I am the 4th of the 5 children of Romeo S. Gonzales, Jr. and Linda Manantan Gonzales, from Upper Dado Alamada Cotabato. I was born on February 9, 1987. I am 29 years old. I took up my Elementary and Secondary Education in Upper Dado. I graduated from Notre Dame University in Cotabato City with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Financial Management. The spark of my desire to be in a religious life began when I was in high school. This was deepened when I was in college. After my graduation in college, I decided to respond to the call to join the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus (FMIJ). But during those times I felt that I didn’t have enough courage and strength to fully submit myself to my chosen vocation. I saw that my family needed my financial support in sending my siblings to school. Eventually, I decided not to pursue my missionary desire with the Franciscan missionaries. However, I did not lose hope that someday, somehow, my dream will become a reality.
I worked as bookkeeper of Libungan National Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative for almost 4 years. In 2009, I took up my second course in Accountancy desiring to become a Certified Public Accountant someday. I stayed at the residence hall of the Oblates of Notre Dame in Cotabato City. I was exposed to the life of the sisters and saw how they formed lay people. I lived with them and I was happy listening to their different missionary life stories, especially those assigned in remote areas and those working with the indigenous people. I got interested about their life. And came the time when the sisters asked me to work as Finance Officer in their project on Peace Governance in Mindanao in partnership with the Catholic Relief Services. I took up the challenge and explored Mindanao through social services and I soon discovered that I love this kind of job with the OND SPREAD Peace team headed by Sr. Telma Argate, OND. At the same time I worked as part time bookkeeper of Notre Dame Center for Catechesis with my direct supervisor Sr. Teresa May Salazar, OND. When the project of CRS with OND SPREAD finished, another dream came true. I transferred to the Cooperative Bank of Cotabato - Isulan Branch, in Isulan Sultan Kudarat. I was assigned as accounting clerk for almost two years while keeping connected with Notre Dame Center for Catechesis.
One day a friend of mine, Ms. Devie Enguito, a mission partner of Notre Dame Center for Catechesis (NDCFC) from Ozamis City texted me an invitation to join the accompaniment program of the Columban Lay Missionaries. Without second thought I replied, showing my interest in joining the group. I was then introduced to Ms. Aurora Luceño, CLM. She accompanied me in my discernment process and facilitated my application to the Columban Lay Missionaries until my acceptance to the CLM nine-month orientation program. I was so happy when I received the letter of acceptance to the orientation program. I finally decided to take the risk of giving up my work & slowly detach myself from the family and friends to fully embrace the world of uncertainties during the orientation program. I went for a retreat and sought God’s guidance and direction in my new journey towards becoming a Columban missionary, to know myself and the Columban mission even more deeply and to continually discern every step of the fulfillment of my missionary dream.
|Mission Sending of Febie on April 10, 2016, Immaculate Conception Parish, Alamada, Cotabato|
Overtime, my experiences in the orientation went beyond my expectation. Many ups and downs were encountered. I also experienced difficulties which made me think of quitting and going back to the corporate world. Tough experiences taught me to appreciate the value of surrendering everything to God. However, all of these made me realize that in the different stages of my life’s journey God is always here at my side, my partner in my discernment and in many ways He showed me the purpose of my life. He molded and formed me accordingly. He revealed to me His will and granted me my heart’s greatest desire. I found peace, joy, happiness, contentment and fulfillment in life. I bloomed, physically, emotionally and most of all spiritually. The joy of deeply knowing myself in the orientation program led me to fall in love with my God, inspired me to go out from my comfort zone, to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the dying and the dead and to take care of His creation.