What the Children at the Kuya Center Taught Me
By Kusitino Saro
Kusitino is a Columban seminarian from Suva, Fiji who joined the Columban formation program here in the Philippines in 2016. He is studying Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas and conducts pastoral ministry at the Kuya Center in Cubao, Quezon City.
Over the years, the Columban mission has influenced and inspired many people across the world, especially in regions that they are called to serve in. Like many others that have gone before me, I was also fortunate enough to have crossed paths with some of them. The first impression I received during my first encounter with them stayed with me until I decided to join. This was one of the important decisions I made that somehow would determine the later course of my life’s journey.
Ever since my introduction to formation life, I was told that whatever lessons I would learn from our formation journey should be directed towards my future ministry. However, like other life journeys it sure has a lot of challenges, but through these challenges many important lessons have been learned.
Pastoral formation was one of the many areas that I was introduced to. This area of formation was just as important as the rest, but for me this was one of the areas that I had hoped to improve on, especially in relation to those whom I encountered in my pastoral ministry. The first few weeks were difficult for me. Like a child who is learning how to walk, I would stumble and fall, but each time it happened, like the child, I would slowly get back up on my feet.
Children indeed, were those whom I accompanied every Saturday. Each of the children came from a different family background, each from different part of Manila. But the common factor among them was that they all came from families that were either broken or struck down by the heavy hand of poverty.
However, these children were fortunate enough to have been invited in to the Kuya Center. The Kuya Center is a shelter that was founded by Religious Brothers and other religious missionary societies, and after a few years, the Sacred Heart Brothers took over from where the founders left off. It is funded by numerous donors and by the government to shelter children from ages four to sixteen, allowing them to be formally introduced to education and other lessons in life that would guide and help them build a better life. Like all children they are innocent and cannot complain much of the difficult upbringing that they are experiencing. It is the task of the center to help them so that they can be spared from the heavy hand of poverty and later become beacons of hope to their loved ones.
Despite the hardships that they are going through and considering that they are only children, they have taught me important lessons that will help me in my formation journey. They have taught me the importance of patience, understanding, team work, honesty and commitment. The determination and the energy they possess inspired me; the conviction they have with every spoken word and the action that followed was heart-warming; and the smile that they gave when they were able to achieve a task brightened each day of every encounter.
Kusitino with the Fiji/Tonga Group of Columbans in the Philippines
All the lessons that I have learned during this brief encounter at the Kuya Center are not only meant for pastoral purposes but also to fuel my formation journey. I pray that with God’s guidance I will gain the ability not to take things assigned to me as tasks that need to be completed, but to take them as experiences that need to be lived.