“BECAUSE of the mining, the roads are so rough on the way from Carrascal to Cantilan [Surigao del Norte], there are no trees, there are no people, and there are no cell sites. Ang tulisan ay nakapila, malapit sa dagat, naghihintay sila. Yet, somehow I escape the queue of the robbers [be able] to spread the good news.” – Fr. Anthony Carreon, 2011
Every year, Immaculate Heart of Mary’s parishioners look forward to the early morning homilies of Fr. Anthony Carreon. He visits his mother, Mayde Carreon, a parishioner of IHMC, for Christmas. His mother largely influenced his moral calling, by the way she brought up her family: introducing the Church, Sunday masses, and exposure to a lot of her friends/priests, including Cardinal Vidal, that Anthony was groomed to become a priest, since he was four.
He recalled that while his mother knelt during consecration, he got curious as to what the priest was doing. The priest is turning the bread/wine into the body of Christ was her response. “I did not know transubstantiation. But even then, I wanted to do that.”
At age 7, he was a saling pusang altar server, informal at best. At age 9, he became an official altar server. He completed high school at St. Joseph’s Academy.
After high school, he took exams in four seminaries, to understand the distinction between a diocesan priest and a religious priest who is part of a congregation. “I landed in Claret because I was so excited and the Claret seminary starts in May, while others started in June, ” Fr. Anthony continued.
He entered St. Anthony Mary Claret College and completed his AB Philosophy at the Claret Seminary, College of Philosophy.
As serendipity would have it, Fr. Anthony is now part of the Claretians, and he found out that he was named Anthony, by his mother, after the namesake of Claret College, St. Anthony. Fr. Anthony shared that when he entered the Claret Seminary, he did not know he was named after St. Anthony nor did he choose Claret because of how he was named after the founder.
After his second year of theology, he did one year of pastoral work in Claret School of Quezon City and in his 3rd and 4th year of theology, he was assigned as a formator in a college seminary in Sibugay, even before taking his perpetual vows on Dec. 8, 2004.
He was ordained as a deacon in May 7, 2005, and ordained priest on December 2, 2005, by Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.
He is now the vocations director for Claretian for 5 years. This job takes him on the road, school to school, in the entire Mindanao region, starting July of each year and ending the first week of December. He visits two schools a day, conducts an hour vocation talk, facilitates a question and answer and exams for aspirants to enter the seminary. He conducts psychological and motivation interviews, including a visit to the parents and corrects the exams. After that methodical process, the aspirants enter the Claret seminary.
In a year, he travels 108,000 kilometers (about 67,108 miles.) He then goes back for a week to be with his Claret congregation each month. He drives throughout Mindanao on his own. He works 21 days a month and his road exposure takes him to talk to about 200 high school boys a day, estimated at 21,000 high school boys a year. With that exposure, he has influenced now 101 seminarians to be in the Claret seminary school at various levels: first, second, third and fourth year of theology. He described the mining towns that have been desolated and populated by thieves. By the grace of God, he has eluded these dangers.
Fr. Anthony’s stories are so colorful each Simbang Gabi, that we remember each year and become inspired. Let me share two vignettes of his life.
One day, he was riding his motorbike and his bike got stuck on a muddy road, where mud showered his face, clothes and all. When he finally got to the town he was supposed to be to officiate in a wedding, there was no running water. So, he ended up saying mass muddied, with no change of clothes, wearing simply his clothes and a stole, yet bearing some good news. Even the wedding pictures captured this image of a muddy priest bearing good news.
He talked about discernment, of seeing meaning in life. It is a study of two contrasts. The first is a choice between good and bad, and always choose good. Second, is a choice between good and better, all are good things, as choosing three aspects of a vocation. “So for me, where do I see more meaning in my life? I chose being a missionary instead of being a diocesan priest.”
He then reflected on the woodcarver, “If I had not met this particular tree, there would be no bell stand at all.” These maybe simple stuff, but if we take the time to gain meaning from them, like going back to your roots, you will find God’s purpose for you has been there for your life. We sometimes focus on the bell stand too much, instead of the tree. Just be still and feel the presence of God in your life. I learned to stop being harsh on myself and I learned to stop having too much expectation on myself. I simply teach what I need to learn. I am silent, ayoko ng manghingi, the most effective prayer for me is to just share my feelings, and no longer my weaknesses, no longer asking God, but allowing God to come in, it is okay to sleep with God!”