Jennifer Chuatoco-Clemente was born and raised in Metro Manila.
She graduated from college in 2010 with a diploma in Hotel Restaurant and Institution of Management.
She is married to Jun, an accountant.
Jenny’s mom is Catholic and so are the rest of the Chuatoco household, except for her dad, who belongs to a non- Catholic sect. This, Jenny says, is one reason the family heard Mass only on occasions.
When Jenny met her husband, she started to appreciate the Catholic rites. But, it took some time before she would finally accede to attending regular Sunday Mass.
We had this activity in kindergarten where we’re supposed to write about what we did during the weekend. I distinctly remember lying about going to Mass.
You see, my classmates wrote that every Sunday, they attended Mass with their family.
My family hardly went to church.So, wantingto conform with the class, I wrote that my family and I were regular churchgoers.
There were three reasons I didn’t attend Sunday Mass regularly.
First, my father belongs to a non-Catholic sect.So even as my mom and we siblings are Catholics,we heard Mass only on occasions.
Second, instead of going to church, my family often went on out-of-town trips on weekends.Or, we watched movies. My sibs took every chance to watch movies, especially because that was the only time our mom allowed us to eat chips.
Besides, I rationalized, we heard Mass in school every Friday and I could always pray at home. That should be enough.
Third, something happened in school that made me disappointed with priests. One of the priests serving in the school renounced his vows and married one of our teachers. The teacher happened to be the grouchy kind.
I thought, maybe, if he married somebody else, I would have been fine with his leaving the priesthood.
Disillusioned, I remained lukewarm about my faith.
My first little step toward a spiritual journey started when I went to high school. I attended my first retreat where I realized that I lacked something that should put some sense in my life — and I began to search for what it was.
So, from then on, I attended spiritual activities I was invited to— up to when I already went to college. But not one of those activities could make me go deeper into my faith quest. My enthusiasm simply waned after each activity.
My parents brought me up well. I knew I had to be a good girl and I was. Life took a bit of a turn when I got into a complicated relationship.
I was already working then in a high-end department store. And I had a boyfriend.
One day, a woman texted me saying she was my boyfriend’s wife, and they already have a child.
Following moral lessons I learned in the retreats I attended, I decided to call it quits with this guy. But, he knew exactly what to say so I’d take him back.
We went on an on-off relationship. I would break off with him, he would woo me back, and I would give in. We went through that cycle for a while.
I knew then that I couldn’t let go of him on my own. I had to seek a higher power. I prayed to God that He grant me the grace to do what is right.
God made a way. This guy told me he plans to work for the annulment of his marriage. To be able to afford the expensive annulment procedure, he decided to work abroad. I believed him.
We had a long distance relationship. I was paying thousands for our overseas calls.
Then, one day, some girl called me up saying she’s with my man. That was my wake-up call. I broke off with him and never looked back.
To get over him, I started reading inspirational books. It happened that my elder brother read Bo Sanchez, so I got to read him too. I was deeply touched when Bro. Bo wrote that God never abandons us, because He loves us without condition. I realized then that despite my wrongdoing, God has always been there, watching over me, that despite what I had gone though, I still had a beautiful life.
As I pored over this preacher’s works, I started to hunger for God’s Word.
At the time, my mom happened to start going to Mass regularly. So I went with her sometimes.
Then, Jun came into my life.
In 2007, I enrolled for a Master in Business Administration course. Jun was one of my classmates and later, one of my groupmates.
At first, I was not attracted to him—too serious, old fashioned, even in the way he dressed up. But then I got to know him more— he talked sense, so we became good friends.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect. When I met Jun, he was also searching for a deeper relationship with God. Where he went, I followed—Opus Dei, Masses, retreats.
Jun also introduced me to the Holy Rosary and taught me how to pray it.
Eventually, we became a couple and we got married on October 9, 2010.
At this point, I must say I still remained lackadaisical about my faith. I was not enthusiastic particularly about going to Mass. Jun attended Mass regularly. I joined him only when I felt like it. Sometimes, I dillydallied, and we would be late for Mass. Jun would reprimand me.
There were times when I’d be tired from office work, so I didn’t go. There were also times when I feigned sickness just so I could skip Mass.
I guess it all boiled down to my mindset then about prayer or relating to God. I prayed only when I needed something from Him.
We had a comfortable life, so I did not feel any need to pray, much more attend Mass.
But one day, I woke up and found our marriage in shambles. I didn’t know what happened. We were surrounded by happy couples but between Jun and me, something was amiss. We were close to separating.
Finding The Feast
A friend of Jun invited us to The Feast back when it was still being held at Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig.
We went just to please the friend. We got in late and nothing sunk into me.
Amid our marriage trouble, Jun thought it wise to attend The Feast again, and I agreed because I really wanted to save our marriage.
The year was 2014. The prayer gathering, now called Feast Bay Area (FBA), was then being held in three different venues -–Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Aliw, and Star Theater. We went to PICC.
Our timing couldn’t be more perfect. The talk series was for couples like us. The title: His and Hers. We lapped up everything Bro. Bo said that day. After that, Jun and I sat down and talked. I began to understand my husband and I found it easier to express myself to him. As we discussed things, I had this amazing feeling that I had an ally in Jun. Apparently, he felt the same thing for me. The funny thing is we didn’t even know why we were fighting in the first place.
We finished The Feast talk series and since then, we have never stopped attending The Feast. We also rarely had a fight since.
The Feast is the first prayer gathering that we agreed on. I realized that the reason I skipped Mass was I preferred a happy and festive setting when worshipping God. My husband likes to pray in a contemplative environment but this weekly gathering suited his taste.
In May 2015, Jun said it was time to serve our faith community, so he joined the Formation Ministry. I took my time. In July, I signed up for the Media Cluster but didn’t show up. I had too many excuses.
My work in the office was causing me stress. I was also taking up a short fashion course back then. I didn’t have time for ministry service.
Actually, my biggest hindrance was my self-doubt. Up at this point, I must say, I still had not dealt with guilts over my past life. So I guess I felt I was not worthy to serve God.
But at The Feast, I learned that God loves us so much, He is determined to mold us into the person He purposed us to be. True.
One day, it was announced at The Feast that the Light of Jesus Family would be holding a Jesus Encounter (JE) seminar.Jun, who had gone through it already, asked me to attend, and I did. That’s whenI had a big change of heart.
Aside from the edifying talks, the JE included a Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a defining moment for me.
Remember, when I couldn’t let go of my first boyfriend, I prayed to God to do it for me? At the JE, I realized it is the Holy Spirit I needed to take control of my mind and my heart, my entire being— that I may be strong enough to turn away from sin, and to get rid of my feeling of unworthiness.
Indeed, engulfed by the Holy Spirit, I then really encountered Jesus in a close, personal way. I already felt I could do anything through Jesus Christ.
At the same JE, Sis Rezza Custodio-Soriano, head of the Feast Bay Area Media Cluster, spoke about the various ways we could serve in the ministry.
I then felt the Lord telling me to help Him with marketing.
So, I approached Sis. Rezza and told her to count me in in her group. It’s the best decision I have ever made. Today, I am managing the promotion of FBA events.
Now, I know that my service is not about me— it’s all about Him. My service is my way of saying thank you for all His blessings.
Back to the Church
It took me a few months of attending The Feast before I began to appreciate the Mass. Now, I understand why Jun didn’t want us to be late for church. I now value listening to the homily.
I thank Bro. Bo and the community for I learned the importance of the Mass, as well as having my own prayer time and reading the Bible. Jun and I also developed the habit of praying together as a couple daily. All these brought us closer to each other, which was our original intent for attending The Feast.
More than that, we are also being brought to an intimate relationship with the Lord.