Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seminarians join relief operation for the victims of Ka Ondoy

Members of Divine Word Seminary of Tagaytay Students' Association (DWSTSA)--composed mostly of seminarians in theology have joined the Task Force Ondoy of Ateneo which includes the seminarians' network and the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB). Fr. Alex Muana, SVD (the dean of studies) and Fr. Raul Caga, SVD (the vice-rector) also are with the group in the clearing operations, loading and unloading of relief cargo, and distributing emergency relief goods for the victims of the flood in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Southern Luzon.

Last night (close to midnight actually), I went to check on a family who live in Jesus de la Pena in Marikina, just a kilometer or two from Provident Village. It took me an hour and a half from Ateneo to Marikina due to the clearing operation going on, the road is now passable although a lot of work will still have to be done. At least relief goods can now be brought easily to the affected families, including potable water.

Along the A. Bonifacio road, I saw this solitary car parked and clearly a victim of Ka Ondoy and with the SVD centennial plate in it, maybe owned by a former SVD seminarian (?). I thought of asking - what could be God's message for us (SVDs and XVDs) that on the 100 years of Philippine SVD such tragedy has come upon us?

Abra violence, Balweg and SVD

A Group of SVD missionaries in the late 70s
Standing from right: Bishop Vic Manuel (+); Conrado Balweg (+)
Fr. Dom Flores (working in Australia); Fr. V. Bartolome (working in US)
Photo taken in front of Arnoldus Library (from the file of Fr. Randy Flores, SVD)

The article is written by Vincent Cabreza and appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 02:08:00 09/30/2009

TO SOME Filipinos, Abra will always be associated with two extremes: Stories of unending political violence and of slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg, a man of the cloth who returned to the path of peace and facilitated the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

To 6,131 priests and brothers today, however, this landlocked province is the gateway to the Catholic Society of the Divine Word (SVD or Societas Verbi Divini), 100 years ago.

That gate has never closed, said Father Jerome Adriatico, SVD North Luzon provincial superior.

“Politics, the kind that promotes greed, must be reinvented here in Abra,” Adriatico said, quoting discussions among fellow SVD priests as to how the congregation hoped to end the province’s notoriety.

Adriatico helped lead the Centennial Mass at the Cathedral of St. James the Elder in Bangued, Abra, last month.

Bangued Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian said the Mass celebrated the first SVD mission station in Cagutungan, a community that evolved into today’s San Isidro town, which was established by Father John Scheiermann and Father Louis Beckert, a five-year veteran of the SVD missions in China.

Adriatico said it was the SVD’s “purposeful mission of creating a community among the Tingguians,” which remains its most powerful legacy.

“[Violence] is the nature of politics [in Abra and parts of Ilocos], but it was not like this [during the] early 20th century. SVD wants to bring back the sense of caring, the sense of unity [we helped develop with] the Tingguians,” he said.(photo file: R. Flores, SVD)

First SVD mission

The first SVD mission in the Philippines tailed by two years the 1907 Philippine mission of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or CICM), said Adriatico.

But like the Belgian-led CICM, the SVD and other European Catholic congregations began sending missionaries to the Philippines in response to a plea made by local parishes that were confronting the end of the Spanish colonial period.

They were meant to serve northern Luzon parishes that were abandoned by friars who began to withdraw to the cities when Filipino priests under their supervision were recruited by the Aglipayan Movement (Philippine Independent Church), Adriatico said.

Abra has always presented itself as a historical case study of how colonial governments tried to pacify the Igorot people in order to get at the fabled gold in their mountains, said history professor Raymundo Rovillos, dean of the College of Social Sciences at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

Religion and the mission stations played a strong part in these efforts, he said.

Abra was visited by Augustinian missionaries as early as 1650, but it was in the last part of the 19th century when Spanish pacification efforts “became intense,” Rovillos said in his essay, “Technologies for Disciplining Bodies and Spaces in Abra,” in the Cordillera Review.

“Because it was the takeoff point for the official Spanish war against the Igorots, Abra became militarily and politically strategic,” he said.

(photo file: R. Flores, SVD)

Tingguian alienation

Adriatico said what SVD intended to do when they took over the Spanish parishes was to remove the alienation of the Tingguian.

Balweg, despite his credentials as leading figure of the communist rebellion in Abra, had always been an important chapter of the SVD story because of his Tingguian roots, Adriatico said.

Balweg was one of the first two Tingguian priests to join the fold, and the SVD, according to American historian Gerard Finin, author of the book, “The Making of the Igorot.”

Finin, deputy-director of the Hawaii-based East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program, said: “Although the SVD order could claim significant achievements in working with Abra’s ‘non-Christians,’ not a single highlander during the first 40 years of missionary work was accepted for theological studies leading to ordination as an SVD priest until Balweg and fellow Tingguian Tito Belisario in the 1960s.”

Adriatico said the rebel priest broke ties with SVD but had maintained a “deep understanding of community” because Balweg eventually fought for the so-called Igorot nation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

SVD-initiated distribution center for the victims of Ondoy

The SVD Philippine Central Province is now coordinating help for the worst hit of the SVD parishes in Metro Manila: Smokey Mountain (Balut, Tondo), Dampalit (Malabon), and St. Arnold Janssen Parish (Cainta).
The churches and convents in those places are relatively unscathed but their parishioners could use some help (food, clothes, etc)); this also includes our own employees, some of whom live in the affected areas.

Relief efforts for flood victims are being organized by the SVD Philippine Central Province through the Secretariat of the Characteristic Dimensions (Ben Beltran, Raul Caga, Ring Malbog, and John Regalado). Donations in kind ( used clothes, canned goods, etc) are welcome. You may send them at the Provincialate (Catholic Trade) Manila) or care of the above mentioned office or individuals. Cash donations may also be sent to the following bank account at Allied Banking Corporation: Account name - Divine Word Biblical Center; account number - 0280046648.

You can also course your donation through Divine Word Seminary, SVD Road, 4120 Tagaytay City - Tel. 046-4131253; fax 0464131251; or write:
Note from the SVD Provincialate

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All Praise to Thee

Night Prayer: All praise to thee my God this night. For all the blessings of the Light. O keep me keep me king of kings, beneath thine almighty wings. Forgive me Lord through Christ thy Son, the ill that I this day have done, that with the world, myself and thee before I sleep at peace may be.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On the Birth of Mary, Birth of SVD, and Family Feast

Family Feast 1999 (Tagaytay City)

Today (9/8/2009) is of the birthday of Mary and the Birthday of the SVD (9/8/1875). At Divine Word Seminary, to celebrate this day, we usually hold a Family Feast – a sort of intramural games. We, including our employees, are divided into different “families” and compete in three levels: physical (sports), intellectual (quiz bees, essays, poetry); and cultural (drama, song composition). Everything ends in the beach—where the four families, with good food, become one family again.

Such tradition goes back to Arnold Janssen, the Founder.
This year, however, the Family Feast is cancelled—because we have a bigger family feast – the centennial of the Philippine SVD. Last month, the whole “family” went to Abra to join the celebration there.

In 2003, I was invited to preach at the mass in Christ the King Seminary on the occasion of their Family Feast. For those who might want to reflect with the SVD on this day, here’s an excerpt of that:

The Family Feast is an emblematic celebration of two humble birth-events: the birth of Mary and the birth of the SVD.

The birth of heroes and special persons are always surrounded by legends and miraculous stories. Remember the interesting birth narratives in the bible, that of Moses (Exod 2:1-10); Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-28); John the Baptist (Lk 1:5:25); and Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). When the legendary Ilocos hero Lam-ang was born, he could immediately talk and climb tree (was it a guava?); so with the Ilonggo epic hero, Labaw Donggon who was told to be already a mature person (datung tawu) when he was born (cf. E. Damiana, The Filipino Epics, 2001).

The birth of Mary is not found in the Bible but in apocryphal gospels, particularly in the Protoevangelium of James (Proto-Gospel of James), a pseudoepigraphical writing composed in the late second century A.D – more than 150 years after the death of Jesus.

As the story goes, Joachim and Anna, the parents of Mary, were getting old and could not bear a child. Anna was barren. In that culture, that situation is shameful. . But one day, an angel appeared to Anna in the garden at the same time as an angel also appeared to Joachim while pasturing the flock, announcing that Anna shall conceive a child. And so Mary was born and after six months Mary was said to be already walking on her feet. The story is inspired obviously by that of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18.

What is historical though is the fact that the birth of a baby girl is not worth rejoicing in a male-oriented culture, the condition where Mary was born. In the ancient Mediterranean culture, the birth of a son is announced loudly and joyfully by the father (in Hebrew): hinne ben nolad! (“Behold, a son is born!” cf. Rut 4:17; 1 Kgs 13:2; 1 Chron 22:9; Isa 9:5[6]; Jer 20:15; Job 3:3; John 16:21). The birth of a girl did not create such excitement.

In the Protoevangelium of James we have a different story. Anna, upon giving birth, asked her midwife: "What have I brought forth?" The woman said: "A girl." Anna then exclaimed: "My soul has been magnified this day" (similar words of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1).

In any case, this “humbled” birth of Mary could be reflected in her longest recorded words found in the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat (1:46-56). In that song, she indirectly spoke of her situation “the humiliation of the maidservant” (cf. v. 48.52).

The birth of the SVD as well was set in a “humiliating” and hostile situation. Nineteenth Century Germany was anti-Catholic (cf. J. Alt, XIV). Thus, this first Catholic German missionary society had to begin outside Germany, in Holland (Steyl). The birth of the SVD in a foreign) was foreshadowing the unique international character of this Society.

It was an irony that when Nineteenth Century Germany was becoming ethnocentric in the movement that was called Kulturkampf, the spirit of the Founder was one of openness and generosity. While the German government was confiscating and secularizing Catholic churches’ properties and expelling foreigners (Alt, XIV), Arnold Janssen was envisioning to send German missionaries to foreign lands.

On the positive side, the Nineteenth Century Europe witnessed the progress of sciences. Arnold Janssen, before he commenced his theological studies, trained himself in philosophy, mathematics and natural sciences and taught them after ordination (e.g. physics, mineralogy, zoology and botany, cf. Alt, 16-20; 24-30). Later, he would send his men to study natural sciences, chemistry and geology. One of them went on to study linguistics and became an excellent ethnologist known all over the world for his novel studies on “primitive cultures”—Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt, SVD (1868-1954) the founder of Anthropos Institute and Anthropos, a seminal journal on Cultural Anthropology (cf. E. Brandewie, When Giants Walked the Earth: The Life and Times of Wilhelm Schmidt, SVD (Studia Instituti Anthropos 44; Fribourg, 1990).

Together with the advance of sciences was the flowering of biblical studies especially Protestant Germany in the Nineteenth Century. The works of Julius Wellhausen, Hermann Gunkel, the biblical scholars from the University of Tübingen revolutionized and influenced modern biblical scholarship up to the present time. The historical-critical study of the bible had drawn out both controversies and renewed interests in the Sacred Scripture. The bible as never before was now studied in an objective and scientific manner. Even Arnold Janssen, as attested in his academic records, had taken courses in Biblical Greek and Hebrew (cf. Alt, 14;21), two subjects which most seminarians avoid today. This humble but fervent quest for the explanation and understanding of the Sacred Text in the late Nineteenth Century would have been also a key factor for Arnold Janssen to name his newly born mission congregation, Societas Verbi Divini (“Society of the Divine Word”).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Philippine SVD in the Philippine Panorama

This Sunday's issue of the Panoroma, Manila Bulletin's weekly magazine, has its cover and editorial the Philippine SVD. Please click on the pictures above or on Panorama's website here.

Updated (further) information: For the year 2009, there are 6,131 listed members.
Note that the Editorial mentions the Alternative Learning System (non-formal education) as part of the mission of prophetic dialogue by the Philippine SVD. Please click here for more info on SVD-ALS.

On January 29, feast of St. Joseph Freinademetz, the SVD will confer the SVD Mission Awards. For nominations, please click here.