Rene de los Reyes SJ
The Ignatian way of proceeding alongside values received from my family shaped me into who I am today.
My parents and grandparents are the beacon of my faith - their way of life was exemplary. Growing up in the Philippines in an environment of generosity, prayer, sacrifice, kindness, I became aware of being molded in their shape. I cherished the moments of being with them noticing the joy they gave to others. My father fought against the corrupt regime which oppressed the poor and the voiceless. Local people were encouraged to support him and raised their voices alongside his in protest at the political leadership. Fighting for what is just in the eyes of God has been his main goal in life.
My father’s example so inspired me that from a young age I wanted to help marginalized and dispossessed people.
While at university, I was sponsored by the diocese to attend a radio production training course run jointly by the Philippine Jesuits and a national cultural organization. Few people in the Philippines have access to television so the radio is an important source of information and entertainment. I had a weekly two hour slot on the Catholic Radio Station in which I programmed documentaries and dramas about the local indigenous tribes, Christianity, and their cultures and traditions, which I researched by staying in the villages .
That joyful experience opened my eyes into an amazing truth that living the faith, acting accordingly, and trusting oneself to God allows others to see the goodness of God in you. This experience led to a strong desire to reach out and help those in need, listen to those who are desperate, and care for those who are sick. The yearning to become a part of a religious order was clear and promising. The mystery of being drawn to a religious life led me to be confident in God’s loving embrace.
My first five years of work experience was with the Philippine National Red Cross. Working as a volunteer involved rescue and relief operations, paramedic service, basic life support and teaching swimming. The desire to give up myself for others was quite strong but concern for my family was a priority. I was often reminded that God is always there in my desires and everything will be fulfilled in His time. I always felt God’s presence in my work but I was working to sustain my family. After a few years of critical care experience, I was offered a job as an intensive care nurse in London.
Working as a nurse in the UK enabled me to help others financially back home. The call to the religious life became stronger after I had settled some family responsibilities. The yearning to get closer to God drew me to the Saturday Ignatian retreat days run by Tony Horan SJ at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre, and spirituality courses conducted by lay people. This helped me explore my relationship with God and deepened my prayer life.
Ignatian spirituality started to mould me. I was made aware of the gradual change in the direction of my career, my desires, and outlook in life. God is already guiding me along my desired path. This is God’s time. God has been using many people to affirm my vocation. All I needed was to respond to God’s invitation, entrust everything to Him, and He will do the rest.
As a Jesuit novice, my “experiments” (placements in social justice projects) have exposed me to people at the margins. People who perhaps had made a single mistake and found themselves serving years in prison, the asylum seekers who are struggling without any recourse to jobs or benefits, elderly people abandoned in nursing homes, the numerous homeless and destitute in the cities - God allowed me to see Him in their eyes, and love them as they are. When I felt helpless and frustrated God revealed Himself through them and I found the strength to carry on. Entrust to God everything and He will make a way.
Living alongside others with the same vocation encouraged me to persevere. The yearning to achieve my goal pushed me to do my best in every task. God guided me into so many opportunities that helped me learn and develop new skills. The Holy Spirit continues to push me beyond what I thought I could achieve.
Now I am studying philosophy, my objective is to learn more about life’s big questions and how I can equip myself to deal with them. Knowing my true self will help me, and help others in my future ministries. I will be equipped with the necessary tools to fulfill my lifetime dream through Ignatian ethos and way of proceeding.
Rene is pictured with one of his own artworks. Read about his journey with art.