January-February 2006

Two Stories From China

By Tina

What do you say before eating?’

‘What can I say before eating? I know that you say something. What about me? I don't have anybody to pray to. Could I just say “thank you” to my mom and dad?’

A twenty-year-old student of mine and I were having lunch together when he asked me this. I couldn’t answer well for we were in a restaurant where quite a few foreigners were eating too. I was surprised and at the same time paranoid in answering such a simple yet striking question. This young man tested my beliefs in a way he couldn't imagine.

In China, we can’t to be so open expressing our faith. That makes it quite awkward for a Catholic like me to make the sign of the cross before a meal or even call a clerical colleague by his proper title. This can be hard to adjust to at first. So before eating I’d rather say a short prayer silently and skip the sign of the cross. This can be difficult at the beginning but you eventually get used to doing your Catholic practices in a subtle way.

So I answered, ‘Yes, I think you can say “thanks” to your mom and your dad for giving you the money for the food you are about to have, and wish that they too may eat the same kind of food.’ He then asked, ‘What could I really say if I was like you? Could I possibly hear it?’ And so I uttered, ‘We usually say, “Bless us, o Lord, and this food we are about to eat. Bless those who prepared it and those who are not having the same kind of decent meal we have now. Amen.”’

I hoped that I explained the matter well and let him know what he wanted to know. I hope that, more than the words he heard from me, he saw something good in that practice that will make him think that I am a good person. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m still making sense with my life in China. Am I capable of changing the ideas and opinions about life of others by my own way of living? These questions can bother me. I’ve been here four years and the students never cease to amaze me. It's so strange how simple questions from them can rock my spiritual peace. I almost forgot to pray that day in the restaurant until the young man’s question reminded me that I needed to do so before I bit into that juicy, expensive burger.

Filipino Novice Slain In Jamaica

By Father Seán Coyle

Mauricio Laspuna (3rd left) and his wife, Conrada hold hands as they remember their son, Marco Laspuna (at right in photo on altar) yesterday at Missionaries of the Poor's Corpus Christi complex at3 North Street, downtown Kingston. The Laspunas, along with another son, Douglas (2nd left) arrived in the island this week for Brother Marco's funeral tomorrow. With the family are Father Ambrose (left), a senior priest of the Missionaries of the Poor; Father Fidelis Stoeckl (2nd right), who serves as a missionary in The Philippines; and Father Richard HoLung, founder/leader of the Missionaries of the Poor. (Photo: Karl McLarty)

‘We Went To Follow The Star’

By Ma. Kristina Garraton Abella

The author is a college student at the University of St LaSalle, Bacolod City.

World Youth Day (WYD) is a pilgrimage of young people and a festival of encounter and solidarity. Young people from all over the world are invited to take up the main concern of the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II: a renewal of evangelization that reaches out to the young. This enables the youth to experience a deeper sense of spirituality and community. I am grateful and happy that our new Holy Father, Benedict XVI has continued this tradition and came to meet us in Cologne.

‘We have come to worship Him’ was our theme. I was privileged to be one of the delegates from the Diocese of Bacolod, given the opportunity to discover the ‘young and modern mystery of the Church’ through the experience of pilgrimage, prayer, and worship.

Letter From Tanzania

Sr Rosalie with Sisters at Mtwara Secondary School for Sisters

Dear Father Seán,

Warmest greetings from Africa!

I’m trying to work double time making everything in order here and there for a smooth turnover to whoever will be taking over my work here as I go back to the Philippines for good. My role is really to stabilize the running of the Secondary School for Sisters, Mtwara, in southern Tanzania, and to train local people as much as possible who will continue running it. I can observe that they are gifted but need somebody to help them discover and develop their talents according to the task that will be delegated to them. They feel happy and very honored when entrusted with certain responsibilities, even without additional remuneration, which makes me feel so proud of them.

Tithing, A Way Of Life

By Father Rembert G. Rivera

The author is Chairman of the Commission on Mission in the Diocese of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

In 1990, in my first assignment, as parish priest of St Isidore the Farmer Parish, Moises Padilla, I had a dream of serving my people zealously in the Diocese of Kabankalan. I worked hard in building Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), the foremost program of our diocese under Most Rev. Vicente M. Navarra, now Bishop of Bacolod.

I read an article in Misyon, when the late Fr Niall O’Brien was editor, about the ongoing tithing program in the Diocese of San Carlos, under Bishop Nicholas Mondejar. Without much ado, I wrote Bishop Mondejar and later met him at the Bishop’s House in Bacolod. He refused payment for the five copies of the handbook of theModified Training Program and Self-sufficiency Program that he gave me. But he asked me to spread the idea among my fellow priests and lay people.

How To Peel Carrots And Win Hearts

By Rowena Dato Cuanico

Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico, who has written in these pages before, is one of three lay missionaries from the Philippines currently in Fiji.

Rowena Dato Cuanico

After waiting for nearly eight months for our first mission assignment, I heaved a sigh of relief and excitement as the plane touched down at Nadi International Airport, Fiji, on 29 October 2000. ‘Lord, this is it,’ were the only words that I could muster and say to myself as everything that I wished, hoped and prayed for was finally becoming real. I hardly slept on the ten-hour flight from Seoul since during the night. I was awakened at least four times by the captain’s voice telling us to fasten our seatbelts because of turbulence. My drowsiness, fatigue and anxieties vanished quickly as I and five other lay missionaries from thePhilippines were greeted by the bright and glorious splendor of that Sunday morning and by the smiles of friendly faces. Perhaps, the big smile on Father Charlie Duster’s face and his warm handshake said it all in his Bula, Welcome to Fiji!

Ministry Among The Subanen

By Father Frank Hoare SSC

The author, from Ireland, is on the General Council of the Society of St Columban. He worked for many years in Fiji.

Subanen Women

When Columban Father Brendan Kelly, from Northern Ireland, arrived at Katipunan, a mountain village in Misamis Occidental, nine years ago, he was shocked by the lack of education and medical services. The Subanen people, the original but displaced owners of the land, lived in extreme poverty. As a missionary he wanted to help. But aware of the big development plans of well-financed NGOs in the area, he wondered at first if he had any role to play. He decided then to take a people-centered approach.

Learning To Be A Shepherd In Zimbabwe

By Father Ariel Tampus SVD

Father Ariel, from Cebu, was one of 14 ordained to the priesthood on 9 March in Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City, and is hoping to return soon to Zimbabwe. Ten of his group have been assigned on mission overseas. http://svdbotswana.home.pl/ , the website of the province of the Society of the Divine Word that includes Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, has a longer version of his article. Father Ariel did his high school studies in Marigondon High School, Mactan, Cebu, and is a graduate of Cebu Normal University. He taught for three years in Michael Learning School, Talisay City, Cebu, before entering the seminary.

‘I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ (Jn10:11).Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd is one I can really relate to. Maybe it’s because shepherding is an everyday experience in Zimbabwe, a goat, sheep and cattle-raising country. Abelusi, shepherds, are everywhere, taking good care of the animals.

Student once again

I smile every time I remember my one-month stay in a village to practice the Ndebele language and to experience the life and culture of the people. I stayed with a very religious, simple family who treated me as a kin and made me feel at home. Every morning I joined the children in school. I spent a week with grade one pupils and a week with grade two. Then I went to grade four for two weeks, the first time ever I was ‘instantly promoted.’ This helped me to experience once again how a small child learns to speak. Learning a new language, in this case Ndebele, is fun but very humbling. Like a small child, I was very dependent on my elders and teachers. Even my grade one classmates were also my ‘elders’ and teachers.

‘Be Still And Know That I Am God’

By Crisaldo A. Belas

Crisaldo Belas is Formation and Training Assistant of the Pontifical Missionary Societies of the Philippines. The PMS of the Philippines is not a religious congregation, nor an institute of consecrated life. It is under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

As a professional catechist of the Archdiocese of Manila from 1996 till 2004, I attended monthly catechetical formation sessions in our area. We usually recited Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, the official Prayer of the Church, and spent time in silent prayer. Those years of formation awakened in me an understanding and love of prayer.

Working at the National Office

Front row: Bishop De la Peña of Marawi and Msgr Garcera; Back row: Cris (Far Right) with PMS Staff

Wüst Family From Germany

Dear Father Seán,

In our church community we say: ‘Guests are a blessing from God!’ We were very happy when we heard that two young people from the Philippines would stay in our house for five days. Our children Jasmin and Elisa had their school holidays and my wife and I took ours also. One of us went to every event of the ‘Days of Encounter at Limburg,’ with our ‘foster daughters’ from the Philippines. At all these events we felt the Spirit of God. It was wonderful! Together we sang spiritual songs, talked and prayed to God.  There was a great feeling of peace and harmony. We all felt as brothers and sisters. It was really wonderful.

Father Joeker

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD


Before leaving Wenchi Vocational School, the Religious of the Blessed Virgin Mary (RVM) planted jack fruits in the compound. When I was transferred to Wenchi, I did not tell the people that the fruits were edible. We enjoyed the monopoly until accidentally the principal of the school, in my absence, saw it in the convent and was told by the cook how delicious the fruit was. Since then, hardly could I get one.

Into The Deep

By Sr Francesca M. Mariano FSP

I am the ninth of thirteen born of the second marriage of my father. Six died in infancy. My father was 42, widowed with five children when he married my mother, then only 18. Their marriage was arranged by their parents. My mother didn’t know about the five children. After the wedding my father began bringing them home, one after the other. They were aged thirteen, eleven, nine, seven and five. They considered their father’s new wife as their own mother. My parents welcomed all their children from the hands of God who rewarded them with the joy of having many children. I always enjoyed the company of my big family. Many times we disagreed and quarreled, but beyond that we loved one another.

Then each one followed their own vocation. I entered the convent and at present I’m assigned here in Italy. Six remained in the Philippines and five went to the USA. And now our Lord is calling us back to Him one by one. Three in the Philippines have gone back to God and three in USA. Thanks be to God, we are still many.

The Four Pontifical Missionary Societies

These four pontifical societies have been given the responsibility by the Pope (hence the name 'Pontifical') to support the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of charity and social improvement around the world. They promote awareness, prayer, sacrifice and fundraising to support worldwide Catholic mission.In the Philippines, the National Director of the PMS is Msgr Gilbert A. Garcera who is also Executive Secretary of CBCP-ECM, the Episcopal Commission on Missions.

By Bernadette Pattugalan

The author is now in Fourth Year high school at St Scholastica’s College, Manila.

We had our class outreach in Pandacan, Manila, a squatters’ area where the houses are beside the railroad. I really didn’t know what to expect when we were going there. When we got off the jeepney, children came and greeted us.

They brought us on a tour around the place. While we were touring, a train was coming our direction. I felt its rush and roar, just a feet away from me. I realized at that moment the danger it could bring. I also asked myself, ‘Of all places, why build a house beside a railroad?’

From Your Valentine

This is taken from www.carmelites.ie , the website of the Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites (OCarm)

The Roman Martyrology commemorates two martyrs named Valentine (or Valentinus) on 14 February, which seems to indicate that both were beheaded on the Flaminian Way, one at Rome the other at Terni, about 100 kilometers from Rome. Valentine of Rome was a priest who is said to have died about 269 during the persecution of Claudius the Goth (or Claudius II Gothicus). The other Valentine was allegedly Bishop of Terni, and his death is attested to in the Martyrology of St Jerome. Whether there were actually one or two Valentines is disputed. One possibility is that two cults – one based in Rome, the other in Terni – may have sprung up to the same martyr but that in the mists of time his true identity became confused.

A student from St Scholastica shares how a short item from Peace by Peace inspired and encouraged her in her own involvement in their school’s outreach program.

Dear Father Seán,

You really have a lot of engaging and inspiring articles in your magazine. One short item that struck me was a quote by Blessed Mother Teresa in your Peace by Peace section, July-August 2005 issue. It said:

If you really belong to the work that has been entrusted to you, then you must do it with your whole heart and you can bring salvation only by being honest and by really working with God. It is not how much we are doing but how much love, how much honesty, how much faith is put into doing it. It makes no difference what we are doing. What you are doing, I cannot do, and what I am doing, you cannot do. Only sometimes we forget and spend more time looking at somebody else and wishing we were doing something else. We waste our time thinking of tomorrow and today we let the day pass and yesterday is gone.