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Father James H. Kroeger MM
James H. Kroeger MM is Professor of Systematic Theology, Missiology, and Islamics at the Loyola School of Theology in Manila. Currently, he is President of the Philippine Association of Catholic Missiologists (PACM), Secretary-Convenor of the Asian Missionary Societies Forum (AMSAL), and consultant to the Asian Bishops’ (FABC) Office of Evangelization. His most recent books are: The Future of the Asian Churches (2002), Becoming Local Church (2003) and Once Upon a Time in Asia: Stories of Harmony and Peace (2006, Manila: Claretian Publications).
Seven years have passed; plentiful fruits have been harvested – some foreseen, others quite unexpected. Indeed, the celebration by the Local Church in the Philippines of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 has produced numerous, perduring benefits. All sectors of the Philippine Church have been graced; the renewing action of the vivifying Spirit has produced ‘seven years of plenty’.
A glimpse back at the year 2000 shows that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) chose to make mission and evangelization central to the entire Jubilee Year experience: they conducted a three-day workshop on Mission and Ecclesia in Asia for the CBCP itself; they issued the inspiring document ‘Missions’ and the Church in the Philippines: A Pastoral Letter on the Church’s Mission in the New Millennium; they sponsored the large National Mission Congress in Cebu which they viewed as the ‘fitting culminating activity’ of the Jubilee Year celebrations and the ‘first step as a Local Church into the Third Millennium’.
In this context of the National Mission Congress and a genuine ‘mission awakening’, several missiologists serving the Philippine Church, encouraged by Bishop Vicente C. Manuel SVD, Chairman of the CBCP Commission on Missions, began to explore the feasibility and advantages of forming a professional missiological organization. The purpose of such a group would be to foster and animate the Philippine Church being a ‘Church-in-Mission’ (cf. Second Plenary Council of the Philippines: PCP-II, Nos. 102-115).
Dreams and hopes became concrete realities when eleven Catholic missiologists gathered in Cebu (17-19 August 2001) to begin work on the National Mission Plan for the CBCP (a pivotal recommendation of the Cebu National Mission Congress); the participants also explored the possibilities of forming a missiological society. During this historic meeting, the assembled missiologists decided to forge ahead and initiate the Philippine Association of Catholic Missiologists (PACM). The vision and commitment to renewal for mission had become concrete. Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal hosted the PACM at a luncheon, encouraging its members to pursue various activities of mission animation within the Local Church of the Philippines. PACM had been born!
Drama Presentation of the MSP seminarians
Drama Presentation by Seminarians of
the Mission Society of the Philippines
The momentum continued; enthusiasm grew. The fledgling PACM held its First Plenary Assembly at the Lorenzo Mission Institute in Manila (20-21 October 2001). The Association augmented and refined the proposed National Mission Plan for presentation at the January 2002 CBCP meeting. PACM completed the tedious work of developing and ratifying its Statutes; participants elected officers for 2001-2004; future plans and activities were explored. PACM had taken its first few steps.
PACM ‘exists for the purpose of fostering and animating the Philippine Church being a Church-in-Mission’. It also ‘commits itself to promoting missiological research, studies and educational activities as well as encouraging collaboration among the Catholic missiologists of the Philippines’. Its members are ‘those persons who hold a graduate or postgraduate degree in the field of Missiology’ (PACM Statutes).
Participants in the PACM founding assembly in cebu
Participants of the PACM Assembly held in Cebu. Standing: W. LaRousse, G. Millan, G. Decasa, B. Valenzuela, P. Steffen, S. Mesiona. Seated: J. Yu, J. Kroeger, V. Manuel, J. Enginco, M. Gabriel
Currently (2007) PACM counts sixteen degreed missiologists among its members. Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao are represented. In terms of their affiliations, members come from these groups: diocesan priests, Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), Maryknoll Fathers (MM), Mission Society of the Philippines (MSP), Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Society (LRMS), Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), Xaverian Missionaries (SX), Missionaries of Jesus (MJ), Dominican Sisters (OP), Good Shepherd Sisters (RGS), and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM). Additional Filipinos are presently in Rome pursuing licentiates or doctorates in missiology.
PACM held its Second Plenary Assembly in Tagaytay (21-23 February 2002); the group was graciously hosted by the seminary community of the Mission Society of the Philippines. Updates on mission activities were given; new members were welcomed; proposals were presented to ascertain how the PACM could contribute to the implementation of the National Mission Plan that was unanimously approved by the CBCP on 26 January 2002. Joyful enthusiasm characterized this second PACM Plenary Assembly.
A unique feature of the PACM Annual Plenary Assembly is a half-day ‘Mission Conference’; this symposium is open to the public and addresses a current issue of missiological significance. The 2002 Tagaytay Conference, held at the Divine Word School of Theology, explored the question: ‘Is Dialogue Possible? Muslims and Christians in Mindanao’. Father William LaRousse MM spoke insightfully of Muslim-Christian Dialogue in the context of the southern Philippines; he was followed by reactions from two respondents. Father Antonio de Castro SJ, a Church historian originally from Mindanao, and Sister Lilian Curaming FMM, an Islamic expert engaged in Muslim-Christian dialogue, gave their perceptive reflections on the LaRousse paper. A lively open forum completed the lengthy mission symposium. The proceedings of the PACM Mission Conference 2002 have been published in Landas (Loyola School of Theology) [16 (2002): 273- 311].
The Third PACM Plenary Assembly (2003) was held in Cebu; the Mission Conference was hosted by the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos. The conference theme was devoted to ‘Inculturation in the Chinese-Filipino Context’. Father Jose Vidamor B. Yu LRMS gave the keynote address, outlining the challenges, phases, and possibilities of genuine inculturation of the faith in the ‘Chinoy’ context. Two dynamic responses to the Yu presentation were given by Sr Catherine S. Cheong FI and Fr Aristotle C. Dy SJ. The three presentations are available in Landas [17 (2003): 201-241].
Again, in the context of the annual, three-day plenary assembly, the PACM, meeting in Davao and hosted by St Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary and the Maryknoll Fathers, sponsored Mission Conference 2004. The focus of the gathering centered on ‘BECs as Evangelizing Communities: Challenges’. Three PACM members spoke: Sr Fe Mendoza RGS, Msgr Manuel G. Gabriel, and Fr James H. Kroeger MM. Published proceedings are found in Landas [18 (2004): 265-308].
For its 2005 assembly the PACM journeyed to Naga and was hosted by Holy Rosary Major Seminary and the Universidad de Sta Isabel. Note that a theological / major seminary or school of theology is always requested to hold the annual mission conference; the PACM views this as one small way to inject missiological discussion into seminary formation. The topic for the Naga event was: ‘The Church’s Mission of Evangelization in Asia: FABC Perspectives’. [Editor’s note: the FABC is the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.] Speakers included Fr James H. Kroeger MM, Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi OP of Caceres, and Joy Candelario of the FABC Youth Desk. The documents are available in Landas [19 (2005); 175-219].
Cagayan de Oro and Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary were the venue for the 2006 PACM gathering. The Mission Conference theme explored ‘Migration and Mission’. Speakers included: Fr Fabio Baggio CS of the Scalabrini Migration Center, Fr James H. Kroeger MM, and Fr Edwin Corros CS of the CBCP Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Publication of the proceedings is currently in progress.
In Manila the Lorenzo Mission Institute and San Carlos School of Theology hosted the 2007 PACM assembly. ‘God’s Global Household: A Theology of Mission in the Context of Globalization’ was the relevant theme for the event. Presenters were Fr Andrew G. Recepcion, Ms Teresa Medrano-Ganzon, and Mr Dominador Bombongan, Jr. Publication of the talks is foreseen.
Plans are already being formulated for the 2008 PACM Plenary Assembly and Mission Conference. It is proposed that the gathering be held in Iloilo in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Jaro and St Joseph Regional Seminary. The topic chosen for Mission Conference 2008 is: ‘Storytelling as a Mission Methodology in the Context of Asia’. Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle DD of Imus will serve as the keynote speaker. His presentation, along with further discussion by PACM members, will build upon the insights of the October 2006 Asian Mission Congress held in Thailand.
In the vision of PACM, effective mission today needs both practitioner evangelists as well as theologian visionaries. To insightfully identify the trends, challenges, and theological questions – and to offer missiological insight – can help lay the groundwork for more fruitful mission endeavors on the part of the many laborers in the field. In a word, there is an ongoing, even urgent, need for a body like PACM to engage the missiological questions of the third millennium of Christianity. Thus, PACM desires to do its small share, to make its humble contribution, to enable the Local Church of the Philippines become a fully missionary faith community. A professional group of missiologists like PACM (though it is less than 20 members at this time) sees its yeast-like role within the Local Church. From a very modest origin in 2001, its mission contribution can grow and expand. In addition, PACM realizes that it is only one of the many, praise-worthy evangelistic initiatives existing in the Philippine Church.
Presently, in addition to its own internal activities, PACM members teach missiology in eleven major seminaries or schools of theology. They work in close collaboration with the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Mission, the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Philippines, the Philippine Catholic Mission Council, the FABC Office of Evangelization, and the International Association of Catholic Missiologists. PACM members have written theological and catechetical books with a mission focus; they have collaborated with various media initiatives; they make themselves available for conferences, workshops, and seminars.
PACM members see themselves ‘at the service of mission’ within the Local Church; they are profoundly aware that mission always remains ‘God’s Project’ and that the Holy Spirit is ‘the principal agent of mission’. They follow the view that the Church - each Local Church - by her very nature is missionary, that evangelization is her proper vocation, her deepest identity. In a word, the Church exists in order to evangelize; likewise, for PACM, to live is to evangelize!
Father Kroeger may be contacted at:
Maryknoll Fathers; Greenhills Post Office
Box 285, San Juan City, 1502 Metro
Manila, Philippines. His e-mail address
Maryknoll Mission Family: