Church in Asia: the importance of women’s voices – Interview

Theologian Agnes Brazal, PhD by NJ Viehland

Theologian Agnes Brazal, PhD by NJ Viehland

Women theologians in Asia have been sustaining the process of reflection and dialogue on feminist issues and concerns through conferences, symposia, artistic exhibits and publications.

Out of this movement came an association of theologians called Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA) that formed 12 years ago. Theologian Agnes Brazal, director of the Office for Research and Publications and coordinator of the graduate program at St. Vincent School of Theology in Quezon City was among participants of the first conference, and has served as joint treasurer since 2005.

The association is calling for papers and presentations for its Seventh Biennial Conference in Manila in January 2016. The conference will be the association’s first under Pope Francis, who has issued a call to make room for a more incisive role for women in the church.

Read Brazal’s description of the founding of EWA and discussion of the importance of feminist voices in the Church.

In 2013, Pope Francis issued his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), detailing the church's primary mission of evangelization in the modern world. / NJ Viehland Photos      [ View video on the exhortation by Rome Reports]

In 2013, Pope Francis issued his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), detailing the church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world. / NJ Viehland Photos [ View video on the exhortation by Rome Reports]

Bishops’ Conference president hails national basketball team, values in sports

Gilas Pilipinas vs Senegal - screengrab YouTube

Gilas Pilipinas vs Senegal – screengrab YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cD36kglSyE

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) praised the Philippines basketball team that competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain for their teamwork, for fighting fairly and spreading goodwill and hope.

Archbishop Villegas’ statement was posted on Veritas 846 website Sept. 11, two days after the GILAS Pilipinas contingent arrived in Manila from winning one out of five games in its group. The team that won in overtime against Senegal 81-79 after losing to Argentina, Croatia, Greece  and Puerto Rico is preparing to leave for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, minus its towering American-born center, Andray Blatche, a naturalized Filipino.

Gilas in Tagalog language translates to gallantry or mettle among other things in English.

Read the full statement of CBCP’s president On the Lessons from GILAS PILIPINAS

For the first time in forty years, a Filipino basketball team, GILAS, a name that has captured the imagination as well as carried the hopes of our countrymen, represented the country in the FIBA competitions. We may not have reaped a harvest of victories, but GILAS certainly won the admiration of many, Filipinos and foreigners alike.

The CBCP commends the members of the team and joins an ecstatic nation in hailing their admirable endeavour! Our victories have been sweet, our defeats, honorable!

FAIRNESS. Sports can and should be a promising vehicle of evangelization, for fairness is its fundamental rule. Fairness that goes by the sublime name of justice is the fundamental aspiration of our nation. It is the hope of the CBCP that as the nation understood the necessity that games be fairly played, it also learned the precious lesson that whether in the life of the individual or of the community or of the State, things ought to be fair just at all times.

UNITY. The players came from different nations — different in race, language, belief and ideology — but these differences did not stand in the way of the camaraderie and the sportsmanship that gave sports-lovers the world over a welcome respite from the cruel realities that hound us daily. We can overcome the differences that set us apart when we set our hearts to it. When we choose to be friendly towards each other, even if we must compete, we can all have fun. Happier and fuller lives come with the acceptance of others and with a healthy respect for differences. GILAS and the other teams that joined FIBA learned this. So did we!

GILAS has sowed seeds of goodwill, understanding and friendship. Let all nurture their flourishing with hearts of goodwill, thoughts of peace and feet firmly treading the ways of friendship. Mabuhay ang GILAS!

September 11, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
CBCP President

No surrender of “love of God” in educating Filipinos – DepEd Sec De La Salle Bro. Luistro

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education - FaceBook Photo

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education – FaceBook Photo

Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) denied reports that the department he leads has surrendered its vision of learners formed to be “God-loving,” as claimed in various media reports on the department’s revised statement of vision, mission and values (VMV.)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the same day  issued a statement lamenting the silence about God in the reworded version of the  vision statement.

Brother Luistro explained the new statement of the department’s VMV in a post on the DepEd’s website Friday, Aug. 29. He stressed that the statement of vision, mission and values must be taken in its entirety. Doing so would show that the term “God-loving” remains as a value that the department seeks to promote as stated in the word “Maka-Diyos”, its synonym in Filipino language.

He said specifying the formation of students who are  God-loving, pro-people, pro-environment and patriotic allows values education teachers to develop modules that will form persons of integrity who live out their faith and convictions, while avoiding pietism or ritualism.

“We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners.”

He also affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. He said the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue.

Brother Luistro’s complete statement reads:

On 4 September 2013, I released DepEd Order No. 36 s. 2013 in order to update the Agency’s directions and further strengthen our capacity to fulfill our constitutional mandate.  The review of our Vision and Mission was anchored on the Filipino Core Values of *Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa as articulated in Section 40, Republic Act 8491. [*pro-God, pro-human being, pro-environment, patriotic]

Recent media reports have mistakenly attributed to me claiming, “the God-loving phrase was removed from the department’s vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles”. I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false.

Other articles refer to a Christian advocacy group whose spokesperson “aired the group’s dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd’s part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector.”  Other local news articles referred to a group claiming to have pressured the Department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.  I have not had the occasion to interact with any of these groups on this matter.

As early as 2010, discussions on the revision of the VMV were initiated within the department. A series of consultations was conducted with key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.

It is important that the DepEd’s new VMV be regarded as one document to be appreciated in its entirety.

The term “God-loving” is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity.  It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.

We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered. We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners. We affirm the long-established constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. We also affirm that the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue, as this is a part of learning to live together.

************

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia 

CBCP President on the 2013 Version of the Vision Statement of the Department of Education

The Department of Education recently re-worded its Vision Statement.  In the past, the department tasked with the formation of our children once envisioned “functionally literate and God-fearing Filipinos”.  Unfortunately, in its 2013 version, there is no more mention of God, nor of the salutary fear of Him that, Scripture tells us, is the beginning of all wisdom.

A vision statement is not an empty platitude.  It guides the articulation of policy.  It orientates plans of action.  While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”  This is what Vatican II teaches in “Gravissimum Educationis“. 

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. - NJ Viehland Photos

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. – NJ Viehland Photos

The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not.  Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as’benevolent neutrality’: the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy.

We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full! 

This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns.  It is a challenge of particular urgency in this, the Year of the Laity. Stand up for God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

August 29, 2014, Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS   

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan  

President, CBCP

************

At least 20 million students enrolled in public pre-school to high school in school year 2011-2012 and 3 million reportedly enrolled in private schools for those levels.

 
 

 

Vietnam’s new bishop of My Tho acknowledges laity’s role in vibrant Church

Catholic women's groups members prepare to welcome a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) assigned to visit their parish during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc on Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic women’s groups members prepare to welcome a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) assigned to visit their parish during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc on Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Newly appointed Vietnamese Bishop of My Tho, Peter Nguyen Van Kham, has acknowledged the need for formation for lay Catholics who he said must play  a “greater role” in the Church.

Laity bring about vibrancy for the life of the Church, Bishop Kham, former Ho Chi Minh diocesan pastoral center director, was quoted saying in a report of Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Bishop Kham reportedly shared this reflection on his ministry in Ho Chi Minh in an email to CNA after Pope Francis appointed the former auxiliary of Ho Chi Minh as bishop of My Tho in the Mekong Delta on July 26.

Read CNA’s full report on Vietnamese bishop joyful to lead, evangelize new flock

My Tho diocese covers the provinces of Long An and Tiền Giang and two thirds of Đồng Tháp province spread across a land area of 9,262 square kilometers, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam reported on its website.

As of December 31, 2010, the diocese’s 120,300 Catholics among its total population of 4,776,036 were living in areas within its 85 parishes and 34 subparishes and mission stations. Some  124 priests, 242 religious, 41 seminarians, 10 seminary candidates and 366 catechists serve in the diocese.

Xuan Loc was created in 1965 from places under the pastoral care of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. In 2010, more than 35 percent of the 2.34 million people living in the diocese had been baptized Catholics. Today, more than 1,700 women religious are helping in Church ministries diocesan officials say. Many of them contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Many of the thousands of Vietnamese religious women contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

 

Empowering Asia’s laity – new book

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.


Charles Bertille, the former director of Institute of Formation Fondacio Asia (IFF Asia) recently published his book “Empowering Asia’s Laity”.
Missiologist Father James Kroeger of the Maryknoll Fathers who has spent most of his 40 years as a missionary  in Asia based in the Philippines, described the book as a “labor of love, written by a dedicated Christian layman who has a deep missionary commitment, particularly to the emergence of a dynamic laity within the local Churches in Asia.”
Father Kroeger found in the book solid theology, Asian perspectives on ecclesiology, concrete approaches to evangelization, a vision of ministries–especially lay ministries–in the Churches. The book also offers insights into formation for missionary evangelization, Father Kroeger added.
Since 1997, the American missioner has taught and been engaged in formation work at the Jesuits’ Loyola School of Theology and Mother of Life Catechetical Institute in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. He also has served as a visiting professor at the Major Seminary in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bertille’s book is sold at Claretian Communications Inc. in the Philippines and Herald Publications SDN BHD in Kuala Lumpur. Proceeds from sales will go to formation of laity and youth.
Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

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Nuns reach out to sex workers in fight against prostitution in the Philippines

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaiban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. - NJ Viehland Photos

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaniban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. – NJ Viehland Photos

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries have been encountering sex workers in the field (bars and brothels) for years. The sisters reach out to women and offer them love and listening and, if they want, shelter and a way out of the business, which is driven by poverty. They are also working to prevent entry into prostitution by educating women in rural areas, and they recently have been talking about their work at other dioceses so that the efforts can expand.

Read full report

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Priests apologize for shaming of unwed mom

The priest who harangued and scolded an unwed teenage mother during the baptism of her baby has apologized and his religious order has promised to discipline the priest.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach's letter of apology.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach’s letter of apology.

The baby’s grandmother recorded the incident on her cellphone and later uploaded it to her Facebook page. She also wrote about the humiliation the priest subjected her daughter to.

Read full report

The baptizing priest, Father Romeo Obach belongs to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) – Cebu Province  which issued on July 8 its statement on Fr. Obach, CSsR

Following is the full text of the Redemptorists-Cebu statement :

CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS
Provincial Superior
Cebu Province
Provincial Office
Don Ramon Aboitiz St.
6000 Cebu City, Philippines

1. We, the Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu are deeply saddened by the incident that happened on July 6, 2014 at the Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. The said incident involved one of our confreres, Fr. Romeo Obach, CSsR. We were made aware that the incident was videoed and uploaded on social media and has since gone viral.

As a religious community we DO NOT CONDONE such an UNACCEPTABLE ACT as it is contrary to the Charism and Mission for which our Congregation was founded – compassion especially to the poor and the most abandoned. We sincerely feel for the family and to them we extend our heartfelt apology.

2. An INTERNAL INVESTIGATION is underway. Rest assured that appropriate SANCTIONS on the part of the involved will be applied once the investigation is complete so that justice may prevail.

3. We will reach out the aggrieved family at the appropriate and most opportune time to address this particular matter. We respect their situation at the moment and sympathize with their hurt and anger over this matter.

4. The Redemptorist Community has always upheld the rights of the poor and disenfranchised since the first missionaries arrived here in Cebu in 1906. And this has been our conviction through the decades. It is but unfortunate that the incident involving Fr. Obach occurred, as he has been a good missionary for many years. He has served in many capacities and various places heeding the challenges of the congregation, yet he is also human and prone to lapse of judgment and imprudence.

5. We appeal for calm and sobriety from everyone even as we try to assess both the outcome of the investigation of our confrere and at the same time reach out to the family. We appreciate that if you have further concerns, address them to the SUPERIOR of the Redemptorists.

6. May this also serve as a reminder to us in the religious life and the clergy of our role as pastors: that we are called to serve and not be served and to offer our lives for all (cf. Mt. 20:28). On behalf of the Redemptorist Community of Cebu, we extend our sincere and humble apologies.

Fr. Alfonso Suico, Jr, C.Ss.R
Media Liaison