Interview : Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, RGS

by NJ Viehland

NJ Viehland Photos

Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon [right] works with Sr. Ailyn Binco in overseeing and coordinating the varied ministries of Religious of the Good Shepherd Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Nuns of the Religious of the Good Shepherd in the Philippines are multi-tasking as their congregation’s members engaged in apostolic work grow fewer and older.

Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, 47, for example, heads the Philippine Province’s Council for Ministry and coordinates its Ruhama Center for girls and women.

In an interview for Global Sisters’ Report (GSR) on Nov. 9, Sr. Borbon described the demands of her assignments. These have failed to overwhelm her, she says, because she has done most of the tasks she faces and past experiences left a rewarding feeling. 

She also counts on learnings from studying for her Masters in Educational Administration at the Ateneo de Manila University and PhD in Educational Leadership and Management at De La Salle University. In the end, Sr. Borbon says, engaging with people, especially young students while  juggling her time between assignments often leaves her feeling “energized.”

As part of the RGS charism, Sr. Borbon felt called upon to revive a program for exploited women after its internationally recognized founder and head, Sister Mary Soledad “Sr. Sol” Perpinan, passed away in 2011. Sr Perpinan had established a network of centers helping women even after rheumatoid arthritis bound her to a wheelchair. 

Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier founded RGS in Angers, France, in 1835 just after the French Revolution to help “morally endangered women and girls.” 

Read more on RGS history

contributed by Ed Gerlock

Women call out to people outside the nightclub where they work in Malate, Manila – contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

The first RGS sisters who arrived in the Philippines in 1912 were Irish nuns sent by boat from Burma (Myanmar) in response to the invitation of the bishop of Lipa in Batangas Province, 51.6 miles (83 kilometers) southeast of Manila. Under RGS sisters in France, Philippines nuns ran schools and ministries in many parts of the country.

After opening a school in Batangas, the nuns established their first Good Shepherd home for endangered women and girls in Manila in 1921. They later opened homes for unwed mothers, prostituted women, battered women, slum dwellers, landless farmers, indigenous groups, overseas contract workers and their families, street children, “the most neglected and oppressed.” The Philippines province was established in 1960. 

Today RGS has grown to be one of the world’s biggest congregations of women with more than 4,000 sisters serving in 73 countries in five continents. On its centennial in 2012 the Philippines Province reported it was running 27 apostolic and contemplative communities in the country. More than 140 apostolic sisters and 25 contemplative sisters were serving in the Philippines.

In 2002 there were a total of 183 Filipino apostolic and contemplative sisters, the Catholic Directory of the Philippines reported. 

Read Part 1 of Q & A with Sr. Borbon published in GSR

Part 2

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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

 

CBCP Document: THE CBCP and the Proposed Restoration of the Death Penalty

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 addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Although appalled by the spate of killings and other heinous crimes in the country, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday rejected calls to revive the death penalty.

Following is the full text of the bishops’ statement issued yesterday by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, CBCP President…

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine has been informed of attempts by advocacy groups to lobby the Legislature for the restoration of the death penalty.

The CBCP must, with full voice, express its position FOR LIFE and AGAINST DEATH. “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Our posture cannot be otherwise. The Gospel we preach is a Gospel of Life, but the position we take is defensible even on non-religious grounds.

AIM OF JUSTICE

Justice DOES NOT DEMAND the death penalty. A mature sense of justice steers as far as possible from retribution in the realization that visiting on an offender the same injury he inflicted on his victim makes matters no better at all for anyone! The aim of justice is the restoration of broken relations and the ruptured social coherence that follow from crime. Executing a human person does not contribute to any of these goals of justice. Neither can it be argued that the supreme penalty is necessary to vindicate a legal order. In fact, it is a weak and retrogressive legal order that calls for the execution of offenders for its vindication!

There is something terribly self-contradictory about the death penalty, for it is inflicted precisely in social retaliation to the violence unlawfully wielded by offenders. But in carrying out the death penalty, the State assumes the very posture of violence that it condemns!

CRUEL AND INHUMANE

Death penalty is cruel and inhumane in two senses.

 First, the terrible anxiety and psychological distress that come on one who awaits the moment of execution constitute the cruel and inhuman punishment that most legal systems today proscribe, including the Constitution of our country. It has been rightly said that the anticipation of impending death is more terrible a torture than suffering death itself!

Second, the members of the family of the condemned persons, many times including children, are, for their life-times, stigmatized as members of the family of an executed person, bearing with them the price of a crime they never committed.

 IMPERFECT JUSTICE SYSTEM

A most important consideration is the imperfection of our judicial system. While the CBCP has every respect for respectable judges, the fact is that the judicial system — including the process of evaluating and weighing evidence — is, like all human systems, liable to error. But the death penalty, once executed, is irreversible and no repentance or regret can ever make up for the horrible injustice of a person wrongfully executed. There is furthermore the sadder fact that some judges, betraying the dignity and nobility of their calling, allow extra-legal considerations to taint their judgments, rendering judicial disposition of cases less reliable still. Once more, we must make clear that the CBCP does not by any means intend to cast aspersions on the judiciary of our country and in fact calls on all our people to turn to the courts for the redress of grievances.

INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENT

Finally, the Philippines is a State-Party of the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the principal obligation we assumed under this international agreement is to abolish the death penalty. We cannot and should not renege on our international obligations, especially when these are not only lawful but moral. Pacta sunt servanda is not only a legal principle. It is key ethical imperative as well!

 From Betania Retreat House, Tagaytay City, July 2, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

 

Interview: Franciscan Sister Crecensia Lucero, human rights defender

[updated June 21, 4:21 a.m.]

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sister Crecensia Lucero reflected on her ministry with victims of human rights violations spanning more than 40 years. The journey she traced is marked by work she and young sisters and lay partners did to serve needs of political prisoners and their families during years when the country was placed under military rule (1972-1981) and years of “restored democracy” that followed. The road has brought her to an expanded ministry thriving in  partnerships with farmers struggling to transform exploitative systems, indigenous peoples and members of other sectors collaborating to end people’s suffering due to various forms of “injustice ” around Asia.

In an interview with Global Sisters Report (GSR), Sister Lucero explained challenges, successes and “heartaches” in the history of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD). As co-chair, she describes how evolving challenges are impacting perspectives and strategies of her social justice ministry and the charism and mission of her congregation. Beyond words and ideas, however, she demonstrated these concepts and strategies in various dialogues and training seminars GSR covered earlier in the year.

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents' opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents’ opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Read full interview published by GSR. GSR is a project of National Catholic Reporter that reports how consecrated women participate in the mission of the Church.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) established TFD in 1974 to assist political prisoners when the “dictatorship” of the late President Ferdinand Marcos banned organizations. TFD provided moral spiritual, legal and material support to prisoners and their families. Franciscan Sister Mariani Dimaranan, an ex-political detainee, directed the organization until 1989, when Lucero took over as director. Sister  Dimaranan continued as chair until her death in 2005 at the age of 81 years.

In 2012, Sister Lucero was again nominated co-chair of the Task Force’s Board of Trustees with Order of Carmelites Philippines Father Christian “Toots” Buenafe up to this year.

 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at First Gathering of Metro Manila Clergy [text]

By N.J. Viehland

POWER PLANT MALL, Makati City, PHILIPPINES – Let me share my transcript of the homily of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila for the closing Mass for the Oct. 3 First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila. It ended with priests singing “you are the answer to my lonely prayer.” This is what Cardinal Tagle said the priests are to their flock. He asked priests not to disappoint Church members.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila's homily for the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”,  October 3, 2013 celebrated with some 130 priests bishops in the chapel of Rockwell Tent, Power Plant offered points for priests' reflection of themes during the days activities at the Makati City mall, including mission of the Church, servant priesthood and discipleship. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila’s homily for the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 celebrated with some 130 priests bishops in the chapel of Rockwell Tent, Power Plant offered points for priests’ reflection of themes during the days activities at the Makati City mall, including mission of the Church, servant priesthood and discipleship. NJ Viehland Photo

Text of homily:

The Levites in the first reading declare to the people today is holy, we must not be saddened. I can only say, “Amen. Today is truly holy, and there is no room for a sad face and a sad heart.” I guess we can spend the whole night, if we ever fall asleep tonight, and even the whole day tomorrow reflecting on the significance of today. It’s only around 3:00 and already I can consider these past hours a real feast: a feast for all the senses – a feast for the mind, the spirit and the heart.

We have been fed not only by deep thoughts and wonderful words, not only by good food, but also the witness of the nobility of the human spirit – even through jokes – even through those two crazy men (see following photo)

Comedian Michael Angelo Lobrin, an ex-seminarian and author of Laugh with God [left] with Comedian/musician Brod Pete sent priests, bishops and guests at the Rockwell Tent in Makati on Oct. 3 for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” laughing for about an hour with their jokes and songs, including commentaries on seminary life and Philippine culture, language and society. N.J. Viehland Photo

Comedian Michael Angelo Lobrin, an ex-seminarian and author of Laugh with God [left] with Comedian/musician Brod Pete sent priests, bishops and guests at the Rockwell Tent in Makati on Oct. 3 for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” laughing for about an hour with their jokes and songs, including commentaries on seminary life and Philippine culture, language and society. N.J. Viehland Photo

Somehow I feel the Spirit could work through them. (laughter) And so, I don’t think I need to add to the possible spiritual indigestion that we might get.

But this Mass being offered for us and for all the ordained ministers of the Church and the readings  for today give us valuable lessons. Pardon me if I don’t expound on them. I will let the Holy Spirit just speak to us regarding these thoughts.

It is very clear from what we heard from Vatican II, from Bishop Mylo and the reflection on the Gospel presented to us also by Bishop Nes Ongtiocothat from the Bible up to the recent Ecumenical Council, there is a consistency of insight, of doctrine, even, that we the ordained inherited the apostolic mission. As Jesus sent the apostles so we are sent. And if we want to understand better what it means for us to act in persona Christi capitis,  [In the person of Christ, the head] I think we have to go to those very clear words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. If I your Lord and Master washed your feet, then you should wash each other’s feet.”

We can only act in the name of Christ in the area of mission and ministry. Yes there is sacred authority, but without mission and ministry, acting in persona Christi could end up being an ideology and not anymore the grace of ordination. We know from the history of the Church how fatal it would be whenever acting in the name of Christ, in the person of Christ is located on sheer power forgetting the sending, the mission, and the call to serve.

And that’s precisely the Gospel for today . They were sent. Aside from the 12, another 72. And let me just indicate another few things for our reflection.

First, he sent them in pairs – sacramental brotherhood. Yes, the calling and the sending are intimately personal, but because they are personal, they open our hearts to other people. And so the calling is also communal. We cannot walk alone. There is no room for lone rangers in Jesus’ view of the ministry. There are only pairs… sent in pairs.

More than 130 priests from the Metropolitan See of Manila concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle  the closing Mass for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” on October 3, 2013 at the Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

More than 130 priests from the Metropolitan See of Manila concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the closing Mass for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” on October 3, 2013 at the Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

“Kaya kung minsan, ang mga pari who cannot live and work in pairs, ang solution natin pag hiwalayin. Baka hindi tayo sumusunod sa mga turo ni Hesus. Parang gusto ko sabihin, [ That’s why sometimes, with priests who cannot live and work in pairs, our solution is to separate them. We might be violating the teachings of Jesus. I want to tell them…] ‘Work it out! Work it out, you were sent in pairs.'” Who are we to violate Jesus’ way of sending?

The second point is he sent them in pairs as lambs among wolves. He did not send wolves among lambs. The lamb of God sends his ministers and missioners as lambs. In persona Christi . If he is a lamb, then those who act in his person should also be lambs. In the way Jesus describes being a lamb, it is total vulnerability. No body bag, no sandals, not greeting anyone on the way because it is not my purpose to form a fans’ club. I have only my companion and the message of peace of the kingdom. And when you have your brother minister and the message of the Gospel you have all that you need.

Third is part of being lambs and laborers is eating and drinking what is offered to you for the laborer deserves his pay. Normally, we interpret this part, “for the laborer deserves his pay” in terms of we can demand something. But in the teaching of Jesus, “the laborer deserves his pay” means if you are given something to eat and drink, eat it and drink it and do not go to another house that will offer a better meal or a better drink. That is what you deserve – what the house is able to offer. Para bang ano ito? Good news ba ito o ano? [It’s like what’s this? Is this good news or what?] But it’s in the Gospel. I cannot change this.

It is surprising that what is often used to recall a principle of justice – a laborer deserves his payment – is actually, in the mind of Christ as “Whatever the people could give you for payment in terms of food or drink, accept . You do not set it. What they can offer, that is what you deserve.”

And finally, in the first reading, it is not enough to imitate Ezra in proclaiming the word of God to people. I think we should also imitate the people. They open themselves to the word of God and the people upon hearing the word of God were in tears. They were weeping when they heard the words of the Lord. They were mesmerized by the words that they had missed during their exile. And they probably repented for their lack of fidelity to the word.

I ask myself, countless of times I have been opening the book of the law of Moses, proclaiming. But how many times have I wept listening to the word of God. Have I allowed my heart to be vulnerable to this two-edged sword called the word of God? Do I allow myself to be affected by the word of God? Do I allow the word of God to judge me, to disturb me, to cause me discomfort, to lead me to repentance so that I do not only proclaim. I also listen and I am judged by the word of God – another form of vulnerability.

Let us thank God for the gift of this mission and ministry to ordained life. Let us appreciate our companion priests for we were sent in pairs. Let us be like lambs – vulnerable – if you want to embrace the person of the lamb of God who was persecuted by wolves.

Let us be simple, content with what people have to offer. What they can give us is what we probably deserve – a different type of measuring what we deserve.

And finally, we are not just proclaimers of the word, but real servants, hearers of the word, allowing ourselves to be hit, to be touched unto tears by the word of God.

We said this is a holy day. We should not be sad. I can see Jesus really happy and it goes with this: he said to them, to the disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few. So ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.” We are mysteriously those laborers. But we are not just sent. We are the answer to the prayer directed to the Master. “Send laborers.” And the prayer was answered through us.

When I was much younger, there was the song – You are the Answer to my Lonely Prayer.  Yung nakakaalam po paki kanta lang yung tono… [Those who know it, please sing the tune] For the sake of the young ones. (laughter)

“You are the answer to my lonely prayer. You are an angel from above…”

(priests sang part of the song …)

We call the priesthood a gift, and for many people a priest or pairs of priests sent to the community is the answer to their lonely prayer. And then they see us, we are like angels sent from above. Let us not fail Jesus. May we be truly answers to the prayer sent by the community to the Lord of the Harvest. May it never be told that we will pray again because God sent the wrong answer. Let us be the answer to people’s prayer to God.

END

* Part II of III
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