Sunday, August 30, 2009

The State of the Websites of Philippine SVD

"There's nothing new under the sun" (Qoheleth 1:9).

Philippine Central Province

Philippine Northern Province

Philippine Southern Province

Fr. Ramon Velasco, SVD (1959-2009)

Fr. Ramon "Mon" Velasco, SVD, an extern priest in residence at St. Alphonsus Church, Seattle, died of cerebral hemorrhage on Augusts 24, 2009. He was found unconscious, lying on the floor of his own room (St. Alphonsus Parish Convent, NW Seattle) around 8pm that day. He was no longer brought to the hospital. Mon turned 50 years old last April.

Fr. Mon was an alumnus of Divine Word Seminary (Philosophy-1986; Theology-1991) and was ordained priest in 1990.

Here's a report of the Memorial Mass from Fr. Julius Lopez, SVD.
Click here for pictures of the Mass courtesy of Fr. Lopez.
"mga 'tol, tuloy pa rin ang pagdadalamhati natin para kay Mon pero sa kabila ng lahat masaya kong ibabalita sa inyo na napakaganda ang naging Memorial Services na inalay para sa kanya kahapon at ngayon (Aug. 27-28) ng dati niyang parokya ng Holy Family Catholic Church, Seattle. very moving and very touching is all i can say.

nagsimula ang Rosary kagabi ng 6:30 at nagulat na lang kami ni teody ng dumating kami sa dami ng sasakyang nakaparada sa simbahan. sa katunayan nahirapan nga kaming mag park. pagpasok namin sa simbahan nabigla din kami sa nakita naming dami ng taong nakiramay. ika nga "from all walks of life" - lay and religious. also of all races: may mga blacks, latino, asians of course and caucasians. dalawa pa nga ang rosaries inoffer sa kanya, one in english and one in spanish dahil din sa magandang ministry nya sa mga hispanics.

for the 10am mass the following day mas lalong dumami ang tao, siguro palagay ko easily over a thousand ang nag attend. presider was Archbishop Alexander Brunett ng Archdiocese of Seattle and together with him were his two auxiliary bishops and about 30-40 priest concelebrants. preacher was fr. phil bloom na dating kasama ni mon sa holy family parish for 7 years. napakaganda ang homily nya which i hope to share with you later (i am awaiting his email for a copy of his homily). nagconcelebrate kami ni teody. kasama rin namin ang 12 paring pinoy ng seattle. pinoy choir ang kumanta at 95% ay tagalog songs at nakakabagbag damdamin talaga. pagkatapos ng communion nagsalita din si Archbishop Brunette - a eulogy for mon. both homily and eulogy expressed the fact that mon has been well loved and appreciated by the faithful of seattle. he touched so many people in so many ways through his simple and cheerful spirit. he simply had a beautiful heart. talagang spirit-filled ang community sa kanya, ika nga.

eto pa magandang nangyari: nilibre ang casket and all funeral services para kay mon courtesy of the funeral home mon has always helped by saying funeral masses, etc. pati mga embalmers mahal na mahal si mon!

in his eulogy for mon, the Archbishop mentioned the SVDs. he read (in toto) a letter of thanks from the provincial of the SVD california province, Fr. Briccio Tamoro, also a pinoy. in the letter Fr. Tamoro thanked the Archbishop and the faithful of Seattle for their warm welcome of Mon and for arranging the beautiful memorial services. Arcbishope Brunett mentioned that technically Mon still belongs to the SVD Central Province as his incardination to the archdiocese was not officially completed. he also acknowledged the presence of Mon's confreres, though not by name (dalawa kami ni teody). umabot ng isa't kalahating oras ang mass.

after the mass, mon's remains were transported back to the funeral home for the meantime that arrangements have been made to fly him back home! yes, mon is coming home to manila na buong buo, not cremated!!! teody and i were so happy to know that the family finally decided against cremation. so, humanda kayo - Mon will take manila by storm again! nilalakad na ang mga papeles. they projected mon will be in Manila the first weekend of September. he will be buried with his mom and dad sa may laloma catholic cemetery. (sana mag offer ang svd central na sa christ the king din sya ilibing...ehemm. .. after all svd pa rin naman sya... but well... please don't quote me ha... hehe...)

anyways, despite our heartbreaks we are consoled by the fact that everything turned out beautiful for mon. though short, mon's journey was absolutely unique yet beautiful!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Alumni/Alumnae who came up to Tagaytay - 20 August 2009

From left: Atty Rolly Arellano; Prof. Cadz Malbarosa;
Dr. Max Felicilda and wife Angie;
Atty Nova (guest); Fr. Randy Flores, SVD;
Atty Allan Montealegre; Mr. Glen Catubig
Thank you for coming.
Click here for more photos

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fr. Antonio del Mar Pernia, SVD - Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2009

Fr. Antonio del Mar Pernia, SVD
Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2009
Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City (Philippines)

The academic community of Divine Word Seminary— faculty and students, led by the Rector, Fr. Fred Saniel, has conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award on the occasion of the 100 years of Philippine SVD. The award, given for the first time, went to no other than Fr. Antonio del Mar Pernia, SVD Superior General who was DWST's special guest during the SVD Tagaytay Centennial Celebration and Alumni/Alumnae Homecoming last August 20. 2009.

The citation for the awardee was read by the most senior of the faculty – Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD. The plaque was presented by the Rector, Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD assisted by Fr. Alex Muana, SVD, the Dean of the school of theology.

Then the alumnus pin was placed on the awardee by Dr. Marita Gueverra, MD, to represent the Certificate in Theological Studies, the Saturday theology program for the lay and religious which began two years ago. [The proceeds of the alumnus pin went to the SVD-Alternative Learning System, an education program for the out-of-school youth hosted by Divine Word Seminary].

Then the latest book on Filipino theology written by Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ, The Making of a Local Church, a theme dear to the awardee who himself is a Filipino theologian, was presented by SVD scholastic Eric Lacandula, head of the Divine Word Seminary Students' Association.
Fr. Nielo Cantilado, SVD Provincial of the Philippine Central Province also presented the awardee a copy of the latest CD album produced by Divine Word Seminary, the “Complines and Vespers” composed by Bishop Mike Cinches, SVD one time professor and rector of the seminary and Bishop Arturo Bastes, SVD, former bible professor. The prayers in the album were chanted by senior members of the SVD community led by Moral theology professor Fr. Raul Caga, SVD and arranged by a former SVD novice, Mr. Nez Marcelo. The proceeds of the sale of the album will support the alma mater — Divine Word Seminary.

After these, the awardee delivered his keynote speech before the academic community, alumni/alumnae and guests.

Fr. Randy Flores, SVD, who wrote the citation, hosted the awarding ceremony.
For citation for the awardee - please click here.
For the keynote of speech of the awardee Fr. Pernia, SVD please click here.

*Portrait of the awardee is done by Ms. Christine Verzosa, a young artist from Tayum, Abra (place of the first residence of the SVD Community).
Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD (rector); Dr. Guevarra, M.D. (CTS student);
Fr. Nielo Cantilado, SVD (provincial); Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD (church historian);
Frt. Eric Lacandula, SVD (Students' Association)

Terry Briones, XVD; Fr. Mollaneda (alumnus); Fr. Villegas, SVD (NT professor)

Bob Fisher, SVD (former Liturgy professor)

with Bishop Bastes, SVD

Fr. Schenk, SVD (German missionary- Mindoro
and in charge of German correspondence for the seminary;
Bro Ric Atencio, SVD (College of the Holy Spirit dean of nursing)

Fr. William Lepatan, SVD (Tacloban);
Fr. Ed Guarin, SVD (Kamuning)

Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (host) with the Rector

Monday, August 24, 2009

100 years of SVD - Back in Abra - link to pictures here

Concert on August 13, 2001 - more pictures, click here.

Mass with the Superior General in San, Isidro - Philippine SVD birthplace
Click here for more pictures.

Mass with the Papal Nuncio in Bangued, Abra.
Click here for more pictures

Classmates in the Tagaytay Alumni Homecoming: Frs. Sebio, Mat, Ed, and Nico

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Day in Tagaytay's Divine Word Seminary

Fr. Fred (rector); Fr. Tony (superior general);
Ate Cory (who does not know her? ); Fr. Pio
; and Fr. Magboo (?)

I'm posting here my letter to Ms. Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Philippine actress, environmentalist, and Time Magazine's 2003 Asian Hero. Chin-Chin is close to the SVD and consider's Divine Word Seminary as her second "home."

Dear Chin,
Thanks for your email. Indeed your father looks like Fr. Tony (Superior General) and how about Fr. Fred Saniel (Rector)? He looks like Arnold Janssen!

It's 3:03 am here and at 4:30, 49 of us here in Tagaytay Seminary will leave for Christ the King Seminary where our we get our chartered bus, one of the three buses hired, to bring us to Abra.

The scholastics and the seniors here deserved that "break" -- we had been working hard, very hard to make our Centennial celebration and alumni/alumnae homecoming in Tagaytay a success, and indeed it was.

Yesterday (August 20) was a big day for Divine Word Seminary, and will be remembered so for years to come.

It began with a good weather that we had been praying for. And so the 300 visitors who came up to Tagaytay beheld the beauty of the seminary--flowers all over, buildings repainted (thanks to many good benefactors), main gate refurbished, manicured lawns and well-trimmed plants. The Clean and Green seminary stood out. For pictures, you can click here-- this is the Facebook of Fr. Gil Alejandria, SVD and you might need to sign up to view them.

Few minutes before 9:00 am, the Superior General blessed the two huge statues of Saints Arnold and Joseph placed infront of the chapel and donated by former SVDs (who call themselves, "Manus Dei"). Then we moved to the Mission Museum for the blessing and opening. This Museum contains many interesting interesting items on the beginning of the seminary and of course on the mission of the SVD--thanks to the initiative and effort of Fr. Alex Muana, our dean.

Just before 10:00 am, we went to the conference hall to confer the "Distinguished Alumnus Award" to none other than Fr. Tony. It's the first time the seminary gives such award. The citation was read by the most senior of the faculty, Fr. Antolin Uy; the plaque was presented by the Rector, Fr. Fred; the alumnus pin was placed on the awardee by Dr. Marita Guevarra, M.D. who represented the Certificate in Theological Studies, the Saturday theology program for the lay born two years ago; the latest book on Filipino theology (F. Claver, S.J., The Making of Local Church, 2009) was presented, the awardee being a theologian himself, by Eric Lacandula the head of the student body; and the latest album "Complines and Vespers" sung /chanted prayers of Divine Word Seminary was also given to him by Fr. Nielo Cantilado, our provincial who is one of the signers and soloists.

After these, Fr. Tony gave his address to assembly. It was an inspiring and theologically stimulating talk where he outlined the role of Divine Word Seminary in the coming years, especially becoming a center of missiological studies in Asia-Pacific region. I will post the text of his talk when I come back from Abra. After Fr. Pernia's talk, the provinicial officially anounced the approval of our affiliation with UST of the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL)--Missiology.

The Mass was held around 11:30 am presided by Bishop Artemio Rillera, SVD of San Fernando, La Union who is an alumnus and Bishop Arturo Bastes, SVD also an alumnus preached the homily where he narrated stories of the beginning of the seminary being one of its first graduates.

In the afternoon, Bishop Chito Tagle (Imus) gave a talk to the alumni/alumanae on the importance of theological studies in one's life and ministry. Bishop Chito, who is a professor here, and member of the Vatican initiated Theological Commission, shared some interesting points on the value of theology--each one is graced with "faith" that should constantly be nourished; most especially for pastors to whom a faith-community is entrusted.

As the sun was setting, we gathered in the chapel for our evening prayer -- a sung vespers which is found in the CD Album "Complines and Vespers." It was a great moment to thank God for The Day.

After dinner, Fr. Raul Caga, SVD and his Arnoldus Company (composed of 6 scholastics) staged a concert. The songs and performance was wonderful and really something to be proud of. We were awed. They did very well.

And thus The Day ended, very well.

click here for more pictures of the event.

God be praised!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Alumni/Alumnae Homecoming and Centennial Celebration in Tagaytay City

The "refurbished" DWS Gate:
"Raised your head, O Gate; Let your alumni/ae of glory come!

Divine Word Seminary will have its turn to host on August 20 (Thursday) an SVD Centennial Celebration and also a big day for its Alumni and Alumnae.

Who is a Divine Word Seminary alumnus or alumna?

The rule of the thumb is anyone who had stayed, studied, taught and worked here: former SVD novices, former postulants, former DWS students including the new graduates of CTS (Certificate in Theological Studies), former teachers and professors, former formators and rectors. Anyone left out?

It means when you come up, you're an alumnus or alumna.

"Alumnus" in Latin means simply "foster child," or "pupil," or "'someone who has been nourished by an institution." So you're on it.

Here's the "order" of The Day:
AM which is Morning
7:00 - Registration, with Barako Coffee (halina't mangape, just like the old days)
8:45 - Blessing of the Statues of Arnold and Joseph F. (donated by Manus Dei)
9:30 - Video Presentation on Divine Word Seminary: "before, during, and after."
10:00 - Special Snacks (heavy if you wish)
10:15 - Distinguished Alumnus Award and Address of the Awardee - Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD (Superior General)
11:15 - Holy Mass - Bishop Artemio Rillera, SVD (San Fernando, La Union) as presider and Bishop Arturo Bastes, SVD (Sorsogon) as homilist.

PM which is Afternoon
2:00 - Talk of Bishop Chito Tagle (TMP rector and Bishop of Imus) on the " Relevance of Theological Studies to One’s Life and Ministry"
4:00 - Snacks and Free Time /Ball Games
6:00 - Sung Vespers (Guitar version) see the just-released Album.
7:00 - Dinner
8:00 - Concert of Arnoldus Company
9:00 - Subdued - "light" moments
As you see, "the day" is loaded. After this day, you'll be home renewed, enriched, inspired, and more "holy."

What to see when you're here:
The Mission Museum - collection include artifacts brought home by missionaries; chalices used by the first SVD missionaries; images of local gods and goddesses. The director is Fr. Alex Muana, SVD who is a licensed missiologist and the dean of the school of theology.Arnoldus Library - with its new extension (old Arnoldus Hall), the library boasts of excellent collection in theological literature including recently published books from reputable local and international publishers. It is one of the better theological libraries in the country. A visit of this place is a must if one wants to have a "quick" and "inexpensive" updating in theology.The Miraculous Grotto - it's also called the Grotto of the Virgin of the Poor or Our Lady of Banneux. After a some of years of neglect, the grotto (the biggest image of the virgin in the seminary) is now a better and more environmental friendly place to pray to the Blessed Mother and also to meditate. That it has become such a lovely grotto is miracle itself. In the last nursing board exams, students were seen streaming to the grotto. The SVD community gathers at the grotto every first Saturday for its morning mass . Our own SVD-ALS (out-of-school youth) frequent also the place do some cleaning and pray for a better future. The Lady, indeed, is the Virgin of the Poor.Click here for more pics of the grotto

The SVD-ALS - this is the SVD-Alternative Learning System located at the former Arnoldus Dispensary Building (at the main gate). This is a program for the out-of-school youth, mostly from Tagaytay. On its first year, the program is now serving 124 learners who are being prepared to take the Department of Education's e Accreditation and Equivalency tests. The site coordinator is Fr. Randy Flores, SVD, working with 3 SVD deacons and 3 teachers. Click also here.

And of course, to buy the album - SVD Complines and Vespers (centennial edition) - limited copies so make it sure you buy you have your own personal copy before you leave. The sung prayers are not only nostalgic but also are useful prayers for people on the go - you can listen and prayer in your car, in your mp3s, and wherever you are--so you won't miss your evening prayers.

This album "SVD Complines and Vespers"--prayers sung during Saturday nights and Sunday evenings at Divine Word Seminary chapel (composed by Bishop Cinches and Bishop Bastes) is now out in the market. You can now buy your copies of the centennial limited edition (with Jubilate) at Christ the King Seminary Store, Catholic Trade Manila, Divine Word Seminary-Tagaytay; or you can write an email to me or text Fr. Raul Caga 09282756270. Price per album with musical notes (Jubilate)= P500.00.

Tomorrow (17 August, Monday) is also the start of the sports, academic, and cultural fest of the DWS students' association or DWSTSA (Divine Word School of Theology Students' Association) which will have its culmination on the Alumni/Alumnae Homecoming on Aug 20.

Friday, August 14, 2009

SVD Abra Mission a gift to the Philippines: Father General at Mass in Christ the King Seminary

4:00 PM, August 14, 2009
Quezon City, Philippines

"The SVD Abra Mission was the Founder's gift to the Philippines." This was how the ninth superior general of the SVD, Fr. Antonio Pernia, understands the special "love" of St. Arnold Janssen to the Philippine mission. In his homily at the mass which he presided at the chapel of Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City, Fr. Pernia, revealed that the Founder and the first superior general "fought hard for it against his council which was intent on sending missionaries only to non-Christian countries." Please scroll down to read the rest of the homily of the Father Pernia.

Former SVDs Ed de la Torre and Jun Falafox

The Superior General and actress
and SVD friend Chin Chin Gutierrez (who sang the Magnificat at the mass)

Seen at the concelebration were bishops--Arturo Bastes, SVD; Deogracias Iniguez; Isao Kikuchi, SVD (Japan); provincials--Jerome Adriatico (SVD Northern Province), Jojo Magadia (Jesuit provincial), Sebio Manangbao (SVD Kenya), and Nielo Cantilado (SVD Central Province).
Fr. Sebio Manangbao-SVD provincial of Kenya; SVD friend Dhel Ngo, and Fr. Nico Espinosa, SVD (Colombia)

This mass was part of the series of celebrations and gatherings for the 100 years of the SVD presence in the Philippines (1909-2009) which began last night with a prayer concert called "Experience 100" at the San Juan Arena attended by Father Pernia himself and more than 3000 people composed mostly of students and parishioners under the care of the SVDs in Manila and Cavite (Manila District).

Other activities related to the centennial of the SVD will be done in the following places:
August 15, 2009 – Grand Alumni Homecoming, Christ the King Seminary, Quezon City organized by XVDs.
August 16, 2009 – Celebrations at Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, BoholAugust 18-19,
2009 – Celebrations in Cebu City.
August 18-19, 2009 – Celebrations in Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City organized by the Divine Word Seminary Students’ Association.
August 20, 2009 - SVD Homecoming in Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay City.

August 21-23, 2009
- Celebrations in Abra
  • Aug 21, 7 PM - Welcome program in Penarubbia
  • Aug 22, 8 AM - Motorcade around Bangued 9 AM - Mass led by Nuncio at Bangued Cathedral12 noon - Lunch 7 PM - Cultural show at DWCB
  • Aug 23, 9 AM - Mass at San Isidro with Fr. General, followed by lunch; departure afterwards
November 13, 2009 SVD Mission Awards at St. Jude Catholic School. please click here for more info.
In the Heart of Arnold Janssen:
Homily of Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD Superior General at the Mass in Christ the King Seminary

My dear Confreres and Friends,
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

The gospel reading today paints a picture of Mary travelling in haste to the hill country, to a town in Judah, to visit her cousin Elizabeth and share with her the good news of the marvelous things God had done for her. Mary experienced the hospitality of Elizabeth's home and she stayed with her about three months.

Today we gather to remember the first two SVD missionaries, travelling in haste, like Mary, over the seas of the Indian ocean, moved by the call to share with the Filipino people the good news of the marvelous things God had done for humanity. Fr. Luis Beckert came from China, where he had been a missionary for six years. Fr. Juan Scheiermann came from Europe, where he had just been ordained a priest. The two met in Hongkong and travelled together by a steamer to the Philippines, arriving in Manila, a hundred years ago, on August 15, 1909.

What they found when they arrived was probably not exactly what Mary found in the house of Elizabeth. Everything must have been strange, for they knew no one personally. They were met at the pier by a CICM father, Fr. Moral, who took them to the residence of the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Agius, with whom they lodged. Four days afterwards, they resumed their journey to Vigan, and from Vigan to Abra, on two bamboo rafts. In Abra, from Bangued to Pilar, which is now San Isidro, on horseback, arriving at noon on August 23, 1909, exactly eight days after they set foot on Philippine soil. The history books describe that memorable day in the following words:
Accompanied by Bishop Carroll and dean Bartolome Espiritu, the two newcomers, Fr. Beckert and Fr. Scheiermann, rode into the hinterland along, narrow paths. Toward noon they entered Pilar ... the Capitan and some people had put in their appearance to welcome them. After a short rest, Bishop Carroll took his leave at three in the afternoon. Now the two missionaries were all alone among strangers in a rented bamboo house. The church was in a lamentable condition, nothing but a wretched shed with a grass roof. No doubt it was a rough and hard beginning.
Perhaps not much of a hospitality as Mary found in Elizabeth's house — although, in the course of time, that hospitality became an everyday reality as the two missionaries, and the later generations of missionaries, learned the language and culture of the people and became one with them. Thus began what was known at that time as the "SVD Abra Mission".
But perhaps the real beginning is to be found in the heart of the Founder, St. Arnold Janssen, a few years earlier — in May 1904, when the idea of an SVD mission in the Philippines was first brought to his attention, or in September 1907 when he and the general council finally decided to send missionaries to Abra. This was a mission the Founder loved. He fought for it against his council which was intent on sending missionaries only to non-Christian countries. He carefully organized the sending of the first missionaries. He handpicked the first two missionaries for this new mission. Unfortunately, the fragility of his health overtook the departure of the first missionaries to the Philippines. The Founder died in Steyl exactly seven months before the first two missionaries, different from the ones he had chosen, arrived in Manila.

The "SVD Abra Mission" was the Founder's gift to the Philippines. It had a small and humble beginning. Two missionaries to start with and a few more in the following years. But over the last one hundred years, the Abra Mission has grown into what we now call the "Philippine SVD", consisting of three provinces with some 460 members, engaged in a variety of apostolates and ministries — parishes and missions, schools and universities, formation houses and retreat centers, the biblical and communication apostolates; ministry with indigenous peoples, street children, trafficked women, the poor and marginalized, and the Filipino-Chinese community. Today we count some 530 Filipino Divine Word missionaries, the fourth largest national group in the whole Society of the Divine Word. About a 160 of them (or close to a third) work as missionaries in other lands, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people of other nations, cultures, and languages.

If the "SVD Abra Mission" was the Founder's gift to the Philippines, the "Philippine SVD" is the Philippines gift back to the Founder. It is said that when the Founder celebrated his 70th birthday on November 5, 1907, one of the well-wishers was dressed up as a Filipino and was made to deliver a speech to the Founder, welcoming the first two missionaries who had already been appointed for the Philippines. Perhaps the Founder never imagined that that boy was but a prelude to the many Filipino SVD missionaries who now share his vision and follow his charism. Neither did the Founder ever imagine that, a hundred years later, his ninth successor as superior general would be a Filipino. In 1907, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Agius told Fr. Eberhard Limbrock, the SVD Prefect Apostolic of Papua New Guinea, who was on a visit to the country: "I feel that God wants you here. Your mission in the Philippines will be a success and will call down many blessings on your Society".

This exchange of gifts between Arnold Janssen and the Philippines is like the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth in the gospel reading today. Mary visits Elizabeth, and Elizabeth hails Mary as the mother of the Lord. And blessings come upon both, and they erupt in praise of the Lord, for the favor they had found with God. In a similar way, Arnold Janssen sends missionaries to Abra, and the Filipinos give back to the SVD missionaries a hundredfold. And God's blessings come upon both, the SVD and the Philippines. And together, today, we erupt in praise of the Lord.
Our soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; And our spirit rejoices in God our savior. For he has looked upon us, his lowly servants, and has done great things for us and through us. Holy is his name.
Dear confreres and friends, everything is grace. Today, as we look over the hundred years of SVD presence in the country, we do see the great work and self-sacrificing efforts of our pioneer missionaries, on the one hand, and the generous response and ready collaboration of the people, on the other. But always at the horizon was God's grace, making fruitful what sometimes were failed efforts of the missionaries and making joyful what often was a timid response of the people. Today, then, we celebrate not just the self-sacrificing efforts of our pioneer missionaries, not just the generous response of the people, but above all, God's abundant grace and abiding love.

Dear confreres in the SVD, if Fr. Beckert and our pioneer missionaries survived the difficult first years in Abra, it was not only because of their selfless dedication and commitment, but also because of their reliance on the generosity of the people and, above all, their faith in God's unfailing grace and love. These are three attitudes which we need to renew in ourselves today — selfless dedication to mission, reliance on the generosity of the people, and abiding faith in God. And we, who are heirs of the missionary project begun by our pioneer missionaries a hundred years ago, can hope to bring it forward and make it bear even more abundant fruit only if we can match their missionary zeal and spirit.

And so, today, as we gather in thanksgiving to remember and rejoice, let us renew our missionary vocation, our commitment to follow the Divine Word,
to be disciples — chaste, poor, obedient, immersed in the life of the Trinity;
called, like Saint Arnold, to imitate the Word made flesh in self-emptying,
to follow Jesus Christ through cross and resurrection, in suffering and joy.
Only then can we truly make "His life our life and His mission our mission". And only then can we pay true tribute to Arnold Janssen and our pioneer missionaries. Only then can our celebration of the Philippine SVD Centennial find true meaning.

Dear confreres and friends, the Philippine SVD Centennial is an event not just of the SVD Philippine Provinces but of the entire Society of the Divine Word. Today, I stand here to represent not just the SVD general council in Rome, but indeed the whole SVD all over the world. My presence here today is meant to give expression to what the entire family of the Society of the Divine Word wishes to say to you today: "We rejoice with you. We celebrate with you. We give thanks to God with you". Congratulations, and may God bless us all!
On personal note, I'd like to thank those whom I met at the reception who told me they follow this blog and miss it when not updated. Those remarks keep this little service going.

Incidentally, the album "SVD Complines and Vespers"--prayers sung during Saturday nights and Sunday evenings at Divine Word Seminary chapel (composed by Bishop Cinches and Bishop Bastes) is now out in the market. You can now buy your copies of the centennial limited edition (with Jubilate) at Christ the King Seminary Store, Catholic Trade Manila, Divine Word Seminary-Tagaytay; or you can write an email to me or text Fr. Raul Caga 09282756270. Price per album with musical notes (Jubilate)= P500.00.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Two SVD Scholastics Renew Vows

Here's the homily of Fr. Jerome Marquez, vice-provincial of SVD Philippine Central Province and director of St. Jude Catholic School. The occasion is the renewal of SVD vows of two chinese seminarians (names and pictures withheld) on the Feast of Transfiguration (6 August 2009).

The homily reinterprets the initial difficulties of foreign student-seminarians as a commitment to the Cross (and "rose" to use Cory's word) in the life of a religious-missionary. Such life demands living the vows in the social context of the country in which one is called to live.

Feast of Transfiguration (Mk 9: 2-10)
Renewal of Vows Homily: Fr. Jerome Marquez, SVD

Cory Aquino: Truly Catholic, Truly Filipino
Yesterday’s event was another defining moment for the late President Cory Aquino and the Filipino people. I was at DZMM Teleradyo for the 9-11AM broadcast of the funeral mass at the Cathedral. I joined the broadcast because it was my little way of thanking Tita Cory. I also wanted our young people to see a model of leadership that can truly be emulated. I believe Cory’s life is a testimony of how one can truly be Catholic and truly be Filipino. Indeed, she made me feel proud again being a Catholic Filipino.

When the mass ended, I rushed my way to the route of the procession and so I went to Osmena hiway in Manila. We parked along the road near a community of informal settlers hidden by the MMDA’s Metro Gwapo. I became one with the multitude of urban settlers, those coming out from their narrow shacks and alleys, enjoyed the downpour of rain and confetti, manifested Laban signs and chanted for the last time the name of our icon…Cory, Cory, Cory! To most of us, we came out beyond curiosity. It was our last glimpse to the woman we all want to pay our respect. But deeply, I was moved by the jubilant spirit of the crowd. I saw and was part of how truly the Filipino people can love and say its “salamat and paalam”.

Yes today, we have renewal of religious vows of two confreres from China. The timing merges with this special historical moment when we are defining what Cory stood for and how this country can move further after being touched by Cory’s magic. And maybe we, as SVD religious and communities, begin to reflect more profoundly - what renewal is needed as a missionary and religious institution in the Philippines, after remembering and rejoicing this gift of 100 years.

Renewal of our Radical Following of Jesus
Virgil Howard and David Peabody, both scriptural scholars, find several traits in the gospel story that are drawn from the Old Testament: six days and the high mountain from Exodus, the dazzling garments from book of Daniel, the figures of Elijah and Moses, and mention of tents as in “booths” in Leviticus. However, through all these images and details, the gospel leads us to its main point: Jesus himself and the revelation of him as God’s Son. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him”. This message is given secretly to the inner core disciples of Jesus. It is a knowledge that is supposed to define their understanding of Jesus the Messiah who will later meet his passion, death and resurrection.

Profession of Vows as Second "Baptism"
As Jesus is the central image on this transfiguration story, he is the same central person in consecrated life. The very foundation of this calling and this free and total self-donation to God is to seek a closer following and imitation of the chaste, poor, and obedient Christ. Profession of vows is seen therefore like a second baptism. We are more profoundly incorporated into Christ and into the life of the Church. In this renewal of vows, we re-commit to insert ourselves into the paschal mystery of Christ that life of suffering, death, and resurrection. Following the spirit of the 16th General Chapter, “Jesus is our model par excellence of prophetic dialogue”. Thus our SVD identity grows more from this relationship and from the example of the incarnate Divine Word. His identity and mission are discovered in dialogue with the Father; in dialogue with the people he lived with, and in dialogue with the socio-political reality of the people of Galilee (see In Dialogue with the Word No. 7-September 2007, pp 22-23).

To be an SVD implies making incarnate this same practice of Jesus in our religious and evangelizing communities. Far from being absorbed by our theological studies, weekly apostolate and community living, we need to cultivate more the centrality of this dialogue with God in our daily living. It may be one of the good reasons why our Pink Sisters have been attracting local tourists to visit their cloistered chapels. They are branded as a praying community. It is their best witness to the world – their dialogue with God. The same Jesus in dialogue leads us to see the need for real respect on the experiences of people we serve. Such is the attitude of an SVD in true dialogue, which is not just another pastoral activity but an “attitude of solidarity, respect and love” (Gaudium et Spes 3).

One of the things I asked from Saint Jude Catholic School as a Director is to lead students and teachers into a life in solidarity with people. Yes, the school gives donations every year. But more than the power of our purse, I also felt a more transforming need on the power of our students to be in solidarity with the poor. So the Chinese Filipinos will also be less afraid that they are “kidnappable” and to erase a notion that the poor are only interested on what they can get from them materially. So our students and personnel started to share where they are best at: to educate. They started visiting alternative learning system communities in Dasmarinas, Bacoor, and Palawan. They started offering for our weekly Saturday masses only school supplies. They started tutoring out-of-school learners into what they truly have and can truly share: their competence in Math, Science and English. They started exchanging stories, texts, and life. Indeed, education is not just within the corners of the classroom. Education means transforming one’s attitude towards humanity.

This renewal of vows means a lot to us. It demands our re-commitment to Christ himself and our renewal to the commitments of Christ. In a special way, we SVDs commit ourselves to our preferred dialogue partners: the poor and marginalized those from other faiths and faith seekers, other religions and ideologies, and those from other cultures. Most of the time, I, too, ask myself, “Have I truly loved and followed you, Lord, through the SVD way?” And my most honest response is: NOT AT ALL TIMES, LORD. But, please, still give me a chance to love and follow you in the SVD preferred way. And that is why I emulate Cory. For her life of selflessness and sacrifice are all rooted on God who is her bedrock. In his homily yesterday for the funeral, Fr. Catalino Arevalo says, “Cory’s greatest strength is her faith”. To me, such is an act of true consecration. Total abandonment of one’s life and one’s will to God. Such is the also core of a life of a missionary. When we allow God to lead us to whom we are called to serve, especially to commit our life to whom the SVDs prefer to serve.
Renewal of our Commitment to the Cross
I remember last year, there were discussions on the difficulties of Chinese seminarians here in Tagaytay. Some former OTPers from Taiwan, specifically Fathers Roland Aquino and Ricardo Miranda, had to sit down with the Chinese seminarians on the status of their academic studies and cultural integration into DWST and the Philippines. I remember our SVD-St. Jude community even inviting these young seminarians to dine with us. We went to an excellent Chinese restaurant along Roxas Boulevard and offered them to eat whatever they like, whatever you missed back home. Well, they ordered noodles. They also ordered Mantou. I saw how you relished the Chinese food as we all enjoyed that supper with you. But for us from Saint Jude community, that invitation simply means -we want you to persevere. We want to send the message that we know you are struggling. We cannot take away the struggles from you, but you have fellow SVDs who journey and pray with you.

We know English language is a struggle, even theology students of San Carlos seminary and UST struggle with it; we know learning the Filipino culture is a struggle, even Malacanang had to argue why they chose Carlo Caparas as a national artist. We know your theological studies in Tagaytay is a struggle, well if you do not struggle with your scripture professors (like Father Randy Flores), then I doubt if they truly loved you at all.

The point here is that suffering is integral in following Christ and in doing his mission. If I will say there is no cross, then it will a big lie. Because for sure, not everything will be okay in living and doing mission. For us, the cross is a reality in community living and mission life. Be patient. I think we can learn much from Tita Cory about her attitude on suffering. Fr. Arevalo mentioned that Cory gave her a painting of crosses and roses. Around the 7 crosses, which refer to the 7 months and 7 weeks of Ninoy in incarceration and the 7 coup attempts against her presidency, she also painted many roses around it. For Cory, crosses and roses make her life more meaningful. So she said, ”I can’t complain”.

But by the fruits of your patience, the good signs are coming. I heard the Chinese seminarians talking with more confidence in English. You are smiling more and joking more. You are becoming more involved in apostolate and spending more time being with people. Moreover, your professors passed you from their subjects, not by an act of charity and mercy but by the merits of your performance which makes it just and fair to all. Yes suffering for us mean, just being patient on what God wants us in life. It is not magical. Just take it and trust that God will accompany us.

I wish to end by quoting Canon 607 which tells us about the nature and end of religious life: “As a consecration of the whole person, religious life manifests in the Church a wonderful marriage brought about by God, a sign of the future age. Thus the religious brings to perfection a total self-giving as a sacrifice offered to God, through which his or her whole existence becomes a continuous worship of God in charity.”

Year for Priests Launched

Earlier (3:00 pm), the Year for Priests was launched in the Diocese of Imus was inauguirated with the mass at the Lourdes Church presided by Bishop Chito Tagle attended by the Imus clergy, members of the Tagaytay Religious Association (TRA), and representatives of the different parishes nearby.
In his homily, Bishop Chito encouraged the priests, in the presence of a huge congregation, to "listen to him" (Jesus), same words used in the today's Gospel (Transiguration): "Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" (Mark 9:7).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

SVD-ALS bid "Salamat at Paalam Tita Cory"

It's 9:00 pm, Wednesday of August 5, 2009. The whole nation has just witnessed the burial of Cory Aquino--wife of Ninoy, restorer of freedom, and woman of "unwavering faith" (words from Pope Benedict XVI). It was a touching moment, after 8 hours of slow and emotion-filled procession from the Manila Cathedral to Manila Memorial Park (in Sucat, Paranaque). The Funeral Mass earlier was equally moving, especially with the homily of Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ ("dean" of Filipino theologians, and Cory's spiritual adviser). Without her undeserved sufferings ("crosses and roses" as Cory had called them), "the essential Cory," Fr. Arevalo said, "is not revealed." Indeed, "many are sorrows of the just" (Psalm 34:20). For the video of the homily of Fr. Arevalo, click here.

We were also there, under the rain and more rain-- SVD-ALS were there at Roxas Blvd to say thank you and goodbye to this most beautiful Filipina, beautiful even in death.

The SVD-ALS stands for the Alternative Learning System for 124 out-of-school youth hosted by Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay (started last March 2009).

The ALS is a non-formal education program of the Philippine Government’s Department of Education. It prepares, among others, out-of-school youths or drop-outs/leavers to take the Accreditation and Equivalency test by undergoing the Learning Support Delivery System (LSDS), a learning intervention designed to equip the prospective test takers with the necessary competencies to prepare them for the test. Successful test takers receive certification of learning achievements at two learning levels – Elementary and Secondary – that is comparable to the formal school system.

SVD-ALS is located at the Arnoldus Dispensary building. It is run by one full-time teacher—Ms. Olive Tolentino and two volunteers—Ms. Ritchelle Razon and Ms. Perla Costa. The site coordinator is Fr. Randolf C. Flores, SVD and is assisted by three SVD deacons—Severo Biton, Jr., Dante Barril, and Ferdinand Bajao. SVD-ALS is supervised by Arnold Janssen Catholic Mission Foundation (SEC Registration no. A200116743 approved on 07 Nov. 2001) which runs 7 LSDS centers in the country.

"The Aquino government after the People Power Revolution, enacted Executive Order No. 117 in 1987 to create the Bureau of Nonformal Education. Article 14, section 2(4) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution stated: 'The state shall encourage nonformal, formal, indigenous learning systems, as well as self-learning, independent and out-of-school study programs, particularly those that respond to community needs; and provide adult citizens, the disabled and out-of school youth training in civics, vocational efficiency and other skills.'"

It is for this reason that I brought our our-of-school youth to Roxas Blvd to thank the Lord for President Cory Aquino, the "bearer of freedom" (including freedom from "kamangmangan").