Mother Teresa of Calcutta successor, Sister Nirmala, dies

MC, NJ Viehland

MC sisters join Lament service in Paco Church, Manila,2013. – NJ Viehland Photos

Sister Nirmala Joshi, who had succeeded Mother Teresa as the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity in 1997  passed away around midnight June 23. She was 80.

The nun has been suffering from a heart ailment, The Indian Express reported.  Her remains will be kept at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Kolkata until her funeral on June 25 afternoon.

The Missionaries of Charity under Sister Mary Prema Pierick’s lead since 2009 continue to care for the homeless and dying in Kolkata. The congregation that began as a small community with 12 members in Calcutta currently has over 4,500 Sisters running orphanages, AIDS hospices, charity centres worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America, Europe and Australia.

After Pope Paul VI granted in 1965 Mother Teresa’s request to expand her congregation to other countries it established its first house outside India in Venezuela. Others followed in Rome and Tanzania, and eventually in many countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe, including Albania.

The first home of the Missionaries of Charity in the United States was established in the South Bronx, New York. In the USA, the Missionaries of Charity are affiiated with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a body of female religious, representing 20 percent of American nuns.

By 1996, the congregation was operating 517 missions in more than 100 countries. Today, more than one million co-workers and donations from ordinary people reportedly support the group.

In the Philippines mission, 53 foreigners and 50 Filipinas are among some 138 members a Catholic Directory published by Claretian Publications reports.. Six are contemplative sisters. Some 116 Filipinas are serving abroad, and the rest care for sick and malnourished children and destitute adults in centers located in five archdiocese and eight dioceses around the country.

 

 

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Religious sisters and other communities in Nepal shift to earthquake relief

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are among 15 women religious congregations, most of them based in India, engaged in various ministries in Nepal. They have all survived the quake and have joined relief work.

Jose Kavi, editor of mattersindia.com , reports that the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and other religious communities in Nepal have shifted their earthquake response to relief. The India-based website publishes news and information on Church in South Asia 

What exactly are the Nazareth Sisters doing and who are other India-based communities of religious women who were serving in Nepal when the 7.9-magnitude earthquake shook the country on April 25 killing more than 5,000 people? 

This story and photos on Global Sisters Report

 

 

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.

Sri Lanka Commentary: Blessed Joseph Vaz canonization

Joseph Vaz devotion card

Contributed photo

Denigrating the holiest event Lankan Catholics awaited for 303 years

Sri Lanka has decided to hold a presidential election on Jan. 8 – just one week before Pope Francis visits the country. Such advancing of an election, not due for another two years, has deeply hurt the country’s Catholics.

Catholics invited the pope to canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, the country’s first saint, not for a State visit. The event was set alongside the saint’s Jan. 17 death anniversary. Catholics wished it to be a religious event, with minimal State involvement just for routine protocol. With deep frustration, they now watch the political Trojan horse invade the sanctuary.

The spiritual upbuild for the canonization by groups such as the Joseph Vaz National Secretariat was first distracted with Church-State-planned pageantry for the papal visit. Thereafter political posters made it a tool for election propaganda. Election-related discord and violence may soon overshadow the event. Church leaders little realize the faith erosion caused by letting politics ruin the holiest event Catholics eagerly awaited for 303 years.

Much public distress about the event’s politicization has been expressed via social media and other public exchanges. Many Catholics have urged that the canonization be postponed. Others even say it could be held in Rome like the recent canonization of Indian Saints Chavara and Alphonsa. Some prefer such moves to political denigration of the name of Father Vaz who eschewed politics, and ministered to victims of political conflict.

Sri Lanka Papal visit FB screenshot

The Indian priest had arrived in the country in 1687 dressed as a beggar to avoid Dutch colonizers’ ban on entry of Catholic priests. For 10 years he was the only priest serving the entire country until confreres joined him. During his 24-year apostolate, he searched for Sinhala or Tamil Catholics living in hiding in the aftermath of political conflict between Portuguese and Dutch colonizers. Buddhists and Hindus valued his ascetic witness of treating king and commoner with equanimity.

Saint John Paul II, who beatified Father Vaz in 1995, once described him as the greatest missioner in Asia next to Saint Francis Xavier. It was an affirmation of Lankans’ acclaim of this holy missioner’s sanctity.

Since the missioner’s death in 1711, about 50 books on his life and service have been published in English, French, Italian, Konkani, Sinhalese and Tamil. Devotion to this Apostle of Sri Lanka has spread locally as well as in his Indian homeland. Since his beatification, 10 venues in four Sri Lankan dioceses hold novena devotions to Blessed Vaz. Nine dioceses have dedicated 23 churches and chapels in his honor.

Apart from such public veneration, the aura of his mission still survives in the pastoral field. Trincomalee and Kurunegala dioceses have named their minor seminaries after him. Colombo, Galle and Kurunegala dioceses have opened lay theologates to promote his pioneer mission of indigenization.

Amid such evidence of his living memory, Catholics countrywide have eagerly awaited the peak moment of the preparatory work by the Joseph Vaz National Secretariat, headed by Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy. But the spiritual benefit of these efforts will be lost if election-related rivalry and recrimination invade its final stage. Church leaders should make alternate arrangements if they cannot ensure Catholics a prayerful atmosphere to celebrate their first saint without being hassled by election unrest or militarized restrictions.

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.

 

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

Interview: Missionary nuns help shorthanded diocese minister to poor Filipino families

Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne, Holy Family of Bordeaux (HFB) directs fishermen's recollection, Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines. / photo courtesy of HFB

Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne, Holy Family of Bordeaux (HFB) directs fishermen’s recollection, Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines. / photo courtesy of HFB

Manila – Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne came to the Philippines 23 years ago through the mission program of the Sri Lanka province of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. Sr. De Silva, as neighbors and friends now call her, knew bitter civil war and deep poverty in Sri Lanka. Still, living among poor families in Sorsogon province is full of demands.

She spoke with Global Sisters’ Report in Manila about her experiences among the country’s poorest families in Sorsogon diocese some 186 miles southeast of Manila, and her international institute founded in the early 1800s.

French Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles organized women and men volunteers of all conditions and vocations to proclaim the “good news” by imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Read the full interview with Sr. de Silva

Cardinal Quevedo: Church’s shared mission of portraying God’s love, justice and peace

 

Quevedo Ateneo Award NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato in southern Philippines accepted Sept. 16 the Bukas Palad (open hands) Award from the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Manila University. In his response, he reminded people attending the special school convocation that every member of the Church shares in the “common mission” of showing others that God loves them and plans to let truth, justice and peace prevail.

Following are excerpts from Cardinal Quevedo’s message delivered after he accepted the citation from Ateneo President Father Jose Ramon Villarin,

 

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City – by NJ Viehland

… Most profoundly I thank the Ateneo de Manila University, its Board of Trustees, its distinguished president Fr. Villarin, and the Awards Committee for this meaningful award. I am deeply humbled by the award.
Quevedo citation Ateneo NJ Viehland
For forming me to be a missionary to the poor, my vocation which is the basis of this award, I thank my religious congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). To portray the Lord’s Gospel to the poor, to be specialists in difficult missions… that is the charism handed down to every Oblate by our founder Saint Eugene de Mazenod. 
This is the reason that we Oblates of Mary Immaculate have chosen to work among the people of Maguindanao, Tawi-tawi and Sulu.

Quevedo Ateneo Bukas Palad NJ Viehland

Most of all I thank the Lord, the giver of all good gifts. Everything that I am, everything that people say I have merited because of certain modicum  of skill or talent, everything is simply and absolutely God’s gratuitous gift.
All is grace, said Saint Therese, and that quotation also was given also by our mathematician.
I’m afraid to sit beside her …after…if I pass addition, then I can do the rest….She quoted Rahner – quite understandably, she quoted a Jesuit … 

Quevedo Ruiz Ateneo Awards NJ Viehland

Yes, everything is grace. There are no surprises. There are no coincidences. And if coincidences are really signs of God’s providence, then truly providential it must be to be made an Oblate cardinal and receive honors in this year of the Lord 2014, the 75th year of Oblate missionary presence in the Philippines. We will wait for our own suppression. Then we will celebrate restorationIt is also the 50th anniversary this year of my priestly ordination.
But from a wider perspective, this award reminds us of our common mission to portray God’s reign of salvation. God’s reign of justice and peace, of truth and love, particularly for the poor and the marginalized. Let us all keep our mission focus as priest and bishop. “The reign of God,” “the reign of justice and peace.” That perspective is indeed deeply related to the Christian identity – my identity and yours. To be Christian is nothing more and nothing less than to be disciple in mission.
This is the emphasis given to the Christian identity by our own pope – Pope Francis [another Jesuit. At least we now know that there is an infallible Jesuit.]
For being a missionary disciple is to tell the story of Jesus – the God made poor for our sins. Jesus who walked and lived among the poor, Gentile or Jew, to be ultimately their peace.
The dialogue of Jesus with a non-Jew, the double negativity of being a Samaritan and a woman…
I’m very happy that there is finally a woman awardee for Lux in Domino Award for the Ateneo. It’s a good beginning for the Ateneo. (I am a Jesuit product, so I can make jokes about them…)
The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman has to be a paradigm for building harmony and peace in our country today. We live in the cusp of Philippine history where just and lasting peace in Mindanao is in the final stages of realization – of mutual respect and understanding, persistence, patience, the wisdom of peace negotiators the past thirty years are God’s gifts for the peace process.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo's birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo’s birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials – by NJ Viehland

When finally peace will have been realized, whatever contributions I may have given to it, and to the integral development of indigenous peoples and poor farmers in my own Archdiocese of Cotabato, all those are God’s gifts that we may be in solidarity with one another day by day, my dear friends – solidarity among us peoples of different cultures and beliefs as we live. Saint John Paul II has observed, “The fruit of solidarity is peace.”
Once again, thank you very much.