Sunday, January 28, 2007

Celebrating Victory Against the Banana Plantations

After my morning mass, I biked to Wangan (a community up in the hills of Calinan, 35 km from Davao) to attend a victory/thanksgiving celebration of poor farmers who had been waging a campaign against aerial spraying in banana plantations. The participants of the celebration came from the neighboring barangays, the supporters and the NGO working with them (IDIS). Throughout the past nine months I have been supporting this campaign by joining in the Interfaith Prayer Rally in front of City Hall last June and the Vigil held in September. I have also gathered signatures from our own community, the parishioners and the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in support of the Ban the Aerial Spraying.

Last week, the City Council finally passed the ordinance banning the Aerial Spraying in the whole of Davao, inspite of the lobbying made by banana plantation owners.

I am just amazed how poor people with the support of civil society and religious leaders were able to convince the city council to pass this ordinance. During the celebration, the people thanked God for the divine guidance and support.

This reminds of the anti-logging campaign in San Fernando Bukidnon 20 years ago carried out by poor people belonging to BECs which we supported. As a result of the people's non-violent struggle, a total log ban was imposed on the whole province.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lay Missionaries

I just got back from Iligan after conducting a missiology seminar in Iligan City for those undergoing training as Redemptorist lay missionaries. There are nine of them at present under the Alphonsian Lay Formation Institute. There are six male and three female trainees - most of them are in their mid-twenties. They are all college graduates - social work, agriculture, education, nursing. After their one-year training they will be assigned to the 4 Redemptorist mission teams in Visayas and Mindanao. At present there are over 30 lay missionaries working with Redemptorist priests and brothers. We depend on our lay missionaries to continue our missionary work as Redemptorists. I am amazed at their dedication and commitment. But we have to make sure that we provide them with adequate training and formation so that they will become competent and effective missionaries.

These are the topics I covered in four days of intensive seminar:
1. Mission ad Intra & ad Gentes
2. Trinitarian Foundation of Mission
3. Ecclesiological Foundation of Mission
4. The Goals and Paths of Mission
5. Dialogue and Mission
6. Mission and Inculturation
7. Evangelization - Proclamation and Witness
8. Building up the Local Church/Christian Community
9. Mission and Human Promotion & Development
10. Redemptorist Missions in Souther Philippines (Historical/Missiological Perspective)
11. Building Basic Ecclesial Communities (Missiological/Strategic Framework)

I am also teaching this course to Redemptorist major seminarians here at the St. Alphonsus' Theologate in Davao.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Forming Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)

This morning I celebrated mass in Belisario Heights - an upper class subdivision/village. Around 150 residents came. Instead of preaching a brief homily after the gospel I gave a 40-minute powerpoint presentation about Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). Within the coming months I will be helping in the evangelizing and organizing process in this village. This is part of the efforts to form BECs in the upper class villages in the parish.

There are already 33 BECs in our parish. Most of these are found in lower class areas. There are some that are in middle class subdivisions. It is only recently that we have started the process of forming BECs in the upper class villages.

BECs are small communities of Catholic Christians whose members experience a sense of belonging and responsibility for one another. They are close to each other and share their resources with one another. They come together regularly to reflect on the Word of God. They also pray together and celebrate the Eucharist. They are not only concerned about spiritual matters - they also discuss the problems that they face (social, economic, political, environmental) and find ways to address these. They work for total human development, peace and justice. They live simply and are concerned about the poor and help empower the poor. The first Christian community in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts (2:42-47, 4:32-35) is the model of BECs. Communities like this are emerging all over the country and through these the vision of a renewed Church promoted by Vatican II and the second Plenary Council of the Philippines is becoming a reality. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on BECs at the Gregorian University (Rome) over a decade ago.

This afternoon I attended a meeting of the Parish Social Action Commission (PSAC). I am an adviser of this commission which is composed of lay people and has the task of monitoring the situation of the BECs and coordinating their efforts to respond to the social, economic and political situation of these communities. The commission has started doing environmental scanning and drawing up a SWOT analysis - part of the process of strategic planning.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Evangelical Poverty

Yesterday the Redemptorist community in Davao- composed of Redemptorist priests and seminarians - had a recollection day. We spent the whole day reflecting and sharing on the theme: "Evangelical Poverty."

As religious, one of the vows we have professed is the vow of poverty. For the last 30 years, I have tried to live this vow.

One the questions that I have tried to answer since the beginning of my religious life is how can we live the vow of evangelical poverty.

At the outset we need to clarify that evangelical poverty cannot be equated with material poverty or destitution. Material poverty is not a virtue in itself nor should it ever be glorified or romanticized. The majority of our people who are poor want to be liberated from poverty. It is a social problem that has to be eradicated if not minimized. it is part our our mission as Christians and as Religious to help improve the condition of the poor so that they will no longer live in poverty and will have a decent standard of living.

What then is the meaning of evangelical poverty?

It is first of all a matter of acknowledging our trust and dependence on God's loving providence. It is God and his kingdom that we treasure above all. We seek first the kingdom of God. All our energies are spent in the service of God's kingdom and not in the pursuit or accumulation of material wealth. It is God that we serve, not Mammon.

In carrying out our mission of proclaiming and building up God's kingdom, we embrace the condition of those to whom we are sent - especially the poor. It means accepting discomfort and even suffering. It means living simply. We cannot live in luxury amidst so much poverty.

This does not mean that we reject technology and the modern means of communication and transport. We need these to carry out our mission.

Evangelical poverty requires a spirit of detachment from our material goods and resources, and to share these with one another in our religious community and with the poor to whom we serve.

This means making an option for the poor, being in solidarity with them in their struggle to transform society.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Welcoming the New Year 2007

I just got back the other day from my hometown in Iligan City where I spent my post-Christmas vacation and where I welcomed the New Year. Iligan is 385 kilometers from Davao across the mountains of Davao and Bukidnon. It took me two and a half days to cycle from here to Iligan and the same time coming back. I biked in the heat and in the rain. I used to do it in two days but this time I just took it easy. Besides I am not as strong and fast as I used to be. But at 52 years old, I can still do it.

What do I wish achieve during this year 2007?

I would like to finish writing my book on Ecclesiology entitled "The Vision of a Renewed Church" and have it published.
I would like to shape up, do more body-building exercises, and lose 25 pounds.
I would like to go around the country and give retreats, seminars and talks especially to the clergy and lay leaders.
I would to go scuba diving more often.