God calls us, and it is up to us to respond to Him: Reverend Ian, CMF, shares his vocation story

Fr Eduardo Emilio Aguero, SCJ

Vocation refers to what you are called by God to be and to do. For some, this is a specific calling to ministry. For others, it could mean serving God through faithful discipleship in a religious missionary community, serving the church.

The vocation to be part of a religious missionary congregation in the Catholic Church is an internal and personal call from God, received and discerned.

Being a Claretian is a concrete way of being male, a Christian, a religious and an apostle. It is to relive in community the spiritual and fundamental concern of Claret to serve and build the Church with the ministry of the Word, proclaiming the kingdom of God. All life is thus configured for this charisma, offered and shared in community (cf. MCH 132). Reverend Ian Rio Vicente M. Dacayanan, CMF, a Filipino Claretian, was recently ordained into the diaconate by Bishop Stephen Lee. He shares his vocation journey and missionary thoughts with O Clarim and challenges the youth of today to be open to the call of the spirit, to explore the ways of making one’s life responsive to the call of joy and becoming a person who works for others.

Reverend Ian, being a Filipino and being ordained as a Claretian in Macau is an interesting story. Can you share with us your vocation story?

I began my religious life formation journey with the Claretian Missionaries in 1990, after I graduated from high school. On the completion of my missionary internship (pastoral year) in 1999, I decided to leave the seminary program.

Can you share with us the reason you left the seminary back then?

I left because a few years after my loving mother died, my father lost his job since the company he was working for was closing down. My father then asked me if I could help support the family and the educational needs of my sisters. Being the eldest in the family, I felt the obligation to help them. But looking back, that was not the main issue. It took me time to accept that I was also in deep crisis when that family matter occurred. I lost my sense of direction at that time, thinking that was the 9th year in my seminary program. When I left, I immediately promised myself that I would get away from any church-related work and activities. Even worse, I opted not to attend Mass nor pray. I dove into the world in front of me without knowing how to swim. And with the help of some friends, I applied and was selected for my first working job in a telecommunications company. I enjoyed working there but also struggled with the high demands of work that put my health at risk. After a year, I left the company. Then I was without a job for three months, not knowing what to do, since almost every day that I applied, no one called me to report to work. Until such time that a friend of mine who had been a seminarian along with me and had left at the same time was resigning, and his job in the Claretian Publications, Manila, was vacant. He asked me to apply, and Fr. Alberto Rossa, CMF, gladly accepted me in his company. I worked in different departments of the publishing house for about 14 years (Manila, 6 years and Macau, 8 years). In those years, I would say I went and explored the “wild, wild world.” I was able to help my family financially with what I earned, and I was able to buy what I needed and what I wanted. I explored even the possibility of me getting married.

How did you discern returning to your congregation? What/who helped you?

In those moments, slowly, I asked God to show me the path for my life since I felt so empty and hollow. Despite having everything in life, I felt something was missing. And I wanted to find that key that would make my life whole again. Indeed, there are greater things that money cannot buy. And with countless explorations, I finally found that what I was looking for was the religious life. It was in 2014, with discernment, that I once again decided to join the same congregation for our mission in China and for the rest of the world, as missionaries without borders. I made my first profession in the congregation on October 4, 2016, here in Macau. Then, I was requested and sent to continue my religious missionary formation in the Philippines, and I studied theology at St. Vincent School of Theology, finishing my diploma to join the ordained ministry in 2022. Finally, I had my perpetual profession in the congregation last July 15, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippines. Presently, I am finishing my specialization in Biblical Studies at the Adamson University, Manila.

As I look back, I realize that it was a tough decision for me to let go of my first love of religious missionary life in the initial stage of my formation, but indeed, it had been a blessing in disguise. But I think God has his own way of writing straight with crooked lines, as St. Theresa of Avila would say. And I firmly believe that God will continue to write this path in our lives, like a rollercoaster ride – so just enjoy the ride!

Your ordination was a wonderful celebration, an inspiring moment for today’s youth. What can you tell our young people?

I want to share two things with today’s youth so that they learn from my experiences. First, enjoy your life with a purpose. I love to share this Japanese word – “Ikigai” (生き甲斐, literally means “a reason for being”). As you journey with your life, explore also the reason why you were born here on earth. Since I am convinced that each one of us has been created by God for a purpose. Therefore, find that individual path that God wants you to track. Please try to find meaning in everything that you are and will be doing.

Second, St. Anthony Claret, our founding father, would remind us, his missionaries, to fall in love with Jesus and by doing this you can do great things. As you love your family, please find time to love Jesus as well. It will make a difference in your life and in the life of others as well. Enjoy life meaningfully, it has a lot of good and not so good things to offer. Explore the difference with God’s help.