112 LDS Seminary Students Make a Difference in Small Town Community

News Release
 

One hundred twelve high school students have signed up for this year’s youth seminary class of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Matnog town in Sorsogon, up from 86 students the year before.

While the number of students attending last year was no small feat for the small branch, the number of youth participating this year is even more remarkable. For comparison, a typical Church branch (equivalent to a small parish) in the Church usually has about 100-120 members attending Sunday services, including children, youth and adults.

Seminary is a program of the Church dedicated to helping youth in high school to balance their academic learning with spiritual learning. Seminary consists of four years of religious education and is taught either as daily weekday class early in the morning before school, in the early evening after school, or as a weekend home study class.

The youth in Matnog attend seminary in three batches. Some students attend in the morning, from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., while others attend the evening class, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Some participate via home study where they work on their study material at home, and the teacher visits to teach them weekly.

As 105 of the youth attend the local public high school, their participation in seminary and other Church youth activities are well known to both their classmates and the school personnel. Since they are such a big group, when a seminary or youth activity falls on a day or time with scheduled school activities, the youth, assisted by their seminary teachers, collectively make a formal request to be excused.

The response has been favorable as their teachers recognize the good examples set by the youth and the value of balanced education. The youth were likewise able to make a stand on making seminary and spiritual learning a priority.

The seminary class has also done service projects together, with the most recent being work on fencing the yard of a single-parent family. The youth plan to plant trees in a nearby area as their next service project.

Community officials also appreciate the dedication of the youth to attend seminary. Edilberto Gabelo, who serves in the Matnog Branch priesthood leadership, is also an elected Barangay Kagawad. He objectively relates how people in the community has observed that attending seminary seems to help the youth become more trustworthy, refrain from vices and contribute to the local peace and order.

Active participation in seminary in a rural town with limited regular transportation is not an easy task. Jeepneys that ply the route to Matnog are few and far between. One way fare on a tricycle, the most common mode of public transport, can be as much as 50 pesos. The youth do a lot of walking or some stay near the town proper with relatives during the week. The home study students live much farther than the rest. Margie Adiong, the home study teacher, visits all 28 of them either individually in their homes or in a nearby cluster, at least once a week. Alex Castidades who teaches the daily seminary makes his way to Sorsogon City (61 kilometers away) after the early morning class and makes his way back to Matnog in time for the early evening class every day.

Leaders in Matnog branch attribute the continued success of the seminary program in the area to consistent collaboration between the youth, their parents, youth leaders, and their seminary teachers. Both of the seminary teachers hold their own day jobs but find fulfillment in helping the youth succeed in their spiritual learning, and eventually in their own personal lives. For Brother Castidades, its personal — he considers his seminary teacher as a major factor in helping him remain active in the Church and endure in the gospel.

The quiet town of Matnog lies at the southern tip of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and is home to the jump-off port to the Visayas. For the youth here, the seminary has become a springboard to a more hopeful, brighter future. Several seminary graduates have gone on to serve as full-time missionaries in the other areas in the Philippines, and some have gone far as Thailand or Australia. At least six are preparing to serve a full-time mission by the end of this year. They will bring their brand of perseverance and sacrifice to the other communities where they will serve. 

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