Over the past three weeks, I had an opportunity to visit our Sisters in the Philippines.
As always, the best part of the visit was spending time with our Sisters in Greenhills, Antipolo, Bohol, Tabuk and Cardona. Unfortunately, I was not able to visit all our convents. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm of our youngest members, the novices and the Junior Professed Sisters were signs of new life and hope for our Nazareth in the Philippines. At the same time, the dedication and hard work of all the Sisters, often under difficult conditions, were a real inspiration. I am grateful to the Sisters for their kind hospitality and allowing me to be a part of their communities. While it would be impossible to write about the entire three weeks of my stay, I want to share a few of the highlights.
Feast of the Presentation - World Day of Consecrated Life
As part of a nine year spiritual journey toward the celebration of the 500th Jubilee of Christianity in the Philippines. The Catholic Bishops Conference declared 2018 as the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, with the theme Renewed Servant Leaders for the New Evangelization. In the spirit of this theme, religious men and women gathered in Manila Cathedral for a solemn Mass celebrated by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. After the homily, priests and Sisters washed the feet of 12 people from different sectors of society. These included a victim of mining, an indigenous person, a farmer, a fisherman, the mother of an extra judicial killing victim, an urban poor person, an advocate against human trafficking; an Overseas Filipino Worker; a young person; a drug addict; a child living on the street, and a Muslim woman. Before the ritual, the Bishop stated: This year being the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, representatives from your Superiors will be foot washers. The challenge of the new evangelization makes us consecrated persons revisit our prophetic call. As they wash the feet of those representing the various faces of the poor, pray that we may be faithful to our being prophets of todays as we renew our commitment to be Servant Leaders of the People of God. During this ritual the servant leader, before pouring water over each person’s feet and drying them was asked to answer the questions presented as an expression of his/her renewal of commitment to the service of the community in the specific area of need.
After a ten-hour bus trip from Manila, Sister Greta and I arrived at the convent of our Sisters in Bulanao, Tabuk City close to 4:00 a.m. to be greeted by the welcoming face of Sr. Linda Maria Balazo. After a quick nap, we soon discovered that the whole town was celebrating the 23rd Kalinga Founding Anniversary and 2nd Bodong Festival, all of which lasted an entire week. Consequently, the schools were closed so that all could participate in various celebrations and activities. These included a Drum and Lyre Band Competition in which seven elementary schools participated. The performances were outstanding. Other activities included street dancing, traditional craft markets, parades, parades and more parades, many in traditional dress, proudly worn by the indigenous groups in the Kalinga region. Our timing to visit with our Sisters was perfect.