Ecology encyclical and “far away” Churches – Commentary, Hector Welgampola 

Ecology encyclical presents collegial wisdom of “far away” Churches

Hector Welgampola

Laudato Si cover

Full text here

 

Quite unsurprisingly, Laudato Si (Praise be to you), has taken the world by storm. Its content and ecclesial nuances have taken a definitive stand for the welfare of all forms of planetary life.  

As the most recent social encyclical, it is a groundbreaker, even though categorized with Rerum Novarum and other seminal documents of Catholic social doctrine. And those documents dealt mostly with issues that concerned the Western hemisphere. Like other encyclicals, they too were addressed to bishops and other Church leaders, although their salutations did often include a mention of “ to all men and women of good will.”  

As instruments of the Church’s teaching authority, they were grounded in the Scriptures and Tradition. An occasional mention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as in Saint John Paul’s Centesimus Annus was an exception. Dante’s Divine Comedy was quoted by the same pope in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater. Apart from following suit quoting Dante, Pope Francis’s Laudato Si also quotes Patriarch Bartholomew and Sufi mystic Ali Al Khawas as well. 

But there is much more to the new encyclical than its content and genre of documentation.While wading through traditional gateways of encyclicaling, Pope Francis new encyclical makes a subtle shift.While inviting all humanity to a dialogue about our shared home, the document engages the wider Church in a new dimension of ecclesial magisterium. That futuristic move once more reiterates the Holy Father’s prophetic streak as an innovator.   

As noted earlier, in response to varied needs and circumstances, encyclicals have grown as instruments of papal teaching. Especially in more recent times, they have tended to articulate the primacy of the Petrine office as supreme teaching authority.It is no surprise that Pope Francis, who prefers collegial consultation to authoritarian imposition, should see a need to broadbase the paradigm of encyclicaling. In a Spirit-led move, the innovative pope has reached out to the people of God worldwide for the wisdom of the “diaspora” Churches. And beyond doubt, the Spirit must hover over him. 

Especially, as a product of Puebla, Medellin and Aparecide, the Holy Father would fail Churches worldwide if this encyclical put a lid on his home Church’s passion for the environment. After all, how could that document ignore the pain of a continent raped and plundered by industrial conglomerates? Apart from reflecting the thinking of Aparecide, the document refers to statements by Bolivian, Brazilian, Dominican, Mexican, Paraguayan and Patagonian bishops.  

These and other agonies of oppressed peoples have been cited from Africa too. In particular, the pope had not forgotten the African outcry against corrupting foreign aid heard at the recent Synod. Asian voices from the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) and countries like Japan and the Philippines have been enhanced by echoes from Churches in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States. 

This encyclical will go down in Church history as a genuine effort to integrate voices and values of the worldwide Church. And as the Spirit discerns, may it help evolve a collegial magisterium that resonates the pastoral wisdom and catholicity animating God’s people at the grassroots worldwide. 

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.

 

 

What Cardinal Tagle told youth in London – video

Cardinal Tagle at Flame2 YouTube

click photo to play

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila addressed on March 7 thousands of young people gathered for Flame2, Great Britain’s largest national Catholic youth event of 2015 in the SSE Wembley Arena, London.

Participants from 10 years old listened also to Baroness Sheila Hollins, Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe and David Wells in a “joyful” program interspersed with music and drama provided by double Grammy Award winner Matt Redman and his band, organizers announced. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England led the prayers and time for adoration.

Read the full text of Cardinal Tagle’s talk.

 

Cardinal Tagle in BBC Hard Talk on Church, development – video clip

AMOR, NJ Viehland Photos

Aspirants from south Asia bring offerings at the opening Mass for the XVIth Asia Oceania Meeting of Religious women (AMOR) officiated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in Tagaytay City, Philippines, in Nov. 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Stephen Sackur of BBC’s Hard Talk interviewed the Catholic Church’s most senior cleric in the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Is the Catholic Church helping the nation’s development?

View clips from the 30-minute BBC interview with Cardinal Tagle here

Philippines Church ready for Pope Francis

 

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

… But this is the Philippines, where “the Christian story and Christian symbols have played a very important role in everyday life,” said Jesuit Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, who teaches contextual theology at Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City.

“Even when the percentage of people who have regular contact with the church through Mass and activities may be much smaller than the 80 percent who are Catholic or the 90 percent who are Christian,” Francisco said, “the influence of Christianity in the Philippines remains very strong through devotions, worship, music and other symbols.”

He cited Haiyan survivors who were photographed fleeing…

Read full report

 

 

 

New Year’s letter: Peace And Fraternity—The Road Map For A New Myanmar

By Charles Bo, SDB, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Happy New Year to all of you!

Today is the Day of Peace. For the citizens of Myanmar this is a day of a common dream, a common hope. I wish each one of you a blessed and peace-filled new year.

As we prepare for the dawn of a New Year, so too in Myanmar we are preparing for the dawn of a new era. A new era of freedom, democracy, justice, peace and hope. A new era of fraternity among the diverse peoples of our beautiful nation. There is much to be grateful for.  There is much to be hoped for.  We stand at that blessed and challenging juncture in history. We are just at the very beginning of a new chapter in Myanmar’s story. Over the past two years, the doors of our nation have opened to the world. There are many reasons for hope. In the past two years, restrictions on freedom of expression have been relaxed, there is more space for civil society, the media and political actors, there have been preliminary steps towards peace in the ethnic states, and many political prisoners have been released. After many years under house arrest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been elected to Parliament, along with her colleagues in the National League for Democracy. These steps encourage us to see the prospect of a new dawn.

For the first time in more than fifty years, there are reasons to be hopeful for Myanmar. And all these came because some of our brothers and sisters, from 1988 onwards refused to accept the powers of darkness. Some of them were willing to lay down their lives on the altar of supreme sacrifice. They gave their yesterday so that our today may be free and the tomorrow of Myanmar may be justice oriented. Yet we must remember that this is just the very beginning of the beginning. As some political prisoners have been released, others have been arrested. As talks about peace take place, military attacks against civilians in Kachin State continue. And as we begin to enjoy more freedom of speech, some have used this to preach hatred and incite violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters. So there is a very long way still to go, there are many grave challenges to be addressed, and on the horizon alongside the sunshine of hope and a new dawn sit storm clouds of suffering and strife. Myanmar will never be truly free and at peace until all the peoples of Myanmar can live in freedom and peace. Democratic reforms in the cities will not, by themselves, end decades of conflict. It is often said that genuine peace will only be achieved through a peace process, not simply ceasefires, and that such a peace process must involve a political dialogue leading to a political settlement for Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities.

This is true. However, real, true peace can only be achieved through a revolution in our hearts, a renewal of our minds and a rediscovery of the value of fraternity. Peace, Pope Paul VI warned, is not the absence of War.  Once again he guided the nations:  If you want Peace, work for Justice.  No Justice No Peace. Catholic Social tradition struggles for this noble concept: Peace that is born of Justice. As Pope Francis says in his New Year’s message for this World Day of Peace, “in the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.”

For six decades the country was suffocated by an inhuman dictatorship. You and I and every human being were suffering in our long night of silent tears.  And after all those tears and brokenness, after darkness of merciless persecutions, dawn arrives and we seek light.  But suddenly there seems to be darkness at the midday.  I refer to the interreligious conflicts that has brought sorrow, stigma to the young nation. Do we deserve this. Over the past eighteen months, a wave of hatred and violence  that included violence towards our Muslim brothers and sisters has been unleashed, wreaking destruction and death across Rakhine State, Meikhtila, Oakkan, Lashio and some other parts of our country. This hatred and violence led not only to the deaths of many people and the destruction of homes and shops, but to the death of fraternity and the destruction of brotherhood. Our country’s good name was tarnished world over.  The senseless acts of few brought grief to many.  All communities suffered.

Our task is to rebuild not only the destroyed buildings, but destroyed relationships. Our task, individually and in community, is to rebuild our hearts. The Holy Father says that “without fraternity, it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace”. Whatever our religion, we need to refocus our minds on our common humanity and our fraternity as peoples of Myanmar. The Pope says “in the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.” We need to rediscover the value of “unity in diversity”. Myanmar is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, rich in ethnic and religious diversity. This diversity is something to celebrate. After the storms, when the sun comes out, we should be able to see that we are a nation of many colours.  

A rainbow nation. We must build a nation in which every person born on Myanmar’s soil feels at home, has a stake in the country’s future, is treated with equal respect and equal rights, and is accepted and cared for by their neighbours. A nation where the histories, languages, customs and religions of all are respected and celebrated. There must be no second-class people. As Pope Francis says, “in many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom.” This is true in our corner of the world. Even as talks continue in Kachin State, we hear reports of attacks on villages, looting of churches, and the rape of women and girls. In other parts of our country, we hear of mosques destroyed. We hear of the tragedy of an entire people, known as ‘Rohingyas’, treated as if they were not human, consigned to dire conditions in displacement camps or forced to flee the country in boats, embarking on a precarious escape across the seas.

The cause of Rohingya is highly contested. Every human being, Christianity believes, is created in the image of God.  All of us belong to God’s immeasurable embrace of dignity reaches all. The Myanmar government and the International community need to settle citizenship issues. But as a people, as a nation that has taken Karuna and Metta  as the guiding principles, we should not allow a fringe to stain a nation known for its forbearance through random violence. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, says Martin Luther King Jr.. We know that many of the Rohingya people have lived in Myanmar for generations, yet they are not accepted as citizens and are rendered stateless. This misery cannot be allowed to continue. Every person born in Myanmar should be recognized as a citizen of Myanmar. While wars and interreligious conflicts go on, a much under reported human agony unfolds elsewhere which affect all communities. Those agonies are much more deeply wounding the nation.  But sadly attention is wanting in these day to day issues that affect millions in our country.

We hear of human trafficking of women and children, as well as more subtle abuses, such as land confiscation or discrimination against religious minorities in business and government employment. The Pope notes: “The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example … Alongside overt armed conflicts are less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.” Those words speak to our situation in Myanmar today and remind us of the challenges we must face. A nation that successfully conducted the SEA games deserves a great praise.  When needed, the Myanmar as a nation and people can rise up to any challenge. The same spirit is needed to fight chronic wars  that bleed the nation. We refer to the absolute poverty of 40 percent of our people. We refer to the millions, languishing in the hell of Malaysia, Thailand, victims of human trafficking, the modern day slaves. The multiple faces of poverty is a pestering wound in the soul of the nation. The great challenge is poverty.

The Holy Father says that fraternity is “a prerequisite for fighting poverty”. We must put richness of heart first, if we are to end material poverty. In Pope Francis’ words, “This means not being guided by a ‘desire for profit’ or a ‘thirst for power’. What is needed is the willingness to ‘lose ourselves’ for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to ‘serve them’ instead of oppressing them. The ‘other’ – whether a person, a people or a nation – is to be seen … as our ‘neighbour’.” He continues: “Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as ‘a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God’.” And so as we begin a New Year and move towards a new era, I echo Pope Francis’ words on behalf of the Church, to all who are suffering the consequences of hatred and war: “To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenseless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all who live in fear.

The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights. For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

I wish all my brothers and sisters, of all religions and ethnicities, throughout our nation a truly happy and blessed New Year. Let’s join hands together to build a new rainbow nation in Myanmar. Let 2014 mark a new era not only of greater freedom, but of fraternity, throughout Myanmar, and in growing in fraternity, we can secure lasting peace and prosperity. A new Myanmar is possible My brothers and Sisters.  That Myanmar will be born   through Peace that comes through Justice. That Myanmar that will make poverty history That Myanmar that will celebrate unity in diversity A free Myanmar freed from hatred is possible. Let us echo with Tagore the great Poet and Nobel Laureate :  Into that land of freedom and prosperity,  My Father, Let my Country Awake.

*Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, of Yangon, Myanmar was among 15 cardinal electors Pope Francis is to create in February.

From Radio Veritas Asia, Quezon City, Philippines

 

Thanksgiving : one year after deadly typhoon

Baby Israel by Emylou Antigua

“My little Israel . . . blessing from God . . .” wrote Haiyan survivor Emylou Antigua on her Facebook account / contributed by Emylou Antigua)

Emylou Antigua has a happy reminder of the devastating typhoon that battered the central Philippines a little over a year ago: her son, named for the Israeli medical team that helped deliver him.

American Jewish Pins toys JDC photo

Danny Pins, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee chief financial officer for Africa and Asia region distributing toys and food to children in northern Cebu, Philippines. (Courtesy of JDC)

For Chief Financial Officer Danny Pins of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee his group’s response to Haiyan is “personally rewarding.”

Catholic mom, Jewish financial officer – what they are grateful for in their experience related to typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda…

Read full story

Flashback: Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia

By NJ Viehland

AMOR, NJ Viehland

Religious women postulants offer flowers at Mass at 2013 AMOR meeting in Tagaytay City, Philippines/ NJ Viehland Photos

Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

        

NCR PCNE tagle arevalo by NJ Viehland

Father Catalino Arevalo (right) with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila at the 2013 Philippine Congress on the New Evangelization in Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

 MANILA — “It’s a new world,” Jesuit Father Catalino Arevalo, premier theologian of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), says 40 years after the Catholic association was formally established.

         Retracing the FABC’s journey in an interview at Loyola House of Studies in Quezon City, he marveled at how “the average Catholic person today with all the new media is very different from the ordinary Catholic person when I was a young priest at 40 in 1960.”

         He said he never imagined that people in the mountains of Bukidnon province would see the multi-awarded Grammy winner Lady Gaga on television nor the Philippine popular artists as they performed more than 560 miles northwest in Manila. In his view, this reflects a similar situation in many Asian nations.

         In bringing the Gospel to the peoples of Asia, “we are like Jesus and the first disciples,” said the priest who has advised Asian Church and other leaders. “We have to start anew.”

FABC, Mapping Evangelization in Modern Asia

          More than 50 presidents and delegates of the 19-member bishops’ conferences (were to be) guided by this same spirit of renewal and vision of evangelization when they gathered in Vietnam for the Tenth FABC Plenary Assembly (X FABC Plenary Assembly) Nov. 19-25, 2012 , [1] the latest of such assemblies. They represented local Churches stretching from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to East Timor (Timor Leste) in Southeast Asia. The theme of that year’s assembly was: “FABC at Forty Years – Responding to the Challenges of Asia: The New Evangelization.” 

         The delegates were joined by resource persons as well as observers from the Vatican, other continental bishops’ groups and funding agencies, all accompanying the bishops as they reflected on opportunities and pastoral challenges that society presents the Church in Asia in the 21st century.

         The FABC plenary assembly, held every four years, usually brings together about 100 bishop-delegates with about the same number of resource persons to study a particular theme, pray together and draft a statement at the meeting’s close.

X FABC group picture

Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc, Vietnam, Dec. 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

         The working document for the event invited the delegates to discern how the Church can spread the Gospel in societies of Asia impacted by dynamics triggered by globalization, cultural diversity, poverty and many other factors. They will also try to take account of concerns such as: migrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, population, religious freedom, threats to life, social communications, ecology, laity, women, youth, Pentecostalism and vocations.

         The Holy See approved the statutes of the FABC in 1972. This voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia was formed “to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good.” 

        Since the start, Father Arevalo has served as a resource person, writing adviser and theological consultant for the FABC. Bishops who pioneered the federation were just settling back in their dioceses after the close of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965). They forged their plans for the FABC as local Churches in Asia grappled with questions on how to spread the Gospel in a “new world” being born after the colonial period

        Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

Local Church

         “The FABC already made a general map of evangelization in Asia” in the 1970s, Father Arevalo pointed out, and its primary agent has always been the local Church.

          When Asian bishops came to Manila during the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1970, they met to discuss setting up a permanent structure by which Asian Church leaders could gather regularly to share their experiences and develop among themselves what local Churches could do to bring the realities of Vatican II to life in Asia. “Local Church” refers to the Church in each country, Father Arevalo explained, and the FABC gatherings were envisioned to “begin with bishops, but not just bishops.”

         Among those who gathered in 1970 were several prelates who would be instrumental in bringing the FABC to life, including Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Korea, Cardinal Valerian Gracias of India and Cardinal Justinus Darmojuwono of Indonesia, as well as Archbishop Mariano Gaviola of the Philippines and Bishop Francis Hsu of Hong Kong.

         In 1971, Bishop Hsu convened a meeting in Hong Kong for the presidents of 13 episcopal conferences, a gathering that would become the FABC Central Committee. Today, 19 episcopal conferences in Asia are FABC members : Bangladesh, East Timor, India – CBCI (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India), India – Syro-Malabar, India – Syro-Malankara, India – Latin Rite, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos-Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan (ROC), Thailand and Vietnam. The newest member is the bishops’ conference of East Timor, which was launched just this year. Previously, the youngest member was the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan, which officially joined the FABC in 2008.

         The FABC also has associate members in nine Asian places that have no episcopal conference. Three are dioceses: Hong Kong and Macau in China, and Novosibirsk in eastern Russia. Four other associate members are in Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The remaining two are Mongolia and Nepal.

         In India, four distinct episcopal conferences belong to the federation. The bishops’ conference of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and that of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church represent the Oriental rite, while the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India represents the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. CBCI, the general body for the whole country, was among the FABC’s founding members.

         The first FABC plenary assembly in 1974 brought hundreds of bishops together in Taipei. The statement and recommendations they issued under the title “Evangelization in Modern Day Asia” spell out the perspective of the Asian context, as well as the FABC vision and approach to evangelization in the region.

         The statement stresses that the local Church immediately and primarily must be the agent, the subject of evangelization, in contemporary Asia. Father Arevalo elaborated that instead of always waiting for instructions from Rome on exactly what to do, “The Vatican Council already said it is time now for each of the local Churches to reflect and define how they see and how they prioritize the work that they must do.” Even so, he added, the FABC has always acknowledged that local Church activity would always work together with Rome.

         “It’s just like a man and a woman who are married now,” he continued. “Must they ask their grandmother or grandfather what they do each day of their lives? No. They get advice and direction from the grandfather or the grandmother, but it’s their responsibility to know what they must do with their own family, following with fidelity what their grandparents taught them also. So that’s the meaning of the local Church’s priority of responsibility.”

Part 2 Triple Dialogue

[Written for a project: 40 Years of FABC, September 12, 2012]

[1] The Xth FABC Plenary Assembly was actually held Dec. 10-16, 2012 to make way for a surprise consistory then Pope Benedict XVI set for Nov. 24 to create new cardinals, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.

published with permission, FABC Office of Social Communication Executive Secretary

Interview : Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, RGS, Part 2

NJ Viehland Photos

Counseling room at Ruhama Womens Center renovated for free by UP Diliman Interior Design department graduates for a “healing atmosphere” / NJ Viehland Photos

Q & A Sr. Borbon continued from Part 1

Part 2 – Program set up, sustainability,

    “We believe that if God wants our program, he will be the one to help us” – Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, RGS

How have referring groups helped with resources ?

Parenting Foundation is an NGO that referred to us a girl. She had her own psychotherapist. We asked them please continue it because we have no capacity for psychotherapy. That’s why I’m networking with CICM hoping they can give it to us for free because residents cannot do without psychotherapy. A lot of issues come out. Every now and then the group gives food, money. We assume the expenses for the girl’s living. There are also lay friends and our people from own network who come and give voluntary services, like value formation, health care, help from mothers.  

What’s your strategy for funding support?

My ambition is to get donations given by major benefactors. If I can just get one more regular substantial benefactor and then get psychotherapy for 15 people, that would be very sustainable. Our own Good Shepherd lay affiliates give food or host a Christmas party. Those help too. Eventually I would need to exert more effort to ensure sustainability of our program.

Do you rescue women and children from nightclubs, cybersex dens or abusive homes?

We do not go ourselves because we do not have personnel for this so we work with agencies that do this and provide the shelter and services for the victims they rescue. We also do not go into bars and nightclubs because of lack of personnel and because we do not have room for any more clients. If we did, we would probably go out and do this. 

Who comprise Ruhama’s staff ?

We have a live-in social worker, live-in house parent/cook and I’m acting as program coordinator. I have a consultant social worker also, and volunteers on a daily basis.

The only male volunteers I accepted are seminarians of Congregation of Jesus and Mary because it was founded by Jean Eudes -the same founder as ours, so they know our charism, they know our apostolate for the sexually abused.

It’s hard to accept just any volunteer especially the males. We have to watch against physical contact. I screen strictly who can be there as volunteers if they are male. I talk to their formators to make it clear that the girls are sexually abused and are sometimes longing for sex. I ask them if a girl embraces you, what would you do?

Contributed by Ed Gerlock

Woman keeps eyes on the street for possible customers outside her motel room in Manila – Contributed by Ed Gerlock contact: edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

How do you select your clients?

We have an intake procedure. When the girls and young women come, they are asked to fill out forms and our social worker interviews them. If she is referred and not a walk-in client, we ask the referring institution or person to give us a case study report. 

Where do the walk-in clients come from?

Priests, government agencies, and other people know us. One of our girls came to our center after a priest saw her wandering around outside their school. He was concerned that she could be trafficked so he called us. We couldn’t expect the priest to give us a case study so our own social worker interviewed her and researched her background, where she came from. We have many of such “at-risk” cases. We have 3 sisters in the group. Two of them were abused by the father. If we take the two sisters, the one left behind could be abused too.

Are relatives of clients allowed to visit?

Yes, but we make sure first that the contact with family members promotes the residents’ healing. If they will not help in the healing we don’t allow it. For example if the father is the perpetrator of abuse, of course we don’t allow him to visit. If the mother does not believe the girl’s report that the father is the perpetrator, we also do not allow the mother to visit.

We don’t immediately allow communication with family among clients who are referred to us. We research and validate information first and try to know as much as we can about their history, especially of their case. Our social worker goes to find out and puts in her recommendation.

What about spiritual formation programs?

We also have spiritual formation programs or catechism. Non-Catholics are not obliged to join, but in our experience, other Christian clients want to join. We welcome them into the classes and sessions. They’re not allowed to receive Communion, but if they say they want to be baptized, we assist in their preparation.

Do you accept donations from other faith groups?

Yes. We don’t accept from those who are giving funds from mining, gambling, of course we don’t want to accept from PDAF (pork barrel funds) because we have to be consistent in our stand. We have to be very clear about upholding our values and not sacrifice them just to carry out the program. We believe that if God wants our program, he will be the one to help us and we have proven that. We came up with that guideline on unacceptable funds only about three years ago. 

What more needs to be done in terms of managing the Province’s ministries?

We just finished our planning for the next six years and one of our thrusts is to consolidate the Province’s efforts in terms of trafficking, migration, and related ministries so that our response will be a corporate response based on stronger networking. 

We could also streamline all these existing projects and programs, maybe prioritize them in terms of our resources, especially human resources. We are strengthening our lay partners as we have fewer active nuns today.

Part 3 Religious Life

 

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

‘People’s initiative’ petition-campaign against pork barrel – photos

Muslim girl at Luneta Park sat with Sister Cecilia Espenilia [front, in red hat] and close to 20 fellow sisters of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena during the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally Aug. 25, 2014. - NJ Viehland Photos

Muslim girl at Luneta Park sat with Sister Cecilia Espenilia [front, in red hat] and close to 20 fellow sisters of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena during the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally Aug. 25, 2014. – NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

The nationwide campaign for 10 million signatures to pass a bill that will abolish the pork barrel system kicked off here today with a rally in Luneta Park co-organized with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP).
Police estimated some 5,000 people were at Luneta during the 7 a.m. Mass, but organizer Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary general of New Patriotic Alliance (“Bayan”) tweeted that 20,000 people came.

Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 at Quirino Grandstand, Luneta Park, Manila - NJ Viehland Photos

Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 at Quirino Grandstand, Luneta Park, Manila – NJ Viehland Photos

Nurses - Just one of the variety of sectors represented at the Aug. 25, 2014 rally dubbed as Stand up, sign up vs. all pork in Luneta Park, Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Nurses – Just one of the variety of sectors represented at the Aug. 25, 2014 rally dubbed as Stand up, sign up vs. all pork in Luneta Park, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

La Salette Sr. Sonia Silverio (center in cream blouse and brown skirt) with ecumenical bishops, priests and lay Church leaders ring bells at the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 to call attention to the "evils" that arise from pork barrel fund allocations. - NJ Viehland Photos

La Salette Sr. Sonia Silverio (center in cream blouse and brown skirt) with ecumenical bishops, priests and lay Church leaders ring bells at the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 to call attention to the “evils” that arise from pork barrel fund allocations. – NJ Viehland Photos

Rallyist greets Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr.  before the bishop's speech at Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila Aug. 25, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Rallyist greets Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr. before the bishop’s speech at Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila Aug. 25, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Religious and members of their institutions were prominent rally participants at Luneta, along with groups of nurses and health workers, teachers, lawyers, private and government workers – and even beauty queens.

Even beauty queens showed up represented by Maria Isabel Lopez (left, Bb. Pilipinas- Universe 1982) and Azenith Briones [rightmost, Mutya ng Pilipinas 2nd runner up and Miss Photogenic) rejected pork barrel allotments during the Aug. 25, 2014 Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Even beauty queens showed up represented by Maria Isabel Lopez (left, Bb. Pilipinas- Universe 1982) and Azenith Briones [rightmost, Mutya ng Pilipinas 2nd runner up and Miss Photogenic) rejected pork barrel allotments during the Aug. 25, 2014 Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Even doggies Winston (brown) and Cleo came to Luneta Park's Quirino Grandstand grounds where petition signing and a concert-rally were held Aug. 25, 2014 as part of a movement to stop all pork barrel fund allocations. - NJ Viehland Photos

Even doggies Winston (brown) and Cleo came to Luneta Park’s Quirino Grandstand grounds where petition signing and a concert-rally were held Aug. 25, 2014 as part of a movement to stop all pork barrel fund allocations. – NJ Viehland Photos

Read full report here on why the religious groups and Catholic bishops support the movement to stop pork.

Signing of the petition and the program during the rally followed a 7 a.m. Mass concelebrated by various priests. In his homily, Missionaries of Jesus Father Wilfredo (Freddie Dulay) reflected on the pork barrel controversy and people’s response in faith. 

Following are excerpts from  Father Dulay’s homily which are clear enough to be transcribed:

…..  Dear brothers and sisters,

Our country is not constituted by jaded populations. We are not cynical or impervious to change. Ours is a people of hope crafting and wanting to believe in the possibility of a better tomorrow.

We are a people who look forward to new beginnings – always desirous for a fresh start – may it be after an earthquake, a typhoon or disastrous government, and the Arroyo government could not be described in kinder terms.

No matter the folly of the previous administration, our people would always give the new one a chance expecting it could be no worse than its predecessor, hoping at least that it would do better.

We’ve had enough of the short lady from Lubao. Her greed for power and money had no measure and she was blatant about them. She really had to go.

But now that she’s gone from center stage, what do we have?

Many of us believed that we would have another shot at benevolent leadership, at least.

But why are we so angry after Janet Lim-Napoles got careless and fell into the gap – and now getting angrier when the PDAF reincarnated into the DAP?

Ask the people, especially those we have traditionally called the “common tao” – if a bit condescendingly and as if we haven’t all become so common in our ways – three simple and rather straightforward reasons are repeated time and again.

First was betrayal. *”Naisahan nanaman tayo. Nauto nanaman tayo. Nakuha nanaman tayo sa mga pangako. Tayo daw ang kanyang boss at magkasama nating tatahakin ang daang matuwid. Hindi naman palang totoo ang daang tinatahak ng nagtutuwid. kunwari lang pala. Hindi lamang bale ito at baluktot, masalimuot pa. kunwari lang pala. Ang daming tinatago – billion billion pala. Kung di pa natapilok si Janet, ang katotothanan ay di pa natin matatarok hanggang ngayon.” – betrayal.

*(We’ve been conned once again. We’ve been suckered-in again. We’ve been taken again by promises. He said we are his boss. This was just make believe, after all. It’s not true that the road we travel is the straight path. This isn’t nay broken and crooked, it is treacherous as well. There’s so much that is hidden – billions and billions. If Janet did not stumble, we would not be grasping the truth today.” – betrayal.)

The second simple reason is that now we know better. **”Wala naman palang dahilan upang maghirap ang nakararami sa atin. Wala naman palang dahilan upang sila ay magutom at magdusa. Ang dami palang pera. Mayaman ang bansa. Marami naman palang sapat na pera upang magpatayo ng napakaraming paaralan at hospital at tugunan ang ating mga pangunahing pangangailangan. Meron tayong kakayanang umabante at umunland.”

**(There’s no reason after all for many of us to be wallowing in poverty. There is no reason after all for them to be starving and suffering. There is so much money after all. The country is rich. There is so much and sufficient funds after all to put up so many schools and hospitals and to provide for our basic needs. We have the capability to advance and progress.”

There’s plenty to go around and a lot going for us. Where has it all gone?

Now at least we know where the money goes. We don’t only have leeches for leaders, with a few exceptions (but they are truly hard to find), there are also bottom-feeders, and their pockets much to our grief ***”talagang bottomless.”  ***(really bottomless)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Should anybody here be surprised that we are gathered to collect signatures for the abolition of the pork barrel system and all its manifestations and reincarnations?

Abolish the pork, and the true leaders would emerge – not those who are engaged full time in self-service, but leaders who would want to serve the people and build up the nation.

Maybe it’s not too late. Beloved and beleaguered leaders, listen and take heed to what the Lord declared more than 2,000 years ago: “I came to serve, not to be served.” He followed it up by telling us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and get lost in a sulfurous non-airconditioned place?”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but the paraphrase fits the occasion.

Let us pray that our leaders would wake up.

 ***********

Renato Reyes, Jr. , Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) told Catholic In Asia, “We’re very pleased with the level of support from the Catholic Church. There’s a big boost coming from at least 73 bishops and we expect support from their diocese and parishes. 

He said the pork barrel controversy has managed to unite the population. “It has managed to unite the religious, the progressives, the unions, students, teachers.” Reyes considers this “a good sign that, hopefully, we’d be able to continue with the momentum in the coming days.”

How important is it for this cause to have the Catholic Church so actively behind it? Reyes notes, “Corruption is a moral issue, so it’s very good that they’re involved. They can mobilize their constituents. In gathering signatures, it’s also very nice that they’ve opened up their parishes and dioceses and invited the people to sign up for the People’s Initiative. The have that actual support of manpower and machinery.

Reyes explains that the movement’s measure of success is “if we are able to mobilize people and if we are able to raise awareness.

He stressed that activities over the weekend through Monday is just the beginning. “This is just the start – the attempt to get numbers – the signatures. The bigger indicator of success would be raising the consiousness of the people and making them more vigilant about corruption and holding the president himself accountable for all this corruption,” Reyes added.