525 - September 2012
July 4th, 2012 - August 29th, 2012



Faithfully preparing young Oblates for 30 years

Since 1971, the Oblates from the Australian Delegation who worked on Java Island saw good interest among Indonesian young men to be Missionary Oblates. In 1980, 8 Indonesian youth entered the Oblates. They stayed and learnt philosophy at the scholasticate of St. Paul, Kentungan, Yogyakarta. In 1981, the Australian Delegation agreed to build a house for the Oblate candidates from Indonesia at Yogyakarta. Some preparations were then carried out to this purpose; one of them was that the Oblates bought 600 m2 land at the village of Dero, Condong Catur, Yogyakarta. In January 1982, the building of the formation house was started. The aim of the project was to prepare the main buildings with bedrooms, kitchen, and washing room.

On 29 July 1982, 8 Oblate candidates from the scholasticate of St. Paul moved to the newly finished scholasticate; there were as well 4 new candidates from the minor seminary of Mertoyudan, Magelang. Fr. John Kevin CASEY came to Yogyakarta from St. Joseph Parish, East Purwokerto, Central Java. He was appointed as the first rector of the scholasticate. In 1983, some other buildings were finished. The formation house was named “Wisma de Mazenod” (or De Mazenod House). It was blessed on the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr, on 10 August 1983, by Fr. Austin COOPER, the provincial of Oblates of Australia at that time.

Over time, the occupants of the scholasticate increased. In July 1983, 8 new candidates joined the Wisma. In July 1984, there were another 9 new candidates. Seeing the increasing number of the candidates from year to year, some other new facilities were added. At the end of 1984, a rectory was built.

From the birth of the scholasticate to date, Wisma de Mazenod has faithfully been preparing Oblate candidates to possess the same spirit as the Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. These candidates go through a period of 7 years to complete their study of philosophy and theology and do some other formation programmes and activities prepared carefully by the formators in order for the candidates to be able to enter into a process of building their religious lives as an Oblate. The scholasticate has been witness to a large number of Indonesian young men who came into the formation house with holy intentions, trying to shape their lives, to consecrate themselves to God and to serve Him as His means of giving blessings to the Church.

Over the 30 year history of the scholasticate, there have been 31 Indonesian Oblates ordained. The first Oblate, Fr. Gregorius Basir KARIMANTO was ordained on 29 February 1987, whilst the 31st Indonesian Oblate, Fr. Aloysius Wahyu NUGROHO was recently ordained on 09 July 2012, at the parish of St. Mary Immaculate, Taraan, East Kalimantan.

The scholasticate’s wheel of life is still spinning. For the academic year of 2012-2013, there are 10 scholastics and 1 Brother in the house. Surely it is the hope of all that there will always be the seeds of vocations to Oblate life growing in the Catholic families in Indonesia and that the scholasticate will continue be the witness of an abundant harvest of Indonesian Oblates in the years to come. (Caraka Team)

Remembering Fr. Michael Rodrigo

The 85th anniversary of the birth of late Fr. Michael RODRIGO, who was gunned down by an assassin 25 years ago at his mission at Buttala, was celebrated on June 30 at St. Mary’s Church, Dehiwala, his parish of origin.

The Holy Eucharist was presided over by Fr. Rohan SILVA, Provincial of the Oblates’ Colombo Province; several Oblates concelebrated. During the homily Fr. Claude PERERA, commented on the day’s readings. He said that the situation of Jerusalem immediately after the exile in some manner paralleled the situation of Sri Lanka in late 1980’s. Imitating Jesus Christ, the integral liberator, Fr. Rodrigo stood for the rights of the rural poor and oppressed, and gave his life for them. He further said that the best tribute to his martyrdom is to spur us on to prophetic speech and action in our own times.

At the gathering that followed, Prof. Anton Meemana spoke of the person and mission of Fr. Rodrigo and listed some of his heroic qualities and the values for which he stood. He said that Fr. Rodrigo was a man of humour, deeply human and universal as a person. His authentic and credible life is to his honour. He lived with a sense of helplessness, yet was never a passive drifter. Each day of his life he tried to do what he liked and not what he hated. He had a reverential intimacy with the eco-system which demanded a change of life style. Prof. Meemana reiterated also the need to forgive Fr. Rodrigo’s assassins. He concluded saying that the option for the poor does not exclude our duty to conscientize the rich.

The event was organized by the Oblate community at Suba Seth Gedara, Buttala, in collaboration with the parish priest of Dehiwala and the family of Fr. Rodrigo.

Oblates return to Timanan

In the Church’s Mission in the Cotabato Archdiocese, the return of the OMI Missionaries to their former mission places is no longer simply a remote possibility.

Almost two years ago, the first return came about after the appeal from the local community and the diocese to take responsibility once again of the Mission School in Kulaman; otherwise, the school faced the sad possibility of closure. Fr. Mon BERNABE, OMI, then Provincial, heeded the appeal and accepted again the care for the school.

The school is considered poor and most abandoned, thus falling within the priority of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. There is also a special feature in the school that makes it a special ministry to the Oblates. The uniqueness of the school is the fact that it serves the Indigenous Peoples of the Daguma mountain ranges in Sultan Kudarat Province. It is for this reason that the Oblate Provincial could not refuse the appeal to take responsibility over the school again.

This year, a similar return of the Oblates occurred. Archbishop Orlando QUEVEDO asked the Oblates to take charge of the parish of Timanan, South Upi. The Marist Fathers, who had asked the bishop some years ago to be given the mountain parish to work among the Indigenous Peoples, were leaving the diocese for good and the bishop appealed to the Oblates to come back to their former mission station.

Fr. Lauro DE GUIA, the new Provincial, accepted the exchange on May 30, 2012, in a ceremony presided by Archbishop Quevedo, with Rev. Fr. Larry Sabud, SM, Delegation Superior of the Marist Fathers in the Philippines. There were five Marist Fathers and twelve Oblate priests and brothers present at the ceremony.

The Timanan of years gone by is different from today. First, the road from Cotabato City to the parish church in Timanan is fully paved. Second, there is electric power in the town with the possibilities of getting all of modern life amenities –electric fans, coolers, and cable TV. Third, there are communication sites that make possible the use of cell phones and internet. And to top it all, there is a new concrete convent and a kindergarten center in the church grounds.

Fr. Lauro, in accepting the parish once again, could not help but reminisce about his early missionary experiences years ago when as a postulant he lived in Timanan for three months. They were seven postulants who were there for a mission exposure and they stayed in a small room in 1986. The late Fr. Yves CAROFF was parish priest. He introduced the postulants to the tough mission in the mountains of South Upi.

Fr. Lauro shared, “It was there that I got the taste of what it was to be a missionary -- praying in community, cooking and eating together, drinking together and being sent to chapels by twos. It was here also that I experienced hiking for many hours, rode on horseback, or by motorcycle to reach the far-flung Christian communities in the mountains. But what was consoling was the hospitality and generosity of the simple folks who in their poverty openly welcomed us. They shared with us their homes to rest; and they offered us their best food at their tables.”

Fr. Raul Biasbas, OMI makes his public solemn profession of faith
prior to his assumption of the office of Pastor

There are now three Oblate missionaries assigned to Timanan: Fr. Raul BIASBAS, pastor; Fr. Jurambel SACIL, associate pastor; and Bro. Matt BERTIS, who is there to experience the mission as he awaits his presbyteral ordination. (www.omiphil.org)

For 41 years, companion in the mission

Fr. Bruno ARENS, for 41 years a missionary in Thailand, died on July 24, 2012, in his native Belgium. His missionary companion during all those years, Brother Bernard WIRTH, retraces here the life of this true missionary.

Bruno’s great concern, from the beginning and all during his mission, was to become Thai with the Thais. He showed this concern in various ways. He did this first of all by immersing himself, body and soul, into the study of Thai, to the point that he acquired an exceptional knowledge of the written and spoken language.

At the same time, he chose to live in the slums of Huay Kwang with a small team for two years, to share the life of the poorest and to discover basic Thai culture. It was in living very simply that he opted to not have a motorbike or car; he got around on foot or by bus like those around him. Walking enabled him to live by the rhythm of the country and meet many people. It was a way to develop his sense of hospitality and availability, strengths of Thai culture. Bruno could not say no when asked for a service; he wanted to be a friend to all.

It was also in this context that his interest in Buddhism was born. In a predominantly Buddhist country where Christianity represents only 0.5% of the population, he sought a deeper integration than in the small Christian minority. And he loved to say that Buddhism is not only a philosophy that can be learned in books, but a lifestyle that one can understand by practicing it. Bruno was close to several Buddhist monks; he attended two meditation centers and he was sort of a pioneer in interreligious dialogue.

Finally his desire for integration into Thai society also led him to become interested in the history of the country, especially its ancient history. The cabinets of documents and manus he left behind testify to this. He participated in many conferences, sometimes serving as an interpreter because of its ability to juggle between Thai, English, German and French. What is surprising to some is that he leaves behind no work that is directly under his name, but this is so characteristic of Bruno. He helped with a lot of research and translations; he helped many students, teachers and researchers find unpublished manus; he helped them write their theses, but for him, it was a free service. While Bruno was fascinated by history, he refused the prospect of acquiring any title or degree. He wanted to offer a free service, something totally against the grain of the new wave in Thailand today, where everyone asserts his titles and degrees and is only interested in making a profit.

Bruno shared his concern for insertion into Thai society with another concern, that of giving himself totally to the service of the Christian community in this country. Bruno used his responsibilities as pastor in very different places, first in the region of Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, a small town without a priest for over a decade; then in Song Phi Nong, a large village with a strong Christian community and a school. Later he was sent into the north-east of the country, to Tha Bom, a village half Christian, half Buddhist. His last position was in Bangkok itself, Saphan Mai. But his concern was the same everywhere, to deepen the faith of the people he was called to serve as closely as possible.

Besides his work of catechesis of adults and children in the parish, Bruno was involved in the formation center for religious women and the major seminary in Bangkok; he was also responsible for training future Thai Oblates.

Bruno closely followed the mission of the Oblates with the Hmong, an ethnic group of mountain people in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China, a mission launched by Father Yves BERTRAIS in Laos and which continues today by daily radio programs, which are heard even in China; he was also involved in pastoral services in the north-east of the country.

Finally Bruno also agreed to work at the National Catholic Center for Social Development for ten years. I could continue the list of his responsibilities, especially as he was Superior of our Oblate group in Thailand and Laos to twice. To him they were services to be rendered, and as he could not refuse, he accepted them willingly.

These are some highlights of Bruno’s life; I am aware that I have been very brief. I probably state very poorly how Bruno just wanted to follow Jesus and the huge void he leaves behind him with his brothers and sisters, his co-workers, friends and family members. How we miss him too. Finally I must confess that the Lord has ways that I find difficult to understand! (Bernard Wirth)

125 years of love and service

“It is with great joy that I thank God for the 125 years of love and service of the OMI Fathers as chaplains in the General Hospital, Colombo. Their history in the hospital began at the same time as that of our Sisters, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM). It was in 1886 that the British Government in Colombo, through the mediation of Father Joseph BOISSEAU, the vicar General in Colombo. The collaboration between the OMI and the FMM which began at that time has continued since then, although our presence in the hospital has now been reduced to a minimum due to circumstance beyond our control.” (Sr. Antoinette Gomez, FMM, Provincial Superior).

The FMM sisters and Oblates worked together from 1889 – 1964, when the first Archbishop of Colombo Archbishop Christopher BONJEAN wrote to the then Superior General of FMM, Mother Mary of Passion FMM, “The hospital of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary is a mission within the mission.” In 1964, the government did not renew the contract with the Sisters working in government hospitals, thereby terminating their services. This drastic decision was taken suddenly. When the Sisters left St. Peter’s House in 1964, the community numbered 81.

Since 1889 until the present day, seventy-three Oblates have been chaplains to the Government Hospitals in Colombo. The first was a French missionary, Fr. Marian Joseph Charles CONRARD in September 1889. The present Oblates chaplains are: Frs. Dileepa JAYAMAHA, Presanna RODRIGO and Jude Roshan JAYAMAHA. In these 125 years of the hospital’s history, the two most outstanding personalities who served the sick till the day the Lord called them were Fr. Claude Joseph Vincent Lawrence and Sr. Lina Gendron, FMM. Fr. Lawrence, a native of South Africa, served as hospital and prison chaplain from 1934 until his death in November 1995.

The 125th jubilee started with vespers presided over by Bishop Norbert ANDRADI, of Anuradhapura, on the 7th of July, in the presence of Bishop Maximus Silva, the Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo and Fr. Rohan SILVA, the Provincial of Oblates and Fr. Ivan Perera, the Episcopal Vicar of the Colombo Diocese. The St. Aloysius Minor Seminary Choir sang beautifully in making the day very prayerful and reflective.

On the following day, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, presided over the Jubilee High Mass at the St. Peter’s Hospital Chapel, Colombo. He was gracefully welcomed at the main gate of the National Hospital by the hospital chaplains, the Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Fr. Rohan Silva and the priests, nuns, doctors, nurses, Catholic volunteers, and many well-wishers. Then he was led in procession to the St. Peter’s Chapel. It was a unique and witnessing event in a majority Buddhist environment.

Afterwards, His Eminence celebrated the Jubilee Mass and in his sermon, he stressed the need to cater to the needs of the people before spending time on ideologies, discussions and impractical answers. He also insisted that the mission in the hospital is to show our love and to do charity to the sick and the infirm and that there are no ulterior motives in this apostolate. He clearly expressed that for 125 years, priests and nuns have worked tirelessly for the poor and the abandoned and he thanked the Oblates and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary for their dedicated service to humanity and congratulated the present chaplains for continuing this ‘healing ministry.’ (Oblate News, Colombo)

Another bomb in Jolo

In many places, Oblates risk their lives each day as they serve their people. One particularly dangerous place is Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. In 1997, Bishop Benjamin DE JESUS was murdered in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. His successor, former General Councillor for Asia-Oceania, Bishop Angelito LAMPON, cannot travel in his vicariate without military protection. The same is true for many of the priests and religious who work in the area.

On August 2, 2012, someone bombed the Cathedral with a grenade. Security officials suspected the latest violence was at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, one of several Islamist separatist groups in the Southern Philippines. No one was injured from the explosion that damaged the roof of the church.

On Christmas Day in 2010, a bomb was detonated in a chapel where two Oblates were celebrating Eucharist at a police compound in Jolo. Two persons were killed and nine were injured in that blast.

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