graduated) when I passed by the busy area of Sta.Cruz. As I look around, my attention was then caught by this old Spanish-built church. I was captivated by its exquisite appeal. At that moment, I felt differently as I headed through the door. Inside, I appreciate the inviting silence and the solemnity of the place, making me want to pray to the Blessed Sacrament, so as everyone else around me who are seated in that church.

As I watched from afar, I’ve observed the religious congregation occurring at that time. From the distance, I was so mystified with the way they pray and chant the psalms. Never did I know that I’ll be part of their evening prayer and that all happened, on that very momentous day.

May 4, 2012 – The day when I’ve become a member of this community. The fascination, bewildering, and mystifying became clear and fully apprehended. For a year, I was given a chance to witness what is stated in our Rule of Life # 41 that states “We will make our parishes into authentic communities shaped by the Eucharist, source and center of their life. They shall be: places of proclamation and the living of the gospel, places of prayer, Eucharistic adoration and festive celebration, places of sharing and fellowship, places of freedom and human development. United among themselves, our religious engaged in parish ministry shall collaborate in a special way with committed lay people.”

For a year, I was given a chance to experience the kind of life that I will embrace in the future as a Sacramentino Religious. My everyday experiences shaped and made me understand the following realizations:

First, In the formation house, I thought I am just nobody, limited in my knowledge and talents as compared to others. But then, I was given a chance to bring out the best of my potentials through the assignments entrusted by the Superior and Parish Priest to me. I was then appointed to be a Song leader in every morning mass, Intoner in every Lauds and Vespers, giving reflections, talks, recollections and formation in front of many people, and acting assistant treasurer of the community. These assignments somehow became so very easy for me, since I was a former accounting assistant in RCBC and a teacher by profession before I entered seminary. As I fulfill my devotion, there are times when I feel so elated, as I hear words of compliments from the parishioners such as “Brother, ang ganda ng boses mo…” “nakaka inspire naman ang talk mo…” “Br. Israel, ang galing galing mo naman…”, making me want to serve more with all the innate talents that God has bestowed on me, for I know that all these gifts has to be shared with them for me to inspire and touch their lives, and to eventually lead them to live a religious kind of life. Although at some point, I was also questioning myself if I am really that gifted because I hardly believe that I have such talents!

Second, I have this mantra everyday to “Always do my best!” that drives me to face all the works ahead of me with full of enthusiasm. I am always striving to be the best in every tasks entrusted to me. For me, to be consistently the best is the most important thing, but later did I know, that I was very wrong. I grew tired of always competing with myself, of always striving to be the best, because through that, I forgot to be good…to be a good individual; to be more compassionate; and to be more patient to myself and to others. From then on, I started to look life in a different perspective – that being the best has to yield positive outcome not only to myself, but for the common good of all.

Third, I also realized that the people of Sta. Cruz Parish are dynamic and unique. They will like you if you will always please them but they will hate you when you correct them in their wrong doings. I find it hard to cope with this principle and my desire to correct them only cause me troubles and pains. As a Sacramentino religious, I am very serious with my advocacy to rectify them because I care and love them. But I failed because there are some who are really not open for constructive criticisms. Through these conflicts, I grew wiser in dealing with them and that made me realize that no two people are alike in every aspect; that everyone has to be treated differently; and that’s why God created individuality is for us to be strong when one is weak; to be the positive when the other is negative; and to be white while the other is black; so in that way, we could learn to balance everything.

And lastly, I was so blessed to be assigned in this community because the religious members did not treat me only as a seminarian, but more so, as a mature religious. They gave me a chance to journey and to grow with them; they gave me a voice to express the love of God; they gave me eyes to see the beauty of vocation; and they gave me an ear to listen attentively to the voice of God. Being assigned in Sta. Cruz community became a chance for me to be a living witness of being a Sacramentino, a very Eucharistic person by joining them in everyday Eucharist, in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and in sharing my time with them in doing religious works.

My pastoral year exposure in Sta. Cruz community will forever be treasured in my heart. Those experiences I had, whether good or bad, are all worth remembering for those helped me become as religious as I am now. Those unclear pictures then on my head;  those confusion and mystifying, and those fascination and bewildering are now all gone. I have come to understand that the life I am embracing today and my life to be in the future is more on sacrificing and devotion, and the unselfish offering of my service to God and to others.