More than a promise between two people, marriage is a covenant made in the presence of God, a showcase of their love for one another. It is a proof of their readiness to aid each other whatever trials life might bring them.

Some people like Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. are called to single-blessedness while guiding couples toward the fullness of marital life. Through his counseling programs, Tanseco helps keep God at the center of the marital vow.

Called to priesthood

Priesthood was not really Tanseco’s plan as he initially intended to venture into the academe.

A music lover, he earned his Piano degree from the UST Conservatory of Music in 1952 and went on to work as a pianist before taking another degree from the old UST Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (now Arts and Letters).

During his last two years in the University, he accidentally read an article by Fr. James Reuter about the ministries and daily routines of a Jesuit.

In a book he has co-written with Reuter and Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, “God’s Love: As experienced by Filipino priests,” the 80-year-old Jesuit said: “That essay disturbed me to the core and that gave it all.”

Soon he was convinced that he was being summoned by God to the Society of Jesus.

“God’s ways are really out of this world… I found myself at peace with the conviction that the loving God was calling me to be a Jesuit religious,” he said.

For his parents, priesthood was the last thing they wanted him to pursue since they had other dreams for him.

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When the young Tanseco voiced out his clerical ambitions to his mother, she began to weep in shock but his father gave him words of encouragement.

“They were visibly shocked by my revelation. My mother started to shed tears,” Tanseco said.

As he received his parents’ blessings, he realized it was a “human manifestation of God’s unconditional love beyond their personal preferences and desires.”

Family ministry

In preparation for a religious life, he entered a Jesuit seminary in 1953 and was ordained in 1965.

While Tanseco was finishing his graduate studies in pastoral counseling, he attended a weekend program created for Christian married couples in the United States.

Having seen the program’s potential, Tanseco soon established the country’s first Marriage Encounter Weekend at a retreat house in Angono, Rizal in 1969, along with the leader-couple of the Christian Family Movement Sito and Sony Sison.

Since then, he knew in his heart that marital counseling was his mission.

After he established the first Marriage Encounter Weekend in the country, some couples that have attended the program formed their own small communities or groups to meet regularly.

“As the sessions followed one after another, I witnessed with my own eyes the gradual unfolding of God’s love. It was a quiet, living miracle that cannot be adequately described in words,” he said.

Tanseco is the spiritual director of the Marriage Encounter Foundation of the Philippines, the driving force behind the Marriage Encounter movement in the country that was founded in 1976.

“Over the years, in different parts of the country, other miracles of love have occurred through the Marriage Encounter Weekend. I can never thank God enough for His boundless love, compassion, and generosity,” Tanseco said.

'Hunger games'

He has also established the Discovery Weekend, a program for young couples who want to get married.

“Here again, if only to acknowledge God’s goodness and love, I must say that numerous couples and families have been greatly helped,” he said.

These endeavors have greatly assisted in establishing the Center for Family Ministries Foundation, Inc. in 1991. It is an institution formed to give formal courses in pastoral ministry and family and couple counseling.

In 2004, he received The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award for Humanitarian Service.

Today, Tanseco is a professor at the Loyola School of Theology in the Ateneo de Manila University, where he was the first to introduce a course in marriage.

“Our young, idealistic seminarians and religious continue to be a source of motivation for me to carry on in my aging years,” Tanseco said. Erika Denise L. Dizon and Margaret Rose B. Maranan


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