ASIA-OCEANIAThe multi-cultural focus of AORC
On 23-28 February, the Oblate
Province of Indonesia welcomed the major superiors of the Asia-Oceania Region
(AORC). They were from Australia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan,
South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Turkmenistan. The
Counselor of Asia- Oceania, Fr. Clement WAIDYASEKARA, was also present.
The 5-day AORC meeting was held
in the Oblate Scholasticate “Wisma de Mazenod” in Yogyakarta. The principal theme
of the meeting was “Understanding Culture as a Way to Dialogue”, which included
reference to the theme-related situation of the individual countries.
Upon arrival at the venue, there
was a welcoming ceremony according to the Dayak tribe’s culture. Fr. Larry DE
GUIA, Provincial of the Philippines, cut a long blocking cane which was placed
at the entrance gate. One by one, the participants drank a glass of Dayak wine
called “Tuak” before entering the meeting room. This was followed by a
beautiful opening liturgy. It started witha Javanese dance; then there
was a procession with a candle, the Oblate Cross and the Constitutions and
Rules, symbols of Christ, the Church, and the Congregation.
Fr. Bagus Laksana, SJ, spoke of cultural symbols in relation to religion. The second speaker, Mr. Rajaban, gave concrete examples of religious-cultural dialogue in an analysis of the Dayak Tribe of East Borneo.
There were also visits: to the Yogyakarta Royal Palace and the Sacred Heart Temple at Ganjuran. In the evening, they enjoyed a performance of Javanese dance at Prambanan Temple.
The participants had the opportunity to explain the status of dialogue in their own countries. They also heard an update from the General Councillor concerning the interest of the Central Government in their region. A new AORC secretary was appointed, Fr. Yohanes DAMIANUS, replacing Fr. Jun JACOBE.
The meeting concluded with a Cultural Night. There were 8 performances of traditional dances from Dayak, Java, and Bali. The participants were very happy when the dancers asked them to dance together. At first the participants seemed shy and did not know what to do, but in a short time, they could dance very well!
On the occasion of his 60th anniversary of priesthood, Fr. Bertram Silver speaks about the origin of his missionary vocation.
After having spent over forty years with the Eskimos the Bishop Arsène TURQUETIL chose to retire at our scholasticate in Washington. He lived with our Oblate community for about ten years. During this time he would daily meet with us scholastics, sharing his experiences of living for and with the Eskimos. Annually, on the eve of the feast of “The Little Flower,” St. Therese of the Child Jesus, he would share with us how, before her canonization, she was helpful in bringing the first converts to him. It was the year 1916 – Father Turquetil’s fourth fruitless year with the Eskimos. Two Oblates had been murdered the year before. His bishop granted one last year before closing the mission. Then two unsigned envelopes arrived from Normandy, France. One of the letters contained dust from under her casket. Father Turquetil and Brother Girard prayed and the next day sprinkled some of the dust over the unsuspecting Eskimo visitors. The next Sunday, these visitors asked for instruction - 17 Eskimos were baptized – the mission was saved. With tears in his eyes, he would end his talk with us. The year after my ordination, the Bishop went to our Lord and he is buried at our Oblate Cemetery in Tewksbury!
Why mention Bishop Turquetil in this article? Because he is my model as a “missionary”. During my several years in Washington, I met many Oblate missionaries who had been working in foreign countries. I was one of the group that took care of the Missionary Files. About three years before ordination, I had made up my mind to ask for “the foreign missions”, mostly because of the example of Bishop Turquetil. I gave a lot of thought to the missions our province was connected with: Brazil, Philippines, and Japan.
When I was in theology, Bishop Taguchi, he Bishop of Osaka and the Prefect of Shikoku, came to the scholasticate and gave us a talk about Japan – specifically about Shikoku. The Oblates had gone to Japan in 1948 and he was thankful to the Superior General for accepting the invitation to send missionaries to his diocese. Again, I think it was the Holy Spirit guiding me to be “sent” to Japan. I received permission, with three other scholastics, to take courses in Japanese at Georgetown University. I was most grateful. But receiving my obedience to Japan in 1954 was one of the happiest days of my life. Thanks to Bishop Taguchi and Bishop Turquetil.
Just about sixty years have gone by. I am grateful to the Oblates for letting me spend most of these years in the Prefecture of Tokushima. I made efforts to become adapted to Japan and the Japanese. My love for the sound of the Japanese drum has opened doors for evangelization. I became involved in “Utai” -- Japanese cultural opera singing. Learning to play the Japanese flute or “shakuhachi” also introduced me to the silent sounds of the Japanese culture. Just “being available” seemed to be my missionary outlook. To bring Christ to those who do not know Him.
My thanks to the Oblate community in Japan for “putting up” with me for these sixty years. I plan on enjoying the “Golden Years” – with the help of our Lord and the love of our Blessed Mother. (The Far East Star, April 2014)
The agreement between the Philippine government and the “Moro Islamic Liberation Front” rebel group, signed on March 27, generates new hope but has to truly be “a harbinger of peace, justice and development”: This is what was said to Fides Agency by the Philippine Province of the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which has been present in the south of the Philippines for 75 years.
In a message sent to Fides, Fr. Lauro DE GUIA, Provincial Superior of the Philippines, expressed the hope that the agreement “leads to an era of harmony and development”. “With patience, sacrifice, goodwill, trust and dialogue, agreements can be made that create strong ties between groups with different backgrounds and interests”, he said. The Oblate missionaries support the “spirit” of the agreement, in particular the recognition of the legitimacy of the “Bangsamoro” people's cause, and their aspirations to autonomy through a democratic process; the aim of finding a solution to their demand for justice and dignity; the aim of putting an end to the fighting between the government and the MILF and promote peace and stability; the parties’ commitment to protect and promote the rights of all the inhabitants of the Philippines in the South.
The missionaries noted: “We are fully aware of the fact that an agreement will only work if it is implemented. We therefore call on all those interested to live up to their commitments, respecting the principles declared”. In particular, it calls for “mutual respect for the right to one’s own identity, to continue dialogues and consultations, the establishment of a truly democratic and representative local government of the diversity of the population”. The Oblates also ask that the agreement be extended to other members of the Islamist rebel groups on the ground, such as the Moro National Liberation Front, in order to define the agreement “genuinely inclusive”. “We commit ourselves to continue to pray, to study and to work in support of the peace process”, concludes Fr. De Guia. (Fides Agency, 28 March 2014)
QUEVEDO said on 29 March that his archdiocese was pushing for the twin goals of
more inter-religious dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Indigenous
communities and the development of a “culture of peace” in Mindanao to
complement the newly signed Comprehensive Agreement with the Bangsamoro.
“We will engage not only the leaders but the masses and other major stakeholders of peace in Mindanao, in helping realize the real meaning and intent of the Bangsamoro peace agreement,” Quevedo said.
Quevedo is often referred to as the “Man of Peace” in Mindanao. In the 1990’s, he helped found the Bishops-Ulama Conference, whose main goal was to help foster peace and understanding among various faiths in the southern Philippines.
“There is a need in the Archdiocese of Cotabato for a social action programs, basic ecclesial communities and inter-religious dialogue to realize the two things,” he said.
The cardinal has asked Oblate missionary, Fr. Bert LAYSON, to push for the development of a “culture of peace.” Ordained in 1988, Layson spent over 20 years in the predominantly Muslim towns of Sulu and Tawi Tawi. He was chaplain of the Notre Dame College of Jolo and coordinator of the inter-religious desk of the Vicariate of Jolo when Bishop Benjamin DE JESUS OMI was gunned down on February 4, 1997. From Jolo he was assigned to Pikit in North Cotabato, a predominantly Muslim town experiencing war.
Over the years, Fr. Bert wrote over 100 stories of his personal experiences in inter-religious dialogue for in his MindaNews column: `Fields of Hope'. He then served as coordinator of the Oblates’ inter-religious ministry from 1998-2008. He received the Pax Christi International Peace Award in 2002, the Ninoy Aquino Fellowship award for public service in 2004 and again in 2006. Well prepared for his appointment, “Fr Layson will be at the service of the archdiocese as inter-religious dialogue (IDR) coordinator for the entire archdiocese. His acceptability and credibility among Muslims at the grass roots and central leadership of the MILF makes him the best choice for IRD ministry”, said Fr. Lauro DE GUIO, Oblate Provincial.