Maria Paz Santillan, 58, single, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Communication Arts.
She lives in Antipolo City.
Paz used to go by the nickname Bangoy. Somewhere along her spiritual journey, she changed that nickname to BanJoy.
WITH my AB degree in Communication Arts, I ventured to work in various publications. In one of the magazines I worked for, I met and fell in love with one of my officemates. I got pregnant, he could not marry me, and I went through an episode of anger and resentment.
I felt I was a sinful person and so I didn’t go to church.
One thing, I found the Mass— the songs, the homilies boring. The priests said things that I felt were insignificant to my life at the time. The people serving in the church were not of much help either. They were serious in their tasks to a fault, looking glum, hardly smiling, like they were walking dead.
So I neglected attending Sunday Mass, didn’t give much importance to the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.
I thought, might as well stay at home and read inspiring books and gain more insight and deeper knowledge about life.
I had a daughter to raise, so I brazed myself up for a life as a single mother.
I focused on how I could have extra income as contributing writer to various publications including publications about movie stars.
Although my career was beginning to flourish, I felt this emptiness inside me. I needed to know what else my life was for.
So I explored prayer groups as well as popular “spiritual” movements— even those critical of my Catholic religion.
Still, I did not feel complete.
Finding The Feast
In the ‘70s, I became a contributor for the country’s leading lifestyle magazine. The editor kindly polished my articles and I learned from her how to improve my writing skills.
This editor happened to be already a member of the Light of Jesus Family. She talked about the founder, Bo Sanchez, his inspiring talks, the blessings she had been receiving since she‘d been applying the lessons in her life. She also talked about her Caring Group, which met weekly, sharing burdens, praying for one another.
I realized I needed to belong to such a faith community. So I asked her to bring me to the Light of Jesus.
She invited me to the Jesus Encounter, the community’s version of the Light in the Spirit Seminar, which at the time, was the first major step to be able to join the Community. I attended and I experienced such an amazing spiritual awakening, I wanted to really belong to the Community.
I then attended the Community’s major assembly called Victory Celebration with Jesus.
Since, then, I did not just attend the LOJ prayer gatherings regularly, I also served as member of the Cornerstone Ministry— the group that prayed 24/7 for all the needs of our community, as well as the petitions of each member. Yes, it is the intercessory ministry, called Cornerstone, for indeed prayer has been the strongest foundation of our faith community.
In the ‘90s, the Victory Celebration with Jesus eventually became The Feast.
The Feast is the happy place where I hear practical teachings about life. It is like a big family to me where I feel so loved and cared for. It’s where I feel so much blessed for being faithful to my commitment to God and the Community. It’s in The Feast where I hear the Word of God, of love, of hope, of encouragement. It is in The Feast where I grow more in love with God.
I served as mentor for members of the Intercessory Ministry of Feast Bluewave Marikina. Then Feast Bluewave flourished with increasing number of attendees. So I moved to Feast Cardona where I also served as mentor in the Intercessory Ministry.
Although I gave my humble service to God, God gave me back so much more.
First, I found a fulfilling job as news writer, and head writer of Good Take on IBC-13.
Second, I’d been so financially blessed, I was able to send my daughter to college. She is now gainfully employed abroad and as of this writing, getting ready to marry the love of her life.
Third, I had the grace to leave my secular job and choose to serve as volunteer in the Light of Jesus Pastoral Care Center, the counseling ministry for the lost and the lowly and the depressed.
Yes, this wounded woman is now being used by God to help in the healing of the wounded in this, our broken world.
Back to The Church
I remember one time, in one of his talks at The Feast, Bro. Bo Sanchez said, “If you have been fed here. Go back to your parishes and serve there.”
I reflected on Bro. Bo’s words, and I felt God calling me to obey this mandate.
Now it happened that a friend invited me to join the Catechetical Ministry of our parish church. So I started giving catechism lessons in public schools in my parish.
Then, I received a scholarship from the De La Salle University to work on a Certificate on Teaching Religion, and St. Vincent School of Theology for a Master of Arts degree in Theology, major in Pastoral Ministry.
My parish priest told me, “If you want to study, then study. But if you want to teach, then teach.”
I chose to study and still continue my service in Feast Cardona.
Now, I am being offered a job to teach Religion and Values Education also in Cardona.
Yes, I once abandoned Catholicism. Now, I am teaching the subject!
Catholic means one, holy, apostolic church. So our Catholic Church is universal. It’s where I find hope, peace, and rest, and I never entertain anymore thoughts of abandoning my Faith.
I once felt incomplete. Now, with my Catholic Faith, I’ve been completed.
So, I am now going by the nickname BanJoy!