November-December 1999

Following St. Francis

By Gee-Gee O. Torres

The village of Nong Din Dam in Thailand may seem very far away from the village of Assisi in Northern Italy but they are connected. A thousand years ago in Northern Italy, St. Francis burst upon the world to remind the Church that we must become a Church of service and a Church of the poor. Since then, thousands of people have followed in the feet of St. Francis and among them are the four Filipino Franciscan sister of the Immaculate Conception who have settled in the village of Nong Din Dam. I went to visit the sisters on my trip to Thailand. I enjoyed seeing the little ways and the projects which they have used as instruments of service for the poor and their way of following the Gospel. Let me introduce you to these four women.

No Time To Play

By Michael L. Tan

Around my parents’ home in San Juan, I have watched through the years street child vendors grow up. I remember one of them very distinctly because he has a congenital condition in his eyes that always made him look like he was half asleep. He survived selling cigarettes, year after year. I watched him as he grew into adolescence. Then he disappeared from the streets, only to pop up again, now a young man driving a pedicab. He’d made it in his own way. We need to hear from him and others like him. We know what goes wrong. What we need to know is what went right -- the difference that allows the children not just to survive but to thrive in a society that’s only now beginning to accept childhood.

Father Joe, Wake Me Before I Die!

By Fr. Joseph Brooder, mssc

By the time I got to Japan twenty-five years ago, ecumenism was very strong. But it had not always been that way. One Protestant minister told me that when Father Pat Diamond sent an invitation to all the Protestant ministers in the City of Kumamoto to attend the opening of the new hall in Tetori parish, they got together to discuss whether it would be safe to attend or not. They prayed about it, but decided to risk death and attend. The rest is history.

They where bowled over by the reception they got, met priests whom they found to be normal after all, and had a great party. “We discovered that Catholics really do believe in Christ,” said one of the ministers. That was the beginning of different churches working together in Kumamoto. Perhaps Father Pat Diamond did more for ecumenism there by that invitation than did Vatican II. Since then every Christmas Catholic and Protestant churches hire out the local threatre to hold a Christmas pageant. Catholic and Protestant schools stage the nativity in drama. On alternate years, the guest speaker is Catholic or Protestant.

Angola Diary

By Fr. Efren De Guzman svd

Dear Misyon Friends,

In the many uncertainties we are experiencing here in Angola or whenever I’m down, I praise and thank God that we have special friends like you, friends with compassionate hearts who wish to pray and support our work for the poorest of the poor.

I don’t know when God will take my life through sickness assault, landmine explosion or accident. So let me tell you, as I try to express this brotherly feeling within the limitations of a letter, how close you are to my heart.

December 1. Some of our friends in Cazega were hesitant to report to the authorities that almost every night in their area, some armed people were entering houses, robbing and raping women. One of the victims was woman who just given birth, later she died of infection. The people were so furious that when they caught the perpetrator, who was a military deserter and a drug addict, they tortured him and burned him alive.

Europe, Pagan?

Challenge for the Church today

By Hector Pascua

An eight –year-old child opted to stay after the afternoon’s religion class. She approached me as I was packing my things. “Hector, do children in the Philippines have religion classes, too?” she asked me. “Of course, they do. Like you, they are also preparing themselves for the First Holy Communion,” I answered back.

Why I Bought Slaves

By Caroline Cox

After a visit to Sudan, Baroness Cox reports on the slaughter of Christians and animists by raiders backed by the country’s Islamic regime. She explains how she, and the organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide with which she traveled, were driven to enter the slave trade.

Bokis Kontrak

The Ark of the Covenant

By Sr. Mary Gabrielle osc

Guinea highlanders have been following a modern day Ark of the Covenant. It all begun when the people in the Diocese of Wabag wanted to commemorate the first coming of the SVD missionaries 50 years ago. The idea of carrying a Bible from parish to parish following the path of the early missionaries came up. The Bible was to travel in style – in a specially decorated wooden and glass box, modeled after the Ark of the Covenant, or as they termed it “Bokis Kontrak”. This was to symbolize the presence of God’s Word in their midst. For four months, they carried the ark around the parishes of the diocese. It was never left alone night or day, rain or shine.

Christmas Came Early Continuation

By Ceres Doyo

He was into cars, her family was into real estate. Both belonged to upper-class Caucasian community that had grown roots in the Philippines and established business here.

When they first saw the four month-old Noel at the Heart of Mary villa, the baby reached out to them. Noel chose them. They named him Michael Angelo.

Happy Kid

“I always knew I was adopted,” Michael says causally. He does not remember when or how he knew but being adopted did not seem like a big deal to him then. Certainly he looked different from his fair-haired cousins and their friends – but he was one of them. He was doted on by his grandparents and aunts and uncles. “I was a happy kid. I had everything. I was close to my mom but i was surrounded by yayas,” Michael laughs.

Christmas Came Early

Extracts from an article by Ceres Doyo

1970, Negros Occidental. Elenita Flores was 19, a senior at the West Negros College in BacolodCity. Nita was not typical teenager who sang about the Age of Aquarius and wore beads and platform shoes. Her concerns were different – teaching catechism, completing her education, living up to the expectations of her big family in the town of Kabankalan.
Nita’s home province was in the throes of social upheaval. The few rich were very rich and the poor, to which Nita’s family belonged, were getting poorer. Nita’s family was struggling but was not the poorest of the poor.

Nita was in her last years in college, majoring in Education, when she felt her life reaching a dead end. She was listless and raging inside. She had just broken off with her boyfriend. Back home in Kabankalan, things were not easy, Nita felt alone with no one to turn to.

Prayer In The Loob

Fr. Jerry Pierse, cssr

Since I started working, said Rose one night at our prayer meeting, I used to spend more than half of my earnings on cosmetics, manicures, pedicures, and the like. Recently, I notice I have stopped doing that. I never made a decision to stop. The change came from somewhere inside me.

At this stage Rose had been in our meditation group for about a year. What happened? I think that what happened is this: Rose had a very poor self-image and thought that she had to beautify herself to be attractive to people. When she sat in silent meditation she came to realize deep in her core, in her loob, that she was loved and beautiful before God. So her impulsive need to beautify herself ceased. When change happened in her loob her behavior followed.

The Courage To Say No

Everyone talks about the way the problem of graft and corruption is undermining our society but then when one is personally tempted, we charge our tune: saying ‘no’ becomes suddenly difficult and we look for all kinds of excuses to justify our actions. Strong conviction and will power are needed to overcome these temptations.

A Letter From Ivory Coast

Hello Fr. Des,

My Missionary Vocation started in 1967 when I arrived in the former Upper Volta, now called Borkina Fasso, where I stayed, where I stayed for 15 years. Then I went to Niger, near the Sahara desert, and stayed for 2 years. Then I arrived in the Ivory Coast, where I have stayed for 8 years-27 years in all!

As you know, Ivory Coast is a French speaking country in West Africa. We are running a secondary school with 450 girl students. I teach English as a second language. We have no problem regarding discipline and work because their future lies in the success of their studies. The majority of our students are animists. The rest are Muslims and Christians.

A Most Dangerous Woman

By Sr. Joan Chittister

Mary Jones was born in Cork, Ireland in 1830. She worked as a seamstress and schoolteacher, bore four children, emigrated to the United States when Victorianism was in its heyday and, at an early age, lost her husband and all her children to smallpox. She was one of thousands of strong and long suffering women who lived in poverty and survived it. In her long, black dress and broad-brimmed hat, she was the prototype of every turn-of-the-century grandmother in the United States. Except that she wasn’t. Underneath the patina of propriety and modest seemliness beat the heart of the lion of Judah who knew injustice and decried it, who knew the story of Exodus and believed it.

A New Road To Holiness

By Amy Rebecca Radil

The women padding into the living room in sweaters and leggings were nuns in training. Sitting on sofas and cushions with caftans tucked around them, they held paperback Bibles and began the day with music and prayer. Sr. Rita Burdz, one of the group’s leaders, lit a candle on the center table. An ethereal chorale played on the stereo. The orientation home of the Maryknoll Sister, and order of the Catholic Missionaries, resembled nothing so much as a well-kept sorority house. Its spacious, sunny rooms were filled with plants, books and worn but comfortable furniture, along with objects sent as gift from Sisters abroad.