|FR.ROBERT REYES SEATED RIGHT NEXT TO HIS SCHOOLTEACHER MOM (LEFT) AND ACCOUNTANT DAD (MIDDLE) WHO WAS THEN CELEBRATING WITH WELLWISHERS HIS 87TH BIRTDAY|
Vim Nadera: How was your family after your father died?
Robert Reyes: My father was an inspiration in my priestly vocation even when I was a young boy. His transformation from a not too religious father and husband to a religious leader and animator in the community is most edifying. Thanks to his involvement in the Cursillo movement sometime in 1964. When he was still alive, we often had discussions about my life as priest and social-change advocate. He often worried about my future in the church. I simply told him, there is no future for me in the church and that it really does not matter.
I have chosen to be where I am and I am happy. He often had wishfulthoughts about my becoming a bishop. To this, I would always smile and ask him, “Daddy do you really want me to be happy?” “Of course, “ he
would answer. “Then don’t wish something on me that will make me sad…” This will just make both of us laugh. Two deaths in my family prepared me for unexpected transitions which more and more seem to follow a mysterious plan. When my brother Vincent died towards the end of 2004, as I became more and more involved in the anti-Gloria Macapagal Arroyo movement, pressures from my superiors and peers against my involvement began to mount. This culminated in my choice to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Diocese of Cubao after my bishop simply ask me to choose between being a parish priest and an advocate. I chose not so much my advocacies but the freedom to be who I am. I was being asked to become more discreet and quiet. I left the diocese and the Philippines and became quiet and discreet in China. I lived the next four years outside Manila until my father’s death, which slowly made me ask whether it is time to go back to my diocese. Anyway, when daddy was still alive, he kept asking me to go back to my bishop and ask him for a parish assignment. Months after his death on November 9, 2010, I wrote two letters to my bishop and saw him personally with the request to return to the diocese. It was an uphill climb which ended in a decision which continued a process which my brother’s death began.
Again, I began to reflect on and pray over my life as a diocesan priest for the last thirty years of my life. Is it time to look deeply and ask a more serious and deeper question?
VN: What will keep you from being the Running Priest?
RR: My running is just a symbol, but an important symbol. All of us are unique in the way God created and intended us to live and serve others. In the last thirty years of my life, I have faced several tests and temptations which sometimes, even momentarily led me to wonder, whether I have chosen the wrong vocation. But the answer always came and it was always clear. If it were the wrong vocation, then life would have been easy and comfortable. My life has been filled with difficulties and I have often been led to endure
uncomfortable situations. Like ultra-running, where endurance, strength, and mental toughness are most important. In my priestly vocation God taught me endurance, strength. But, this time, more than mental toughness. God made me see something deeper than prudence and discretion, which bishops have always demanded of me. I have seen the beauty of God’s love and patience for allowing me to be who I am and
to do what God wanted me to accomplish in the last 30 years of my priestly life. God tolerated and forgave my mistakes, weaknesses and even sins. God was, and continued to be, patient. Like the Father in
the Prodigal Son. He waited until the son finally decided to come home…I have come home…I have come home…