Sunday, June 21, 2009

Celebrating 50 years of Redemptorist missionary presence in Iligan

I am here in Iligan attending the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coming of the Redemptorists to the city. In June 1959, when I was five years old, our family moved to Tibanga, some 3 kilometers from the city center. During that year, the Redemptorists also arrived and rented a house near our home. Since the new church had still to be constructed, they celebrated mass in a nearby school - St. Mary's. I suppose, the presence of the Redemptorists in our neighborhood had an influence on me. I remember imitating the priests when I "played mass" with my siblings at home. During summer time, I attended catechism classes at the Redemptorist church. I became an altar boy when I was in grade six. When I decided to become a priest I naturally applied to the Redemptorist. My first assignment as a newly-ordained priest was with the Iligan Redemptorist community. So I am proud to say that I am the first product of the Redemptorist presence in Iligan.
The anniversary mass was presided by Bishop Galido - the bishop of Iligan. Two Redemptorist bishops concelebrated - Bishop Ireneo Amantillo (bishop-emeritus of Tandag) and Bishop Manny Cabajar (of Pagadian). Both of them were former superiors of the Iligan Redemptorist community.
Happy golden anniversary! I hope I will still be around for the diamond jubilee celebration.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Launching of the Year for Priests: Priestly Ministry

The Year for Priests starts today but we lauched it here in Davao yesterday to coincide with the 34th anniversary of Archbishop Capalla's episcopal ordination. The opening mass was held at the San Pedro Cathedral at 5:30 pm after the holy hour which started at 4:30 pm. After the mass the clergy went to the Archbishop's residence for dinner.
I am glad that Pope Benedict XV has declared the Year for Priests. This will highlight the importance of us priests in the life and mission of the Church. This is also a time to reflect on the identity and ministry of the priest. The other day, a journalist sent me an e-mail asking me what it means to be a priest especially here in Mindanao. I sent him a brief description of my understanding of the priestly ministry which I have tried to live over the years:
Priestly Ministry in the Philippine Context
1. Ministry of Pastoral Leadership and Communion
Following Christ the Good Shepherd, the priest is called to be the shepherd or the servant-leader of the Christian community.This means forming and leading the Christian community (in the parish and in the local communities/Basic Ecclesial Communities -BECs).The priest is also called to promote communion (sense of unity and sharing) among the laity and with them. This means becoming close to the flock.Pastoral leadership is to be exercised in the spirit of service, and not in terms of power, privilege or prestige. A participative and collaborative style of leadership is to be adopted, rather than the authoritarian or laissez-faire style.This ministry is grounded on a spirituality of pastoral charity and communion.
2. Prophetic Ministry
The priest shares in Christ's prophetic office. The ordained ministry is a ministry of the Word - of proclaiming the Word and and witnessing to the Word.This involves the task of preaching, evangelizing, and catechesis.This involves prophetic denunciation - of becoming a conscience in society and denouncing the sin and evil (including injustice, oppression, the culture of death & violence, corruption, the destruction of the environment, etc). This also means calling people to repentance and conversion.This also involves prophetic annunciation - announcing the Good News of the Kingdom, of salvation and liberation, of justice and peace, and of life.The prophetic ministry of the ordained forms the Christian community/BECs into a prophetic community - the community that listens to the Word, proclaims the Word and lives the Word, that acts as conscience of society and denounces sin and evil.The prophetic ministry is rooted in a spirituality nourished by the Word.In exercising his prophetic ministry, the priest must be ready to risk his life.
3. Liturgical/Sacramental Ministry
The priest exercises leadership in the liturgical/sacramental celebration of the Christian community. He enables the laity to actualize their common priesthood by promoting full and active participation in the liturgical celebration.He forms the parish and the BECs into truly priestly/worshipping community.The community that celebrates what it lives and lives what it celebrates - a life of communion with God and with one another, of unity and sharing, of self-sacrificeThe liturgical/sacramental ministry requires a spirituality nourished by the Eucharist and deepened by prayer and contemplation.
4. Social Action Ministry
The priest ministers to people who are poor, hungry, oppressed, victimized and dehumanized. He cannot be blind to their suffering. Social action is therefore a constitutive dimension of the priestly ministry. This is exercised in the context of the community. Thus, the priest has to form the Christian community/BECs into ministering/servant communities that address the problems that they face (poverty, hunger, injustice, violence, corruption, environmental destruction, violation of human rights) and work for social transformation that will bring about justice, peace and development.In carrying out this ministry, the priest must avoid being subservient to political ideologies and parties. He must avoid involvement in partisan politics.This ministry requires a spirituality rooted in compassion. It also requires a simple lifestyle, immersion in the life of the poor, solidarity with the poor, and forming the Church into truly the Church of the Poor.
In the context of the Mindanao situation where there is large number of Muslims, the priest must be involved in inter-religious dialogue (Christian-Muslim dialogue). This means befriending Muslims (especially the Imams and the Ulamas), working together with them to achieve peace, justice and development, praying with them, and identifying common or similar beliefs. The priest must also encourage lay people in the parish and in Basic Ecclesial Communities to get involved in this dialogue of life and faith.
PCP II considers the BECs as the realization of the vision of a renewed Church. It is a new way of being Church that requires a new way of being priest. This can be done by living out the four dimensions of the ordained ministry.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blessing of the New SATMI building and opening of the new school year

Blessing of the new SATMI building

Opening Liturgy for School Year 2009-2010, presided by Fr. Ben Ma
provincial superior of Cebu Redemptorist province

the student choir/band

the theology students, faculty and staff

orientation by Fr. Brendan Kelly, the SATMI director

Yesterday, we blessed the new building of the St. Alphonsus' Theological & Mission Institute (SATMI) and had the opening liturgy for the school year 2009-2010. This morning we had the orientation for our theology students and after the break classes started.
The student population is slowly increasing. We have now 46 students coming from various countries (Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Africa), the Shri Lankans will be coming next semester. For the first time, students belonging to the Redemptorists of Manila vice-province are studying with us. The Franciscans of the Third Order Regular have also started studing here.
Six 3rd year students will be sent for their missionary immersion program in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
This first semester I am teaching two courses: Ecclesiology and Sacraments. I am also handling the theological synthesis of the fifth year students. I'm just glad that I am teaching fewer courses this year. This will give me a chance to finish my book projects. I can also have more time for my advocacies.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Parish Youth Encounter

BEC youth representatives

Fr. Picx - the singing & rapping priest

youth games

Fr. Bebot Gaspe - the new parish priest

youth leaders

Yesterday, from 2 pm to 9 pm, over 300 young people coming from the various Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in the parish gathered at the covered court for the Parish Youth encounter. This is part of the series of activities for the coming fiesta of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish. Besides the usual games and cultural presentations the young people spent time in listening to some talks and in celebrating the Eucharist which was presided by Fr. Nestor Gaspe - the newly-installed parish priest.
I was assigned to give a talk on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was aware that it would be difficult to give a talk about Mary to young people, especially at 3 in the afternoon - they would easily fall asleep and their attention span was short. So instead of the usual lecture, I gave them a "concert" - this meant singing to them and rapping. I opened with a song from the beatles "Let it Be." I know that the Beatles did not compose this in honor of the blessed mother but the lyrics are appropriate, especially the opening lines: "When I find myself in time of trouble Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom let it be." After showing a video clip from the movie "the Passion of Christ" which showed Mary with Jesus, I proceeded to "rap" the story of Mary based on the Gospel and the Acts on the apostle. I ended singing a "modern" Marian hymn "To Mary." There a very good response from the young audience, the sang with me and also clapped and danced with the rhythm of the rap. They were very attentive and nobody fell sleep. They continued to enjoy themselves the rest of the afternoon playing games. After the mass and dinner, they had cultural presentations.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Since last Monday afternoon up to noontime today (June 1-4), 97 delegates coming from the dioceses of Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati gathered at the Mergrande Beach Resort in Davao for the DADITAMA BEC congress. Besides the lay leaders, priests and sisters, 5 bishops attended the congress - Archbishop Fernando Capalla (Davao), Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz (Tagum), Bishop Patricio Alo (Mati), Bishop Jimmy Afable (Digos), Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando (Davao). I was invited as an observer as a consultant of the CBCP-BEC national office.
The theme of the congress:
"The vocation and mission of the BECs in the present challenges of the times"
The objectives were the following:
1. Clarify the trends and the challenges they pose to the BECs
2. Review the ecclesiological foundation, canonical norms and leadership role (bishops, priests, lay leaders) in relation to the vision and mission of BECs.
3. Come up with recommendations for the sustainable growth of BECs.
The three resource speakers were:
Msgr. John Macalisang, STL, Ph.D (the global and national trends and how they affect the BECs)
Fr. Bong Lunas, STL (ecclesiological foundation)
Bishop Jimmy Afable, DD (canonical norms).
The talks formed part of the basis for the workshops that came up with their assesment of the BECs and the recommendation for their sustainable growth.
This morning, at the last part of the congress after the synthesis and recommendations were presented, I was asked to share my observation and reflections with the delegates.