Filipinos in Texas pause from teaching, join Good Friday ‘visita iglesia’

Saint Anne Houston Good Friday NJ Viehland

Filipinos teaching in Houston public schools brought family and friends to seven churches for Good Friday ‘visita iglesia’ starting here at Saint Anne church

HOUSTON, Texas – More than a dozen women and men from the Philippines teaching in one of America’s largest cities drove in a convoy on their holiday, Good Friday, to pay a visit to seven churches in keeping with Filipino tradition of visita iglesia.

In the Philippines, the general practice is to visit seven churches on Holy Thursday or Good Friday and make the Stations of the Cross in them.

Where the teachers’ group went and what they found?

1. re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at Saint Anne church

Saint Anne Houston Jesus NJ Viehland

Actors act out Stations of the Cross at Saint Anne church in Houston. NJ Viehland Photos

2. warm welcome and kind accommodation from parishioners of St. Raphael the Archangel

They had moved the Blessed Sacrament for exposition in a small chapel, covered all statues and locked up the church, but opened it up briefly for the teachers’ visit.

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Saint Raphael church, Houston on Good Friday 2015. NJ Viehland Photos

Saint Raphael Houston Good Friday NJ Viehland

Saint Raphael Houston                              

3. Saint Francis De Sales was busy with some service so the teachers’ group prayed in the hallway before a cross draped with red cloth.

Saint Francis De Sales praying

4. Saint Thomas More Catholic community has built a shrine in memory of aborted babies

Saint Thomas Moore Church Houston aborted babies NJ Viehland

The group also visited St. Michael the Archangel, Holy Ghost and Corpus Christi churches.

Saint Michaels Houston Good Friday NJ Viehland

Filipino teachers and their families visit Saint Michael the Archangel church in Houston on Good Friday, 2015 

Holy Ghost Houston Good Friday NJ Viehland

Holy Ghost church in Houston is run by Redemptorist Fathers. NJ Viehland Photos

Corpus Christi Houston Good Friday NJ Viehland

Blessed Sacrament Fathers (SSS) administer Corpus Christi church in Houston. NJ Viehland photos

The Catholic Church recognizes the great responsibility teachers bear for building a society instilled with values and hope.

Pope Francis, in a recent meeting with educators called teaching a “beautiful profession” noting that it “allows us to see the people who are entrusted to our care grow day after day.”

The pope said only mature and balanced personalities can take on the “serious  commitment” to teach.  A former classroom teacher himself, the pope also reminded educators, “no teacher is ever alone: ​​They always share their work with other colleagues and the entire educational community to which they belong.”

He told members of the Catholic Union of Italian Teachers, Managers, Educators and trainers  (UCIIM) on their group’s 70th anniversary in March that being teacher is “like being parents, at least spiritually.” 

ISIS, 21st century youth and the 2015 synod on family – Commentary

 Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila, NJ Viehland Viehland Photos

 

“Re-communing with the divorced world of youths is a priority task for next October’s second Synod on Family. Indeed, that will be a more realistic pastoral agenda than theological cud chewing about Communion to marital divorcees….”

 

Commentary: ISIS needs ‘Assisian‘ responses, not sniping crusades

By: Hector Welgampola

Amid ongoing Islam-bashing worldwide, comes a bit of good news from the Arab world. According to media reports, in April Qatar will name the recipients of that country’s WISE (World Innovative Summit for Education) Awards for 2015. Given by Qatar’s Education City, these awards have been described by BBC as an effort to recycle oil and gas into knowledge.

“The Emir of Qatar believes that a new golden age can be achieved through education and research coupled with creativity and development,” wrote James Martin, founder of Oxford University’s 21st Century School. The Qatar project would seed “a new Arab renaissance bringing multicultural tolerance, new ideas and education action across the Arab world,” he claimed. Others pin hopes on the project’s Faculty of Islamic Studies, despite lingering suspicion that Qatar funds reach jihadists.

While saluting the project, BBC noted how “events of the Arab Spring have shown the dissatisfaction of a young population with rising unemployment and lack of opportunity.” The Arab world’s youth frustrations have been aggravated by the post 9/11 frenzy to militarily intervene there with a fantasy to impose Western-style panacea for local problems.

Just as lack of social justice incubated communism, prolonged abuse of Arab countries as mere oil wells festered social ills that reignited Islamic militancy. A belated sense of guilt for such abuse led some developed countries to support the Qatar project. A similar sense of guilt should help affirm the inadequacy of military responses to curb frustration-fed jihadism.

Hired armies lack motivation to wipe out guerilla cults or jihadist passion. And eliminating Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or Osama Bin Laden did not make the world any safer. If al Qaeda was a geographically diffused ad hoc network, its modern avatars like ISIS and Boko Haram showcase bin Laden’s dream caliphate still thriving and on martyrdom. The apocalyptic cult goes beyond self-immolation to the ruthless slaughter of those considered to be infidels. It now threatens West Asia, North Africa and beyond.

If Islamism’s extremist outreach has gone viral, it has also gone global. It attracts youths from two sources. Unsurprisingly, it volunteers youths from Islamic nations. Addressing a recent Christian-Islamic dialogue meet run by Nigerian bishops, an Islamic scholar attributed the rise of Boko Haram partly to “the impunity, bad governance and corruption of Nigerian elite.” Qatar-type projects may help replace such self-serving elite with socially committed cadres.

ISIS also draws youths worldwide. Its media-hyped fantasy appeals to listless young men and young women wearied by the depravity of secularized post-christian society. Maybe, an erratic society’s death-peddling obsession with abortion and mercy killing has so desensitized the young even to fancy jihad as an option. Frequent news reports confirm how the jihadist mirage attracts spiritually starved youths from all continents. But, sadly, such youths’ home countries fail to get the message. Their rulers try to prevent the outflow of youths with laws to muzzle social media, patrol borders or deny passports – all inept measures.

Instead, leaders of state, society and religion should heed the unspoken outcry of desperate youths fleeing parents, siblings, peers, churches and country to embrace jihad. The thousands of young men and women opting for jihad are our own sons and daughters. Their drift to ISIS speaks of our generation’s moral failure. Their spiritual thirst is an indictment of our ineptitude to offer them a meaningful goal of holistic life. So, let’s stop stigmatizing them as misled youths or blessing counter crusades. Today’s society needs to find solutions by re-examining our distorted faith-life, fractured family-life, consumerist lifestyles and counter values based on worship of money-culture.

As evident in the recent Germanwings plane crash too, all youths blamed for atrocities are not jihadists. The crisis of today’s youths should alert society to our long abuse of social structures as a mask for power play. Churches and Nations need to return to a moral ethic and restore honesty in public life. The need to wipe out the scandal of duplicity in religio-ethical and socio-economic life was never more urgent. And Church youth apostolates and family apostolates should be so re-oriented as to attract, involve and inspire all levels of youth life and activity.

Meanwhile, initiatives like the March 24 Catholic-Muslim summit in Rome can offer further hope. Interestingly, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, Vatican head for interreligious relations, told the meet of his wish to set up a more permanent mechanism for such interaction. For a moment, it brought to mind the environment of interreligious amity facilitated decades ago by the BIRA (Bishops Institutes for Interreligious Affairs) meets and live-ins organized by FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). Such interfaith action-in-prayer fosters inclusive pluralism. And a response of relational sacramentalty can better facilitate social awakening than statements, episcopal or papal.

That sacramental mission has to awaken the 21st century Church to a Jesus-like embrace of all youths divorced from community by post-christian secular cults. Re-communing with the divorced world of youths is a priority task for next October’s second Synod on Family. Indeed, that will be a more realistic pastoral agenda than theological cud chewing about Communion to marital divorcees. And instead of premising the synod with a requiem for martyred Christians, let reflection on the waste of life of both jihadists and their victims inspire the synod to seed a Church of Assisian service to the human family.

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Leave or else… – threat letter to nuns in India town

Kolkata (Calcutta), INDIA – A Catholic school in the eastern India state of West Bengal has sought police protection after it received four letters threatening to burn it down, reported mattersindia.com service for news, features and information on India.

Security has been stepped up at St Capitanio Girl’s Higher Secondary School, about 70 kilometers from Jalpaiguri, said Ravindra Nath, a senior police officer. 

Read full report from mattersindia.com

Ancient Bengal was the site of several major kingdomsFrom the 13th century onward, the region was controlled by the Bengal Sultanate, Hindu kings and Baro-Bhuyan landlords until the beginning of British rule in the 18th century. 

West Bengal is India’s fourth-most populous state, with over 91 million inhabitants, including roughly 515,150 Christians, based on the 2001 census report.

Mother Teresa worked in Kolkata (Calcutta).

end

Filipino Cardinal Quevedo,Papal Envoy to Japan ‘Hidden Christians’ anniversary

[update March 14, 2015]

OMI, NJ Viehland Photos

Filipino Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato – NJ Viehland Photos

Celebrations in Nagasaki began today to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the “Hidden Christians of Japan.” Pope Francis appointed Filipino Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, will serve as his Special Envoy at the anniversary event which will last until March 17th.

Full report here

Hidden Christians video by Journeyman YouTube

click photo to watch Journeyman Pictures’ mini-documentary on Hidden Christians

Also taking place at the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture until April 15 is the exhibit of more than 500 items confiscated from Japanese Christians during their brutal persecution in the 19th century from the late Edo Period to the early Meiji Era, Japan Times online newspaper announced.

The Times reports that some 550 items are back in Nagasaki for the first time on display in the special exhibition “Miracles Protected by the Virgin Mary — Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” include 212 cultural properties rarely loaned out by the Tokyo National Museum at one time.

The exhibit is reportedly taking place because the central government has recommended that churches and other Christian locations in Nagasaki be listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. It shows the history of Christianity in Japan from the introduction of the faith by Francis Xavier in 1549, to the birth of the “hidden Christians” caused by brutal crackdowns and the confession of their beliefs to a foreign priest by a small group of Japanese in 1865.

Cardinal Quevedo, first prelate on the southern Philippines Mindanao island to be created cardinal, has led the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) as Secretary General from 2005-2011. FABC is a Vatican-approved voluntary association of Catholic bishops’ conferences in Central, East, South and Southeast Asia.

 

Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia, Part 2

“The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.” – Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ

children watch priests march Ed Gerlock

Manila scavenger children watch priests rally / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

continued from Part 1 

Evangelization through “Triple Dialogue”

According to the statement issued by the first plenary assembly, “Evangelization is the carrying out of the Church’s duty of proclaiming by word and witness the Gospel of the Lord.” The assembly resolved to use dialogue as the approach to evangelization in Asia where Christians comprise only two to three percent of the population in most countries.

This thinking has persisted through the decades and infused programs and initiatives that have gained recognition from inside and outside the organization. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, a Salesian who served for many years in India’s troubled northeast region and currently chairs the FABC’s Office of Evangelization, is widely quoted for advocating an approach that involves “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia.”

FABC X Menamparampil Capalla

Indian Archbishop Thomas Meamparampil [front leftmost] sits next to retired Filipino Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, Dec. 2012, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

In the same spirit of dialogue, FABC-sponsored Radio Veritas Asia  today broadcasts programs with Gospel and moral values that attract non-Christian listeners. The station’s program director says its Myanmar service’s Burmese-language section listeners are predominantly Buddhists.

Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Asian Conference on the Family 2014, Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC documents have detailed an approach to evangelization through dialogue at three levels: with a people’s culture (inculturation), with a country’s religions (interreligious dialogue), and dialogue with the poor.

Subic,NJ Viehland

Indigenous Aeta youth at Franciscan sisters’-run school in Zambales, Philippines / NJ Viehland Photos

Children share corn Philippines Ed Gerlock

Philippines children share corn / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

Fruits and challenges

 The FABC has explored various visions of how to deliver the Gospel to Asia. Apart from its Central Secretariat, it addresses regional concerns in a more focused way largely through its nine offices. Each of them shines the spotlight on a particular concern: evangelization, human development, theological concerns, interreligious dialogue, social communication, education and faith formation, clergy, consecrated life, and laity and family.

 Over the years, the FABC offices have organized activities addressing concerns related to the formation of basic communities, and the situation of youth and women. Last year, it conducted a seminar on climate change and produced FABC Climate Change Declaration.

Legarda BEC prayer by NJ Viehland

BEC members of Legarda urban poor community pray the rosary before meeting to discuss their housing and relocation concerns / NJ Viehland Photos

Marikina, NJ Viehland

Flood in Marikina, NJ Viehland Photos

“The most important fruit of the FABC so far is the gathering of all the bishops of Asia and providing them with a venue where they could share joys and problems,” Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the emeritus archbishop of Manila who worked with the former FABC commission on the missions, said in an Aug. 25 interview before the assembly.

FABC X / NJ Viehland

from left Cardinal Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh, Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampiln and Philippines retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales who served as Pope Benedict XVI’s papal legate in Vietnam, 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC offices organize seminars and formation programs of various types and content, including some that are called Bishops’ Institutes. Many involve exposure trips to host countries. Cardinal Rosales quoted fellow bishops from India and Indonesia who expressed appreciation for such trips, especially those whose dioceses cover areas troubled by armed conflict. He also cited problems with clergy in areas where local Churches could use the FABC’s help. “Without the FABC, individual local Churches would find it hard to solve problems that are shared by other Churches,” he said.

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region on in Muslim Mindanao under Moro National Liberation Front leaders joined celebrations for the birthday of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in Cotabato City and his confirmation as cardinal / NJ Viehland Photos

The cardinal also acknowledged the help that the FABC offers in the formation of priests. “Instead of sending seminarians to Rome and other places in Europe, we were able to arrange through our contact in the FABC further studies of Asian priests and training of seminarians in the Philippines and other countries,” he pointed out.

Theologians have praised the scope and depth of theological reflection documented in FABC publications and FABC Papers. The challenge Father Felix Wilfred presented in volume 1 of the book “For All the Peoples of Asia,” remains “implementing the grand vision of the FABC.”

Pabillo, Egidio / NJ Viehland Photos

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila with lecturer in Islam Abdulhusin Kashi at Sant’ Egidio-organized anti-death penalty dialogue in Mandaluyong City, 2014/ NJ Viehland Photos

Change has already been “very large,” Father Arevalo observed. “I have seen the changes and I am happy with the changes. Now we have many bishops who are very much alive to the problems of the country. Before, it was always in the devotional area only. Not that that is bad. It is very good. But it is not enough anymore in the modern world,” he said.

The renowned theologian acknowledges it is a waste to keep valuable FABC theology in books. “The books have to be read. The books have to be studied. The books have to be lived. The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.”

END

Catholic schools launch nat’l congress on family set on papal visit

Congress on the Filipino Family SMX NJ Viehland

[l-r] Dennis Salvador SMX Convention Director of sales, Dexter Deyto VP/Gen. Manager signing with Miriam’s Rose Bautista, Jose Arellano, OIC Executive Director of CEAP, Maricel Salapantan, MC High School Family Councilpresident. / NJ Viehland Photos

Updated Nov. 19, 2014

Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll College), has teamed up with Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) member schools and ABS-CBN media network to convene the National Congress on the Filipino Family.

The national congress is slated on Jan. 16-17 coinciding with Pope Francis’ Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines, but is not included in the Pope’s itinerary.

The congress to launched today supports the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that closed in Rome Oct. 19 on the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. “It aims to highlight the voice of the laity in discussion of what actually takes place within the family,” organizers said in their press release. 

Miriam College High School principal Edizon Fermin, Adviser of the Executive Council National Congress on the Filipino Family said organizers hope to be as open and inclusive as possible. The congress will gather a broad range of participants, including same-sex couples who have raised families, “housebands” who have shifted from the traditional roles of household men, career-oriented couples juggling work with parenting, teenaged mothers abandoned by the fathers of their children, separated parents with custody of their children, children orphaned by soldier parents, children growing up in the digital world. These are also topics to be discussed in engaging talks and workshops.

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family convened by school family councils, PTA particularly from Catholic Schools - NJ Viehland Photos

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family convened by school family councils, PTA particularly from Catholic Schools – NJ Viehland Photos

Fermin presented last September the congress concept paper to Cardinal Tagle which Fermin said was drafted primarily by parents’ associations during the cardinal’s Theological Hour lecture on the 2014 synod at Loyola School of Theology.

Related post

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas: Random thoughts at the close of the synod 

Synod on the Family: Commentary by Hector Welgampola

 

 

A Synod on the Family! But where are the families? – Commentary

Muntinlupa prison,NJ Viehland

Maximum security prison chapel, Muntinlupa City                        – NJ Viehland Photos

 

Latin hymns are a distant memory today. They had been thrown out with liturgical solemnity. Nonetheless, a few sacred masterpieces remain etched deep in people’s psyche. “O esca viatorum” is one such hymn with a sacramental impress. 

That Eucharistic song reminds us of how Jesus broke bread as esca viatorum — wayfarers’ food – with two disciples en route to Emmaus. The manna-like role of the Eucharist was especially evident at the Last Supper.

Sustenance to the harried

When Jesus shared bread with his Apostles, he was not unaware of the imminent betrayal by Judas or the denial by Peter. Jesus communed with them, nonetheless. He was not unaware that almost all of his fellowship members would desert him that same night. Yet, he also knew such communing would sustain most of them in faith — food for the onward journey.

That healing effect of the Sacrament of love may have been very much in Pope Francis’s thoughts when he addressed Eucharistic congress organizers at September-end. He spoke of the Eucharist’s role “in bearing hope, forgiveness, healing and love to all in need, in particular to the poor, the disinherited and the oppressed …walking with them in search of an authentic human life in Christ Jesus.”

Walking with people?

Sadly, the great Sacrament’s role in “walking with” people on their search through life’s problems has been thwarted often by efforts to distort the Eucharist into a disciplinary tool. The ongoing debate about denying Communion to couples in troubled marriages is an example of such intervention.

Already, some laypersons have been driven away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation by abuse of the confessional or its reduction to a disciplinary tribunal. Such misadventures should caution pastors against denying the Eucharist to some faithful just when they need the Sacrament for spiritual sustenance in fellowship.

Marikina, by NJ Viehland

Mission sending, Couples for Christ, Marikina                                          – NJ Viehland Photos

Much evident vacuum

Some theologians’ efforts to distract the upcoming synod with disciplinary issues are not unlike half-century-ago moves to hijack Church renewal with cosmetic liturgical reform.

The Synod on the Family is already hassled with lack of genuine lay participation. Very much like earlier synods on family and laity, this assembly too appears to be overcrowded with bishops and experts. Hence, it is likely to ventilate perceived views on family issues more than the genuine views of families. In fairness to Christian families, such an unrepresentative assembly should not be further abused as a referendum on divorce.

A lesson for the next synod

Providentially, this two-week synod is to be followed up next year by a month-long synod on family-related matters. The experiences of the upcoming assembly should encourage Church leaders to provide for genuine representation of families at the follow-up synod. Such a synod with active participation of families should be left free to discuss real problems troubling modern families. Also, families should be left free to find faith-based solutions suitable to their specific cultural realities.

No doubt, such a family synod would need wise counsel, not impositions, from pastoral fora experienced in “walking with” families in the Eucharistic role noted in the earlier cited papal discourse. Regional family ministries and regional episcopal bodies will be more competent to offer such counsel than quirky lobbies with a kink to tamper with the ethos of local family life. 

END

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

CBCP President’s Tribute to teachers on World Teachers’ Day 2014

Student from Aeta tribe in Subic returned to St. Francis school in Subic to teach Aeta students - by NJ Viehland

Student from Aeta tribe in Subic returned to St. Francis school in Subic to teach Aeta students – by NJ Viehland

HOLY AND HEROIC TEACHERS
In the Year of the Laity

Tribute to Teachers during World Teachers’ Day
October 5, 2014

Dear People of God:

If you wish, you can be taught; if you are willing to listen, you will learn; if you give heed, you will be wise. Frequent the company of the elders; whoever is wise, stay close to him. Be eager to hear every godly discourse; let no wise saying escape you. If you see a man of prudence, seek him out; let your feet wear away his doorstep! Reflect on the precepts of the LORD, let his commandments be your constant meditation; then he will enlighten your mind, and the wisdom you desire he will grant. (Sirach 6:32-37)

Parents as first teachers

Parents are the primary teachers of faith and morals. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223)

And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39-40)

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years… Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God (CCC, 2226). Jesus grew up in the city of Nazareth where there was no formal schooling, Nazareth became his first school with Mary and Joseph his first teachers. Even without formal schooling, just from the lives of witnessing by his parents, Jesus was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him. After all, children learn from what they see.
We do know that the education of a child does not end in the home. It has always been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Thus, the parents must exercise their right to choose a school for their children that will best help them in their task as Christian educators (CCC, 2229).

Teachers as formators of character and competence

Children grow in faith and wisdom when nurtured by proper education. Proper education as a supplement for the formation in the home must be given well in the schools. This includes having the best possible teachers. “The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, they reveal the Christian message not only by word, but also by every gesture of their behaviour.” (The Catholic School, 43) These teachers educate not only the mind but also the heart. 

Teachers are shapers of competence and character. They never deliver mediocrity, only excellence. They come to class prepared and on time. In so doing, they model for the students what is expected from each of them. Thus, pushing their students to become responsible and helping them develop their full potentials.

Teachers draw out what is best in students. They are patient in dealing with those who are discipline-challenged and as well as the academically-challenged. They try to find the unique giftedness in each person, drawing out the Christ in them.

Moreover, as formators of competence and character they are witnesses of faith. They take learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Teachers open the eyes of the students to the realities and problems of the world. They show how each we are connected with nature and with one another. “If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain.  And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Teachers then encourage each student to contemplate on how she or he can contribute to the betterment of the world. When they teach, they “bring the experience of their own lives to this social development and social awareness, so that students can be prepared to take their place in society …” (LCIS, 19)

We owe much to teachers. They mold and inspire the young to work for social transformation. The current situation that we have in our country, however, presents a rather bleak condition for those engaged in the teaching profession.

Plight of teachers

Time and again we would hear stories of teachers going abroad for better pay as caregivers or domestic helpers. We have private school teachers migrating to public schools for higher pay because some private school salaries are so low cannot even afford raise a family. Yet even the public school system with a relatively higher salary scale has its share of challenges for teachers. There is the challenge of multi-grade teaching especially in schools located in the hinterlands. Teachers are faced with the difficulty of managing their time handling two classes inside the same classroom divided only by a blackboard to allow the teacher to monitor activities happening on the other side of the room. The tedious task of preparing lessons and the additional task of checking for two grade levels would be very taxing for these teachers. Sometimes, those hired to do multi-grade teaching are even new graduates without any teaching experience and yet, they persevere in with their work. There are also principals who even use part of their salaries just to improve the conditions of the schools under their care – true stewards in the service of the providing education for the nation. We have volunteer catechists who give religious instruction in the public schools without any pay at all.

There are also teachers, both in the public and private sector (those in small mission schools), who travel hours on end to scale mountains and cross rivers before they can reach the schools. Some schools do not have the proper amenities, with buildings that are ready to collapse in the next natural disaster. Some do not have electricity and therefore are not conducive to learning but the teachers continue to persevere anyway and make do with the available resources. There are those who have dedicated themselves for the education of the Indigenous People away from the cities. This would mean that they would be away from their families for days just so they could deliver education.

Teachers as heroes and saints

Teachers prepare for class, undergo ongoing training for their discipline, build community with other teachers, and continue to be formed by the church. Outside the school, they have families to raise on their own and sometimes their salaries are not enough to support their families. Even in the face of the seemingly dire situations that we find these educators in, they persist in their vocation because they believe in the cause of education, because they know that education gives hope and leads to social transformation. These educators are the true missionaries who “fully respond to all of its demands, secure in the knowledge that their response is vital for the construction and ongoing renewal of the earthly city, and for the evangelization of the world.” (LCIS, 37)

Teachers are challenged to be brave amidst the turbulent times. They are called to holiness and heroism. They look to the teacher par excellence, Jesus Christ. Jesus never rejected the title teacher. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.” [John 13:13]. He spoke with authority. He was a great communicator of the vision of the Kingdom. Teachers then look to Christ as example. By their witness of the faith and through their example, they make saints and heroes out of their students. They use the discipline of love to lead them to holiness and heroism.

There is no retirement for teachers. Even as employment ends, teachers devote their time as volunteer catechists in public schools, they lead in forming the basic ecclesial communities in parishes. They take active part in their dioceses. They take part in the building of the Kingdom.

Gratitude to Teachers

For this reason, we would like to thank all those who have committed their lives in the teaching profession. We thank them for the service they deliver to our nation by their excellent teaching. They are our heroes. They are the true missionaries. They give without counting the cost. They “develop in themselves, and cultivate in their students, a keen social awareness and a profound sense of civic and political responsibility… committed to the task of forming men and women who will make the ” civilization of love ” a reality.” (LCIS, 19)
We also thank all those who help in one way or another in making the circumstances for our teachers a little better. We thank the Department of Education for trying to close the gap in teacher and student ratio and providing better salaries for the public school teachers. We thank all the school administrators for always looking after the interest of our teachers. We thank parish priests who encourage volunteer catechists to go to public schools and deliver religious instruction.

In as much as we feel the support of government, we ask you to go the extra mile. We call on our legislators and budget personnel to continue to support our education system.

We also call on our brother priests to strengthen catechetical instruction in the public schools within your parishes. Moreover, make your parishes youth friendly. As pastors of souls you are teachers of the faith. Visit the public schools and be present in the youth of the schools, encourage and inspire the young people to choose education as a vocation.

We admonish the young people to love and respect their teachers. They have sacrificed much of their lives to make you responsible members of society. It is our prayer that the best ones among you will find it in your hearts to be teachers.

We appeal to the administrators of the schools to ensure that schools are places of encounter with God; that your students and teachers experience God in your campus. Continue to give your teachers support they need so they can deliver quality education to the students.

Finally, we thank the teachers for your generosity of spirit. We pray that you persevere in the good work that you are doing. Continue to let the face of God shine on you. “May the Lord who began his good work in you will see it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:9).

May Mary mother of all teachers bring us closer to Jesus our only Teacher!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, October 5, 2014, World Teachers’ Day
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Message on Ordination of three new bishops for Hong Kong diocese – Cardinal Filoni

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in a message to Hong Kong Diocese on the ordination of three new auxiliary bishops for the diocese reminds that service in the Church must be seen in the light of faith, which “takes place within the communion of the Church.”

Citing Pope Francis’ first encyclical on faith titled Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), Cardinal Filoni wrote, “In fact, service in the Church must be seen through the eyes of faith, which “is not simply an individual decision, which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship… between the autonomous subject and God… (but) always takes place within the communion of the Church” (Lumen Fidei, 39).

He recalled Pope Francis’ vision of service to Christ and to the Gospel presented in his apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world (Evangelii Gaudium) as demonstration of one’s love for the poor, common good, peace and missionary desire.

Read the full text of  Cardinal Filoni’s message published in the Sept. 6 issue of Sunday Examiner, the weekly news service in the diocese.

 

Update: video – Augustinian Recollects stay in Sierra Leone mission facing Ebola threat

Updated Aug. 21

View video of Interaksyon’s online interview here
Augustinian Recollects in mission in Sierra Leone - Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

Augustinian Recollects in mission with children in Sierra Leone – Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

 Augustinian Recollect missionaries are staying put in their Sierra Leone mission that is under the order’s Philippines Province to offer people there encouragement, accompaniment and help in battling the lethal Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Order announced.

Father Lauro Larlar, Order of Augustinian Recollects Philippines Provincial told Catholic in Asia its Sierra Leone mission members serve in two separate parish communities in the Diocese of Makeni in West and northern Africa, one of the high risk areas of the country for Ebola infection.

“We are appealing to everyone to pray for our brothers in Sierra Leone, for all people working to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, and for people they serve, especially in high-risk places” Father Larlar said on Aug. 18.

By then, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported at least 1,145 people have died from the outbreak of the disease among 2,127 confirmed probable and suspected cases recorded by ministries of health of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The actual number of cases could run much higher, the WHO statement added. 

Father Larlar said the Recollects working in Kambai and Kamalo communities arrived at the decision to stay after they discussed the situation and needs of the people with the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Makeni.

He said four of the missionaries are Filipinos – Brother Jonathan Jamero and Fathers Roy Baluarte, Dennis Castillo and Russell Lapidez. The two other missionaries are Spanish priests Fathers Jose Luis Garayoa and Rene Gonzales.

“They are a young group, with one of the Spanish priests as the eldest – around 60 years old,” Larlar said. “The youngest would be two years ordained, so around 27 or 28 years old. The rest would be around 35-40 years-old.”

Three other Recollect missionaries who were on vacation in the Philippines could not re-enter Sierra Leone because of travel prohibitions, the Provincial added.

African government and airline authorities have restricted travel after cases of Ebola heaemorrhagic fever were reported on the continent. According to WHO Ebola outbreaks’ case fatality rate has reached 90 percent. 

Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests where the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. There is no licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals, WHO added.

Apostolate of presence

Father Larlar said while the missionaries have been watching the crisis for months, they waited for Makeni Apostolic Administrator Xaverian Father Natalio Paganelli to return from Rome so they could discuss with him and other clergy about the situation and needs of the Church in Makeni.

Philippines-based Recollects advisers “simply asked them to first dialogue with the Apostolic Administrator, be sensitive to the needs of the people, and pray for the light of the Holy Spirit. So they gathered, met and prayed until they arrived at this decision,” Father Larlar said.

He said Paganelli gave the missionaries freedom and respected the decision of the group. The missioners decided not to leave because they believe they can help more by remaining with the people, Father Larlar said.

“They are attending to the people, they administer the sacraments, hold daily prayer with the people. That’s what we call the apostolate of presence – so people will feel they are not abandoned,” the Provincial Superior explained.

“People who are exposed to this virus will feel they are accompanied, that the Church suffers with them, the Church works for them,” he added.

Missonary’s experience of outbreak

In a report to their provincial headquarters in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Father Lapidez shares his own experiences and those of people he encounters in missio . 

The missionary said people directly involved in caring for the sick and other sources have noted government’s delayed imposition of strict control of movement of people in the borders of Sierra Leone after the first Ebola infection from Guinea and Liberia were reported. He said he first heard of an outbreak of Ebola infection in April.

People also disregarded warnings against eating monkey or bush meat saying ancestors and elders have eaten these meat over time and they never got sick with Ebola disease.

They only began to recognize the fatal effect of the virus after Sheik Umar Khan, the only virologist in Sierra Leone and the head of the task force fighting EVD outbreak, died from infection last July, Father Lapidez observed. 

Traditional washing or ritual cleansing of dead bodies in people’s homes left family members susceptible to infection, Lapidez added citing the 16 year-old boy who took care of his sick mother then got infected and died of Ebola virus disease.

Later, three medical doctors and over 20 nurses who cared for patients caught the infection and died also. Father Lapidez said poor health facilities and shortage of trained personnel for handling Ebola infected patients contributed to these deaths. Medical staff said they left the work in protest of government’s neglect.

Because of stigma against people infected or suspected to be infected patients turned away from hospitals in favor of traditional healers. As a result, they transmitted the disease to healers, Father Lapidez reported.

He also wrote about family members of a woman who was admitted to a hospital in Freetown and confirmed to be carrying the Ebola virus who tried to forcibly take their relative out of the hospital. In the Ebola treatment Centre at Kenema, a group of people rioted outside the facility after a woman declared that Ebola does not exist.

Mission context

Recollect mission in Sierra Leone started sometime in 1997, but was cut off by the civil war. “After the war, when things were calmer, we returned – around 2004,” Father Larlar recalls.  

The two parish communities Kamabai and Kamalo entrusted to the order are located in the interior isolated areas. “One is 45 minutes drive from the capital, the other is about 2 to 3 hours from the capital depending on the road, whether it’s raining or not,” the Philippines head explained.

The parish has numerous chapels, even though Catholics are the minority. Majority of the population is Muslim, Father Larlar said, adding they live poorly and their relations with the mission have been “very peaceful”.

He said Recollect missionaries were concerned that if they left the people would feel abandoned and rejected because there is no other priests’ community there to take on their work. “Native priests are few. Most of the priests attending to the parishes are religious, many of whom also decided to stay,” Father Larlar said.

“There is so much intramurals among the tribes,” Father Larlar added. For years, the diocese has had no bishop “because they (locals) live there by rules of tribes, and after the bishops’ consecration they wouldn’t let him enter because he comes from a different tribe and hails from southeast of Sierra Leone,” Larlar explained.

Strong tribal practices are evident even at Mass and other Church activities. For example, when the priests celebrate Mass in a chapel, people of various faiths come. “We welcome them because Mass is a gathering of people, and in Africa the people are fond of gatherings. They just do not receive communion,” Father Larlar said.

Holy Spirit’s work

The Order’s head admitted their missionaries’ decision to stay “surprised us.”

“We appreciate and recognize that this must be the work of the Spirit inspiring them. We did not expect this decision. We had told them that if they feel they have to evacuate the place, we are ready to assist them with that.” Instead, “they surprised us and we are very happy with the decision and the readiness to suffer with the people, though we are worried.”

To show support, fellow Recollects in the Philippines keep constant contact with the missionaries. “We assured them of that, and to send financial assistance, just in case they would need more funds.

“Of course we offer our prayers and our sacrifices for them, tell people about their work and ask for their prayers as a way of accompanying our brothers in Sierra Leone,” Father Larlar continued.

END

Read also 

Ebola can’t drive Philippines missionaries from Sierra Leone