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Growing up  in St. Joseph’s Boy’s Home — Maasin, Philippines

by Elvisa Camilion fcJ and Judith Routier fcJ

St Joseph’s Boys’ Home looks after twenty-six boys at the present time, some of whom are living with relatives or are in boarding houses since the age limit to stay in the Home is sixteen. Elvisa fcJ meets these ‘Re-Integrated’ boys as a group during school holiday time and at the last meeting she felt that they needed some spiritual input in their lives. So Elvisa fcJ and the staff decided to have a day during the next school holiday when they would not only have some help for their prayer life but also some time to look at their emotional and psychological development. Semester break is usually around the time of the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, so at the beginning of November, thirteen boys gathered in the shelter on the flat roof-top of the Home. 

Growing up in Maasin 4 Elvisa helped them reflect on Psalm 139 and spoke about being created by God with talents. She asked the boys to share how they used their gifts to serve others. Deepening their relationship with God through prayer was given a new angle when Elvisa asked the boys what they do when they want to get to know a girl friend.  An 11 year old ‘observer’ was the one who answered: “We go to visit, and take them for a walk by the sea and hold hands.”This gave a good basis for talking about one’s relationship with God.  While Elvisa shared about different ways of praying such as praise, thanking, forgiveness and petition, the boys offered examples of thanking for support, for food and education. They prayed in thanks that a younger brother had been found after having disappeared in a big city, they prayed for forgiveness for using bad words, and judging others and prayed that one day one of the boys would meet his mother and his sister.

One of the Child Care Workers, Merelie, is a psychology graduate and so her time with the boys was on building self-esteem. She began by asking them to reflect on the impact of belonging to the Boys’ Home and how life was for them before that. They obviously felt better for having food, clothing and chance for education, but felt imprisoned because they have a curfew and they are not free to roam the streets any more! She then gave them some Tips for Healthy Self-Esteem.  Many of the boys shared that they are very shy in school and find it difficult to communicate with their peers. They are aware of problems in their families and that they come from a different kind of background to other students.  The older boys shared about their struggles, especially those in college, and the younger ones were very touched and even cried while listening. 

Growing up in Maasin 2

Charo, the Social Worker based her session on the story of Pinocchio in relation to the life of the boys. They appreciated the story and many realised that they are like Pinocchio too, especially in their behaviour with their fathers and because they often cut classes, and are easily distracted by what is happening outside of school. The older boys advised the younger ones of the challenges that lay ahead.

Looking at the behaviour of Pinocchio, the boys admitted that they lie every day too, even in jokes to other children. Their biggest regret is in lying to their parental figures, usually in asking to go somewhere but actually going to a different place. They looked at the consequences of this kind of behaviour and spoke of their desire to try their best not to continue, so they wrote a list of the negative attitudes that they regret and these were burnt in a quiet, prayerful way. (See the photos above.)

What the boys loved most in the story of Pinocchio was the fact that his father saved him so he found a way to change – he was given a second chance.

While this was all going on upstairs, An-an, the other Child Care Worker and the youngest children were preparing all the food. This was certainly a day when everyone in St. Joseph’s Boys’ Home was aware of the challenges and joys of growing up.

Growing up in Maasin 1
Our little Society has for its end
     to glorify the heart of Jesus
           by  every means in its power ...     (Marie Madeleine)