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.


musicmaker said...

thanks, Fr. Randy, for this post, especially the homily of Fr. Tony. Keep up the good work! God bless!

berns said...

excellent updates off all the centennial activities...thanks! 'agbiag' SVDs!!!

balatucan said...

May i use one of your pictures for my blog? I was moved by the story of the SVD's coming in the Philippines.