Br. Henry E. Escurel, CM: Living the consecrated life

Date Posted: April 25, 2018 at 09:39 AM


The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declared 2018 as the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons. Many Catholics commonly think though that the religious ministry is divided into two categories only – the Clergy (Bishops, Priests, and Nuns) and the Laity (the ordinary members of the Church). But there is a ministry that often goes unnoticed and that is the Consecrated Persons.

One consecrated person who has been serving Adamson University for so many years now is Br. Henry E. Escurel, CM, a member of the Congregation of the Mission or the Vincentians. Currently working as University Treasurer, Br. Henry, as he is widely known, has been working since 1983 or for 25 years already, in the process making him one of the well-loved and notable persons in the university.

To put things in the proper perspective, he pointed out the difference between a priest and a consecrated person. “Bishops, priests, and deacons belong to the ordained ministry, also known as the Clergy,” he said, “whose function is to celebrate the Holy Mass and officiate other sacraments; on the other hand, a Brother or a Sister is a consecrated person who remains Lay but is consecrated to God. The Lay-Religious, as they are called, stand in the middle of the Clergy and the Laity and profess the same vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience as the Clergy.”

Bro Henry went on to share his life as a consecrated person, describing it with a word popularized by the 1964 film Mary Poppins: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which means extraordinarily happy or wonderful. Indeed, his wonderful consecrated life has made him experience the love and care of a loving God. In relation to the different positions he held, his various responsibilities have opened up the world to him – letting him meet a lot of people of different status and class in the 31 countries that he has had the opportunity to visit and work in – from as near as Thailand and Japan to as far as Tunisia in Northern Africa; he has also drafted countless policies and documents for the university. In particular, as a consecrated person, he has contributed to the spread of the Word of God among Chirstians and non-Christians alike.

His journey started back when he was just in second year high school in his hometown in Gubat, Sorsogon in Bicol. As a young boy, he was always helping the Sisters belonging to the congregation known as  the Daughters of Charity in distributing clothes and other relief items in their town’s slum area during weekends or after the onslaught of calamities. Aside from the relief operations during the weekends, the sisters also own the school wherein they teach during the weekdays. Eventually touched by their generosity and service, the boy innocently asked the Sisters if there were male members in their congregation because he wanted to formally join them. The Sisters’ initial answer was a big laugh, but they nurtured his inclination and introduced him later to the Vincentian priests and brothers.

When his family learned of his choice to become a brother, the reactions were mixed. Some congratulated him for his newly-found vocation; others expressed their negative sentiments especially because the vocation of brotherhood, unlike that of priests which everyone is familiar with, is not well-understood and appreciated. It is usually priests who are approached for spiritual advice and concerns, not brothers. The dichotomy, as mentioned, between the Clergy and the Laity is that pronounced, many not aware that there are consecrated persons in between.

Br. Henry had his permanent profession of vows on July 2, 1972. He firmly believes that he did not choose the consecrated life but rather, God called him to live one. He believes that it is through the consecrated life that he could use his talents best in serving God and neighbor. But even with a renewed life, he remains the same person as before. He is still the same cheerful and helpful, yet thrifty, person who is not exempt from getting angry or feeling other basic human emotions. In being a Lay-Religious, what changed was his outlook in life. With his vow of poverty, he became selfless and generous, bearing in him the realization that money is of no use in heaven. His vow of chastity gave him the freedom to freely embrace and give his love and service to more families and people. He also realized that his vow of obedience made him believe in the will of God rather than in his own. 

But of course the Lay-Religious life is not always all smiles and happiness. Br. Henry revealed that although he sometimes feels lonely, never did he wish he had a married state and built a family. His vow of chastity, although the most challenging one, is a very precious gift to God that he really values.

A persistent learner, Br. Henry has earned from Adamson a BS Commerce degree, and an MA and PhD in Education. These have served him in good stead as one of the longest-staying members of the CM in the university who got assigned at one time or another as treasurer, cashier, director of student assistants, teacher, registrar, VP for Academic Affairs, and director of the Office for International Relations. He recalls that the most life-changing moment in Adamson happened when he was first assigned as University Treasurer. He describes the years 1983-1987 as annus terribilis (Latin for ‘a terrible or dreadful year’) of the Philippine political scene. Those years marked the last few and the most terrible years of the Martial Law regime in the Philippines, with 1983 seeing the assasination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. Br. Henry narrated that student activism had greatly emerged and rallies, demonstrations, and unionism were happening everywhere. During the first two weeks of August 1986, faculty and employees were clamoring for salary increase while the students were demanding lower tuition fees. As the University Treasurer, he was stuck in between, having no idea about what to do. The rest is history but after those harrowing events, he felt that he had grown ten years older.

Br. Henry hopes that someday he can contribute to making the world a better place to live in by helping alleviate poverty and most especially, making people happy. He did not become a teacher, an accountant, or an agriculturist but became a Lay-Religious – a blessing to other people’s lives in ways no one could ever imagine.