"I was part of Don Bosco dreams!"
Manila - Philippines, 12 February 2020 - Fr. Robert Paul (Bob) Zarate (49 years, native of Manila and a Bosconian), made his final profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco in Manila on 11 February. A good number of Salesians witnessed this important moment of his life and vocation journey.
Sharing by Fr Bob Zarate
This is the reason why I am here. Yes, this picture. (The first photo below!) This was taken during the 200th Birth Anniversary of St. John Bosco last August 16, 2015, celebrated by the Philippines North Province in the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig. This was during the Holy Mass.
A week before that, disturbed by the many things that destroyed my plans of getting into a diocese in the Philippines, I was at home, sulking at the thought of what would become of me. I was asking God for a sign on what He wanted me to do… actually, asking for a sign was never much my style of prayer.
Then, Fr. Noel Sumagui, SDB, texted me. (He knew my trepidation.) He mentioned that Fr. Danny Dadule, SDB, our theology classmate, needed a trumpet for Mass during the 200th Birth Anniversary of St. John Bosco. He said he gave my number to Fr. Danny. And Fr. Danny, shortly after, phoned me. I said, I couldn't. It was because I haven’t played the trumpet for more than 10 years. But behind that reason was negativity – I had already left the Salesians… why would I still have to stick my nose into their celebrations? Besides, my batch was celebrating 25 years of Salesian life, the very life I decided to leave 8 years before. But Fr. Danny, stubborn as he really is, insisted I play. He said he would provide the trumpet. I just needed to go to Don Bosco Makati for the rehearsals on August 15.
August 15 came. I went to the dining room of the Salesians to meet my other classmate, Fr. Benhur Borja, SDB. His opening statement was the one that pricked my heart. He said, “Bob, do you want a sign? Well, DON BOSCO'S 200 YEARS OLD!”
And that was it. My eyes opened up from that day. The signs of St. John Bosco were all around me all through those years I was away from the Salesians… and they were stronger, when I arrived back here in the Philippines!
Honestly, one of the reasons why I thought of leaving the Salesian life was because I always felt I was unworthy of being called a son of Don Bosco. I knew my weaknesses and imperfections. But St. John Bosco was like that father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. He waited for me to come back. And while waiting, he sprinkled the road back to him with signs that were peculiarly close to his heart, signs that a man formed with Salesian nuances like me would be sensitive to.
Oh, by the way, in that Holy Mass, I cried a lot!I just don't know why. All I could say was that there was so much warmth. I felt Don Bosco just looking at me… there, right in front of me. I felt like Don Bosco was hugging me and assuring me things would be alright from then on.
And the rest is history: I made my First Profession on March 20, 2017 in Don Bosco Mabalacat. I renewed it on March 13, 2018, some 3 hours before my mother died. I made another renewal the year after, this time in Don Bosco Mandaluyong.
From that day, August 16, 2015, I have always asked Don Bosco, “Was I really part of your dream? Did you really see my face there? Is that the reason why you have never left me?”
Honestly, I haven’t heard Don Bosco’s voice. All I can hear is this: I go back to being his Salesian, doing Salesian work, deepening Salesianity in one’s knowledge and life. And from there, hopefully, I can hear Don Bosco’s voice. I will work. I will live. I will wait… even if it will take forever. No wonder, there is such a thing as Perpetual Profession!"
We give thanks to Fr Bob for his open and heart touching vocation journey sharing, we congratulate to his perpetual profession and pray that he might hear the voice of Don Bosco and the voice of Jesus day by day!
NB - Fr. Bob Zarate SDB made his first profession in 1990, after his perpetual profession (1998) and ordination (1999) spent some years as missionary in Japan, after 2010 few years in the diocese of Yokohama. Since 2016 was re-admitted to the Salesian Congregation.