The 5th National Clergy Discernment
The 5th National Clergy Discernment took place at the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Divine Mercy, El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental from October 26 to 29, 2015. The theme that guided the whole activity was “Discerning the Challenges of the New Evangelization vis-a-vis the Mindanao Situation.”
These were days of intense study, listening, sharing, and discernment based on the method of see-judge-act. A joyful spirit of camaraderie prevailed among the participants. Those present enjoyed the delicious meals, local delicacies, fresh fruits, and various cultural presentations. There were a total of 76 priests coming from 24 dioceses and prelatures, 14 Religious Congregations, and two bishops.
CICM marked its presence with the Mindanao cluster, Graciano Brazas, Jean-Eddy Bakandu, Marcio Martins and Robert Bijksana and also with the animating presence of Ramon Caluza, CICM Philippines Provincial Superior. The Mindanao cluster represented not only the CICM Philippines, but also the Diocese of Butuan since we were the only ones from this Diocese.
The first day was marked by the celebration of the Eucharist presided by the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ. He welcomed all participants while expressing his joy to host this event in his Archdiocese. The next activity was a well prepared supper followed by a testimony given by Mrs. Victoria G. Baguio, the president of the “Divine Mercy Foundation of Mindanao (Phils.), Inc.” She explained in detail the history of the Divine Mercy Shrine.
The second day started with the Eucharistic Celebration presided by Msgr. Rey S. Monsanto from the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. He shared in his homily the topic: “The Mindanao Church’s Journey in Faith: The Challenges of Interfaith Dialogue and Human Development.” Msgr. Monsanto shared his vast experience in the promotion of interfaith dialogue with the Muslims, with its ups and downs, struggles and achievements. Still, as part of his homily, he called a Muslim friend to share a “Muslim point of view” on interfaith dialogue with Christians”. A common point noticed throughout their sharing is that it is time to overcome the biases and prejudices that divide muslims and christians. It is time to foster an open and sincere dialogue for the sake of peace and respectful coexistence.
The mass was followed by a keynote address by Bishop Edwin A. Dela Pena of the Prelature of Marawi. He shared on the topic “The Challenge of New Evangelization in the context of the People of Mindanao”. Bishop Edwin related his experiences as the prelate of Marawi, the challenges and struggles he finds in his Prelature and also his hopes and dreams for the local church. He highlighted the scarcity of priests in his Diocese and their efforts to reach out to the Muslim communities through respectful dialogue and understanding. A panel discussion followed after the Bishop’s keynote address.
This was followed by a panel discussion on “Perspectives and Contexts in the Realization of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”. The first speaker, Ms. Bai Ali Indayla from the KAWAGIB (More Human Rights Alliance), gave an overview of the situation of the Muslim communities in Mindanao, the injustices and oppression they have been facing from private and public sectors, especially from government policies that have not considered the real needs and concerns of the Muslims.
The second speaker, Fr. Father Paul Glynn, a Columban priest, dwelt mostly on a historical perspective. He discussed the history of the Muslims in the Philippines not from the colonizer’s point of view but from the local’s. He pointed out the Muslim’s desire for self-determination.
The afternoon sessions focused on the “Human Rights and the Lumads: Retrospects and Prospects.” Though the issues faced by the indigenous communities are found all over the country, the focus of these sessions were on the indigenous people of Mindanao, the Lumads. There were two speakers who shed light on this topic, sharing specially their personal struggles while advocating for the rights of their people.
The first was Fr. Christopher Ablon from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Diocese of Malaybalay, Coordinator of the Phil. Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP). The second was Mr. Roger Plana, Secretary General of the KALUMBAY Regional Loomed Organization. They explicitly presented to the body the bloody and painful history of the Lumads, their struggles to defend their land, their dignity and identity. They highlighted the Government’s complacency towards the Lumad’s concerns, and worse, the governments support to mining companies, logging industries and the use of armed forces to inhibit the Lumad’s advocacies and preservation of their lands.
Workshops followed after the two speakers. The participants were free to choose which workshop to join. They were Interfaith Dialogue, the New Evangelization and the Human Rights and the Lumads. The workshops were crucial for the discernment aspect, a moment to discuss essential elements brought out during the day, to connect them with our current pastoral experiences in our respective places and to elaborate plans of actions to which we can commit ourselves as clergy. The method proposed was the “See, Judge and Act.” Every group prepared their report which was shared in the open forum. This activity helped us to be aquainted with the various realities of the oppressed in different contexts of the Philippines, especially in the Mindanao context.
The third day activities started with the Eucharistic Celebration presided by Msgr. Perseus P. Cabunoc, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and Rector of the St. Augustine Cathedral. He focused on the theme: “The Poor Church at the Service of the Poor.” He discussed the importance of the clergy to take a concrete and coherent stand towards the impoverished and oppressed, and that it remains a challenge for everyone to put into practice.
This was followed by a Panel Discussion which started with a talk by Sr. Henedina Mananzan, RGS, from the Women Ministry Program Coordinator, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. She discussed the topic “Faces of Poverty in Mindanao (Migration, Human Trafficking, and Child Labor)”. Sister Henedina gave a very “down to earth” message based on concrete data that shed light to the struggle of the impoverished people in Mindanao, especially of the young girls who are fooled with false promises of a better life, but in reality, are being sold and forced into prostitution here in the country and abroad.
The second panel discussion of the day was conducted by Bishop Feliberto Calan of Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Co-Chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum. He discussed the topic “Peace Process and Dialogue with the NPA\NDPF: The Mindanao Setting and Challenges.” Bishop Feliberto shared a significant amount of information of the political situation of Mindanao, the struggle of individuals and NGOs that have been fighting for justice, peace and dialogue. He mentioned the militarization of Mindanao and the abuses that have been happening in the Land. His talk was followed by the concurrent workshops focusing on three topics: The poor Church at the Service of the Poor, Faces of Poverty (Migration, human trafficking, and child labor), and Peace Process and Dialogue with NPA\NDFP. The workshops, once again, were marked by a rich sharing and various realities were presented by the participants, discernment and plans of actions were presented to the open forum in the following day.
The fourth and last day begun with the Eucharistic Celebration presided by Fr. Raul B. Dael, Vicar for Clergy of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. He focused during his homily on “The Care for our common home.” He animated the clergy present to embrace their prophetic role while being true stewards of creation or simply to commit one’s self to care for God’s gifts to humanity. The panel discussion had two excellent speakers.
The first was Fr. Reynaldo Raluto from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. He discussed the topic “Popes Francis’ Vision of Our Common Home: Laudato Si.” He presented the outline of the document, highlighting the most essential and challenging elements vis-a-vis the environmental situation of Mindanao.
Fr. Reynaldo’s talk was followed by Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB from the Panalipdan Mindanao. Sister Stella focused on the topic “The Environmental Concerns and Issues.” She mentioned that environmental issues afflicts the whole country, however she opted to focus on her own experiences in advocating for environmental protection of Mindanao. Sister Stella challenged those present to take a stand and join her and all those who have been advocating this noble cause to protect the environment. She, like the previous speaker, mentioned the richness of Mindanao, especially on natural resources, and that this richness is being threatened, especially by foreign investors, while the people of Mindanao, the Lumads and farmers remain struggling in poverty and alienation.
The last panel discussion was facilitated by Professor Bobby M. Tuazon, director for Policy Studies, center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG).
After hearing to all these speakers, getting acquainted with the alarming reality that are affecting our people, especially the people of Mindanao, the participants had varied emotions and feelings: on one hand a feeling of being disturbed, indignation, revolt, anger; on the other hand, of hope, of a call to action, a call to embrace our prophetic role, of going back to the gospel imperatives. We return to our respective missionary commitments revitalized and re-awakened to get out of our comfort zones and reach out to the impoverished and oppressed people in society.
Some realizations: it is evident that our church is not and should not be indifferent and complacent with the injustices being committed in our country, especially in Mindanao. Second, Mindanao cries for a more prophetic presence of the Church. Third, the Church should and cannot walk alone in her efforts to seek for justice and liberation. We as Church, have to join all men and women of good will, NGO’s, and various sectors of society who seek real transformation. Fourth, the discernment process must continue coupled with concrete actions.
We are certain that the Lord journeys with us. In the words of Pope Francis: “I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.” (Pope Francis, the Church of Mercy).
Prepared by the CICM Mindanao Cluster