30 October 2008

A 'Good' Funeral

A “Good” Funeral
Negros Times 29-30 October 2008

The writer edits www.misyononline.com and has a blog at www.bangortobobbio.blogspot.com . You may contact him at undertheacacia@gmail.com

“As funerals go, it was a good one”. So spoke my former seminary rector, Fr. Joseph Flynn, after the funeral in Ireland in June 1997 of Fr. Frank Baragry who had spent almost 40 years in Mindanao. Father Baragry, whose older brother Father Dan had been working in the Philippines since 1955, was only 64. So there was a great sense of grief and loss.

So what made it a “good” funeral?

One unusual aspect was the large number of Filipinos present. They included Columban lay missionaries, religious sisters assigned to Ireland, some Filipinos married there and quite a few Columban priests home from the Philippines on vacation during the Irish summer. From among these a choir was formed that sang hymns in Cebuano.

This certainly helped to make the occasion a “good” funeral. But at the heart of the matter was a strong Catholic Christian faith. Because our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we can hope for the same. For centuries in every parish in the Philippines children have been proclaiming the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning at the Salubong/Encuentro/Pagsugat as our Mother Mary, her statue carried by women, casts aside her mourning cloak when she meets her Risen son, his statue carried by men. Young girls dressed in white scatter petals of flowers as they sing “Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia, alleluia”, “He has risen as he said, Alleluia, alleluia”.

And for centuries Filipinos have been living that same faith as they grieve for those who have died. Filipino wakes, like Irish ones, are not only mournful occasions but joyful ones too as people share stories about the deceased, as they laugh and cry at the same time. Only once have I experienced the full novena for the dead in the Philippines. A young man of 25 whose family was very close to me died after a motorcycle accident one Saturday morning. I had greeted him after Mass just a few hours before and anointed him after returning from a barrio fiesta when he was on the point of death.

I could see that the novena is a wonderful mixture of faith and basic humanity. In this particular case the whole town was in mourning. Jimmy was the second child and the eldest son in a family of six who had lost their father in an accident when the eldest was only 12 and the youngest less than a year. Jimmy was like a father to the rest. During the novena the people helped the family come to terms with their grief by their presence and by their prayers. The funeral Mass was the most difficult I have ever celebrated but I found my faith deepened when Jimmy’s mother, Ponying, offered him to God as he was being buried.

In Ireland we don’t have a novena for the dead and funerals take place within two or three days. People visit the house, where the wake usually takes place, though funeral parlors are not unknown in modern Ireland. Neighbors bring in sandwiches and cakes and make endless pots of tea and coffee for the visitors. The remains are brought to the church the evening before burial for what is called “the removal”. This is a Service of the Word led by the priest and takes place at 5:30 or 6 PM so that people can attend on their way home from work. Many who cannot attend the funeral the following day come to that service. The funeral Mass usually takes place the following morning and after the burial there is usually a meal.

One Irish practice that Filipinos find very strange is that the remains are left alone in the locked church overnight after the “removal”.

That wasn’t the case the night before Father Baragry was buried, as his remains were in the chapel of what was once a seminary with nearly 200 students but that now has none. And I know that some of the Filipinos kept vigil through the night before his burial.

But at the heart of it all, for Filipinos and for the Irish, especially in the past when the Catholic faith was much stronger in Ireland than it is now, is our hope in the Resurrection. Death is not the end, but the entrance to eternal life. And there is a healthy awareness of our unworthiness and of the need to pray for the dead, of the need for purification. A comparison I find useful is the help persons need before their wedding. They want to look their best. They wouldn’t go to the church in their working clothes or without taking a shower. Yet they feel a great sense of excitement while still preparing.

My understanding of purgatory is something like that: the soul knows the joy of having been saved but also knows that it is not yet ready to face God. It’s not a question of punishment but rather of the need to prepare more. There’s a sense of hiya, of “shame” in the Philippine sense. And the dead who are preparing to come into God’s presence are truly helped by our prayers just as a bride and groom preparing for their wedding are helped by those taking care of the many details that go with it.

Of course, what is most important of all when it comes to a wedding is preparing for marriage. A wedding is only for a day while marriage is for life. And our living faith in Jesus Christ in our daily lives is, with God’s grace and the prayers of our friends, the best preparation not only for death but for eternal life.

As we remember the dead this coming weekend, may we pray for the grace for our families and friends of a “good” funeral when our time comes.


President of Israel Challenges Pope to Golf

The Pope met with his Cardinals to discuss a proposal from Shimon Peres, President of Israel. "Your Holiness", said one of his Cardinals, President Peres wants to challenge you to a game of golf to show the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Jewish and Catholic faiths."

The Pope thought this was a good idea, but he had never held a golf club in his hand. "Don't we have a Cardinal to represent me?" he asked." None that plays very well," a Cardinal replied. "But," he added, "there is a man named Jack Nicklaus, an American golfer who is a devout Catholic. We can offer to make him a Cardinal, then ask him to play President Peres as your personal representative. In addition, to showing our spirit of cooperation, we'll also win the match."

Everyone agreed it was a good idea. The call was made. Of course, Nicklaus was honored and agreed to play. The day after the match, Nicklaus reported to the Vatican to inform the Pope of the result. "I have some good news and some bad news, your Holiness, " said the golfer.

"Tell me the good news first, Cardinal Nicklaus," said the Pope.
"Well, your Holiness, I don't like to brag, but even though I've played some pretty terrific rounds of golf in my life, this was the best I have ever played, by far. I must have been inspired from above. My drives were long and true, my irons were accurate and purposeful, and my putting was perfect. With all due respect, my play was truly miraculous."

There's bad news?", the Pope asked.

"Yes," Nicklaus sighed. "I lost to Rabbi Tiger Woods by seven strokes."

Priest martyred in India


Indian Church remembers Fr. Bernard Digal, martyr of the faith in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho

Archbishop Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar emphasizes his "tireless" work on behalf of "persecuted Christians," and his devotion to the Virgin Mary. His fellow religious stress his "virtues and ability to forgive his persecutors." Friday October 31, the community's last goodbye to the slain priest.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Fr. Digal was the treasurer of the diocese, an extremely sensitive priest, always considering the needs of other priests before his own, seeking always fraternal communion." This is how Rapheel Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, remembers Fr. Bernard Digal, who died on the evening of October 28 at St. Thomas Hospital in Chennai.

Fr. Digal was attacked by a group of Hindu fundamentalists on the night of August 25, in the first days of persecution against the Christians of Orissa. In spite of the medical treatment he received, his health continued to worsen. On Saturday, October 25, he was taken to the hospital of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, where he underwent an operation to remove a blood clot that formed in his brain following his beating by the fundamentalists on the night of the attack. On October 27, his lungs collapsed, and he fell into a serious respiratory crisis, following which he was put on a respirator. He received the anointing of the sick at 9:25 on October 28, in the presence of Archbishop Cheenath, and died.

"Fr. Bernard has been given the martyr's crown, he has received the palm of victory from the saints in heaven," says the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar. "Ever since the violence against the Christian erupted in December '07, Fr. Bernard hardly ever rested, continously coordinating efforts to rehabilitate the people - through peace initiatives, and providing all assistance to the people to avail of the compensation and seeking all measures to bring the lives of the people derailed by the carnage on track. Fr .Bernard was deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother and the rosary and often shared with us how he sought refugee in the Madonna in moments of despair.

"The Kandhamal Chrsitains now have a powerful intercessor in heaven, Fr. Bernard will now continue his work for our people from his heavenly home. His final commitment culminated in a kenosis of total surrender, he was completely immersed in the Passion of our Crucified Lord, and now we hope in the glory of the Ressurection. Our belief in the victory won by the resurrected Christ is reason for hope - the hope that heaven lies beyond death."

Fr. Bernard met with AsiaNews last September 10, during his convalescence at Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai (see photo). He was 48 years old, and was ordained on May 29, 1992. He was a native of the village of Tiangia in Kandhamal, one of the areas most severely affected by the recent anti-Christian violence perpetrated by Hindu fundamentalists. He recounted the dramatic moments of the attack, following which "for an entire night, he remained unconscious and half naked in the forest." His funeral will be celebrated the day after tomorrow, Friday, October 31.

Fr. Ajay Singh, director of the Jan Vikas, a social assistance center of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, recalls the "holiness" of Fr. Digal, his "missionary zeal," his "service to the people," his words of "forgiveness" toward those responsible for the violence, and his constant work aimed at "their rehabilitation." Fr. Manoj Digal, a cousin of the victim and a native of the same village, recalls that "since December, Fr. Bernard worked tirelessly with the Kandhamal Christians who were suffering violence and humiliation, His virtues of humility, forgiveness, inherent justice, goodness and self-sacrificing love will nourish the faith of our people."

26 October 2008

Have you any doubt that this is a human being?

Just Look

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

But you might protest that all of this is too easy. Why, you might inquire, have I not delved into the opinion of philosophers and theologians about the matter? And even worse: Why have I not raised the usual questions about what a "human being" is, what a "person" is, what it means to be "living," and such? People who write books and articles about abortion always concern themselves with these kinds of things. Even the justices of the Supreme Court who gave us "Roe v. Wade" address them. Why do I neglect philosophers and theologians? Why do I not get into defining "human being," defining "person," defining "living," and the rest? Because, I respond, I am sound of mind and endowed with a fine set of eyes, into which I do not believe it is well to cast sand. I looked at the photograph, and I have no doubt about what I saw and what are the duties of a civilized society if what I saw is in danger of being killed by someone who wishes to kill it or, if you prefer, someone who "chooses" to kill it. In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.

But what about the being that has been in its mother for only 15 weeks or only 10? Have you photographs of that too? Yes, I do. However, I hardly think it necessary to show them. For if we agree that the being in the photograph printed on this page is an innocent human being, you have no choice but to admit that it may not be legitimately killed even before 20 weeks unless you can indicate with scientific proof the point in the development of the being before which it was other than an innocent human being and, therefore, available to be legitimately killed. Nor have Aristotle, Aquinas or even the most brilliant embryologists of our era or any other era been able to do so. If there is a time when something less than a human being in a mother morphs into a human being, it is not a time that anyone has ever been able to identify, though many have made guesses. However, guesses are of no help. A man with a shotgun who decides to shoot a being that he believes may be a human being is properly hauled before a judge. And hopefully, the judge in question knows what a "human being" is and what the implications of someone's wishing to kill it are. The word "incarceration" comes to mind.

However, we must not stop here. The matter becomes even clearer and simpler if you obtain from the National Geographic Society two extraordinary DVDs. One is entitled "In the Womb" and illustrates in color and in motion the development of one innocent human being within its mother. The other is entitled "In the Womb—Multiples" and in color and motion shows the development of two innocent human beings—twin boys—within their mother. If you have ever allowed yourself to wonder, for example, what "living" means, these two DVDs will be a great help. The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as "mere clusters of tissues," you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is—forgive me—self-deceit in a most extreme form.

Adolf Hitler convinced himself and his subjects that Jews and homosexuals were other than human beings. Joseph Stalin did the same as regards Cossacks and Russian aristocrats. And this despite the fact that Hitler and his subjects had seen both Jews and homosexuals with their own eyes, and Stalin and his subjects had seen both Cossacks and Russian aristocrats with theirs. Happily, there are few today who would hesitate to condemn in the roundest terms the self-deceit of Hitler, Stalin or even their subjects to the extent that the subjects could have done something to end the madness and protect living, innocent human beings.

It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing—and approving—with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that "killing" and "choosing to kill" are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of "human being," "person," "living," and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is "part" of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her "because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body."

One day, please God, when the stranglehold on public opinion in the United States has been released by the extremists for whom abortion is the center of their political and moral life, our nation will, in my judgment, look back on what we have been doing to innocent human beings within their mothers as a crime no less heinous than what was approved by the Supreme Court in the "Dred Scott Case" in the 19th century, and no less heinous than what was perpetrated by Hitler and Stalin in the 20th. There is nothing at all complicated about the utter wrongness of abortion, and making it all seem complicated mitigates that wrongness not at all. On the contrary, it intensifies it.

Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of "legalized" abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.

Thanks to the priest-friend in LA who emailed this to me.

25 October 2008

Columbans in Negros: Under the Acacia, 20-23 October 2008

My column in Negros Times for 20-23 October 2008.

Columbans in Negros

The writer edits Misyon.

This week sees the culminating activities of the year-long celebrations for the 75 years of the Diocese of Bacolod. Columbans have been very much part of the history of the diocese since July 1950 when we were given responsibility for the southern part of Negros Occidental that was to become the Diocese of Kabankalan in 1987. They also took care for some years of Ma-ao Central and of Canlaon, now in the Diocese of San Carlos. For a while too the Columbans provided chaplains to St. Paul College, now St. Paul University, Dumaguete City, and to Sta. Theresita’s Academy, Silay City.

I was totally unaware of the Columban connection with Canlaon City until I got a phone call last year from Sr. Susan Turingan, FAS, of St. Joseph’s College there asking if a Columban could be present for the Golden Jubilee of the school. It had been started by the late Fathers Colum O’Halpin and Patrick Hynes, both of whom spent all their active lives as priests in Negros. Indeed, Father O’Halpin was serving in Biscom, Binalbagan, when he died in 2003 and is buried in Kabankalan.

My lack of awareness as a Columban of our Canlaon connection reflects a characteristic of the members of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. We are secular priests – not religious – with our roots in the diocesan clergy of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. The men who came to Negros in 1950 had inherited a tradition of “rugged individualism”, getting on with the job and responding to the needs of the people. One of the greatest needs they saw was to enable poor children to have the chance to go to high school.

My first assignment in the Philippines was in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, from 1972 to 1973. My parish priest, the late Fr. James Flynn, one of whose classmates, Fr. Patrick Hurley, is still serving in Biscom, once told me of an encounter he had on the launch crossing Panguil Bay from Tubod to Ozamiz City. He happened to be sitting beside a young man who was a journalist. When this man learned that Father Flynn was a Columban he told him to read The Manila Times during the next few days.

A few days later Father Flynn found an article there about the largest chain of Catholic schools in the Philippines – those run by Columbans – and the writer was the late Max Soliven.Yet the Columbans have never run “Columban” schools. They established parochial schools in Zambales, Pangasinan, Rizal, Negros and northwest Mindanao. Very few were called “St. Columban’s”. The priests used to spend much of their annual vacation in Manila going from one office to another filling up forms and going from one supplier to another to get what was needed for the coming school year. In at least one instance a school was burned down in March and a new school was up and running by June. This was done through the hard work of local people and generous benefactors from overseas, often people struggling financially themselves.

I sometimes get annoyed and frustrated when Catholic schools are presented as “exclusive”. Some are. I’ve no difficulty whatever with that. But the typical Catholic school is a parochial one, run by the parish priest or by a religious congregation of Sisters or Brothers. Some religious schools that charge higher fees use some of their income to support schools for poorer children. Many schools struggle to pay their teachers a decent salary while not keeping out students from very poor families.

In the last few decades public high schools have spread to more remote areas where there were no such schools before. But in many instances it was Catholic missionaries who first made it possible for the poor to get a second-level education. There are many such groups in the Diocese of Bacolod and thank God for all of them.During the Martial Law years Columbans were very much involved in the struggle for justice, in response to the grave needs of the people and to the call of Vatican II and of Pope Paul VI in particular. Pope John Paul II reinforced that call in Bacolod in 1981. On that visit he met the widows of Alex Garsales and Herman Muleta, from Barangay Tanawan, Kabankalan, two men whose bodies were found in shallow graves in 1980 months after they were murdered. Alex had played the part of Jesus in a Good Friday Passion play that year a few days before he and Herman were abducted from their homes. In 1983 the “Negros Nine” saga started with the arrest of Columban Fathers Brian Gore and Niall O’Brien, diocesan priest Fr. Vicente Dangan and six lay leaders, falsely charged with the murder of Mayor Pablo Sola of Kabankalan. This was to draw international attention to Negros, with media people coming especially form Ireland and Australia, because of the two Columban priests. Eventually the charges were shown to be the travesties they were.

Father Dangan has since died. So has Fr. Niall O’Brien. In 1988 he became the founding editor of Misyon, the bi-monthly magazine of the Columbans in the Philippines. Earlier this year it ceased to be a printed magazine and is now primarily online.

Another need seen by a Columban in Negros was that of the Deaf. The late Fr. Joseph Coyle established Welcome Home in Puentebella, Bacolod City, a residence for out of town Deaf students who attend public schools in the city. During the nearly 17 years since his death the work he began has grown under the direction of Mrs. Salving V. Tinsay who died recently. Your columnist regularly celebrates Sunday Mass in Sign Language in Welcome Home.

As a Columban, I am grateful to God for the faithful service of so many Columbans here during the last 58 years and for many blessings we Columbans have received from God through the people of Negros.

From Victorias to Fukuyama: Under the Acacia, 24-26 October 2008

My column in Negros Times for 24-26 October 2008.

From Victorias to Fukuyama

Today, October 24, sees the Thanksgiving Mass and other activities to draw to a close the Diamond Jubilee Year of the Diocese of Bacolod. Last Friday I allowed a young priest from the diocese, Fr. Ronald Magbanua, CICM, to tell about his experience as a missionary in the depth of a Mongolian winter. This week his confrere, Fr. Garry Gestoveo, CICM, from Victorias City, also in our diocese, writes about his involvement with homeless people in the affluent city of Fukuyama, Japan.


The evening I arrived at the parish of Fukuyama Church, Diocese of Hiroshima, I met Sister Marie Lisa of the Sisters of Mary Auxiliary. She was with some others preparing o-nigiri (rice balls) and miso-shiru (miso soup). I assumed that all were parishioners, they were so friendly, welcoming and warm. Later I learned from Sr. Marie Lisa that they were volunteers from different faiths and backgrounds. They were preparing dinner for the homeless of the area.

The volunteers were members of the Fukuyama Church Welfare Group, and had taken the name Tomoshibi-kai, “Lamp Society”. The group is made up of people from the YMCA school of social service, certified social workers, volunteers from the City’s Public Assistance Committee, a few Catholics from the parish and a volunteer from the Himawari-kai, “Sunflower Society”, a Protestant group. Tomoshibi-kai was formed thirteen years ago to respond to the needs of the homeless in the area.

Sister Marie Lisa told me that from 1990 to 2000 she dealt with 20 to 25 homeless people. But now there are about 60, including eleven women. Until 2002, the majority of the homeless had been middle-aged men. But in 2003, volunteers met persons ranging in age from 19 to 70. This is a national phenomenon, due to a rise in unemployment and bankruptcy, and the break-up of families.

The homeless can be found in parks, at the river side, bus stops, underground passages, bicycle ports and under railroad bridges. In the morning, some go to the train station that opens at 4am and stay until it closes at 10pm; then they look for a place to sleep again. Complaints from local people led the city’s environmental department and the Japan Railway Company (JR), to force the homeless away. But the homeless have no alternative, so often they just spread their blankets on the ground, even when it rains. When chased out of one park, they find another. When asked to leave that park, they go back to the first. Recently, the city government built a fence around the main park, shutting out both the homeless and children who wanted to play there. This caused some commotion in the neighborhood. There needs to be a balance struck: the homeless have to reconsider how they use the public facilities, and the neighborhood needs to understand the needs of the homeless.

Homeless people encounter difficulties in securing jobs through the public employment security offices, where most applicants have a proper address and health insurance. Most available jobs, such as in the shipyard, require physical strength that a 55-year-old person with marginal health doesn’t have. The homeless occasionally encounter dishonest employers who hire under practices which take advantage of their situation: charging them for food, lodging and bathing, leaving them with no earnings at the end of the contract. Some are even hired for construction work and when the job is complete are chased off without receiving any pay. It is very difficult for the Department of Labor to do anything about this.

Some used to go around the city very early in the morning to find empty beer and juice cans, selling them to shops that collect aluminum. They would get ¥700, about
PHP330, for 10 kilograms of cans. It takes days to collect that many cans and one rice ball costs about PHP45. But the city government has prohibited the collection of cans and newspapers by individuals.

With most homeless without a regular income or none at all, picking up food thrown out by restaurants or convenience stores is commonplace, making these people vulnerable to illnesses.

The government, through its Livelihood Protection Office, grants financial aid to the needy, especially to the sick. Yet, in order to be eligible, they must have a proper address, and a letter from the doctor to prove that they are in need of money for medical purposes. A guarantor is often required to secure an apartment, but most families of the homeless refuse to serve as one. The volunteers of Tomoshibi-kai try to find shelter for the sick, but inexpensive apartments are hard to come by.

One spot of hope has emerged: The Livelihood Protection Office held meetings with the volunteers of Tomoshibi-kai to exchange opinions regarding the situation of the homeless. Subsequently, some of the officers participated in the nightly distribution of rice and soup to find out more first-hand about the living conditions of the homeless. A doctor, who conducts free medical check-ups for the homeless in Tokyo, lent his experience in one seminar aimed at building positive attitudes towards the homeless.

After talking with my parish priest, I decided to join the volunteers in cooking and distributing soup and rice on Sunday evenings. This opens many possibilities for contact not only with the homeless, but also with people of this church and of the area where I live. I enjoy the company of the volunteers who are very dedicated to their mission. Indeed, as the name of the group suggests, they are bringing light to people who are neglected in society. At the same time, they bring light to people who have closed their hearts to the homeless. Although only a few parishioners join the cooking and distribution, many make an effort to give contributions of rice to Tomoshibi-kai. We have put up a box to collect funds for the food for the Sunday distribution. Though our response seems small compared to the enormous needs, I am very hopeful that more people will come to the light, and begin to open their hearts to the homeless.

23 October 2008

Urgent plea for people served by Columbans on Mexico-US Border

Columban Justice, Peace, and
Integrity of Creation Office


Support the people of Lomas de Poleo


We have received an urgent request for action from Fr. Bill Morton, Columban missionary in El Paso, Texas. As many of you know, Fr. Bill and the entire Columban community have accompanied the families of Lomas de Poleo for many years and the violence continues with increasing intensity.

We are asking that you email a personalized version of the following letter to the Governor of Chihuahua, Sr. Jose Reyes Baeza, asking for his immediate intervention to bring peace and justice to the Lomas de Poleo community and hold the Pedro Zaragoza family accountable for their illegal actions.

Please circulate this action request widely.

Many thanks for your solidarity.

Amy Woolam Echeverria

Columban Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office


In the last two weeks four more homes have been demolished, two elderly residents have been kidnapped and tortured by the Mexican military, and the residents' access to water and electricity continues to be denied. A deep ditch has been dug around the elementary school house making it difficult for the students and their families to gain entry. The teachers are frequently absent, now, due to escalating violence and attempts by Zaragoza surrogates to close the school and force the families to go to another school in the relocation area.

On Saturday, October 18, 2008, a small group of the Lomas del Poleo Alliance of Las Cruces met with New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, who indicated he would be willing to intervene since the disputed land, literally, borders on his state of New Mexico. Lomas del Poleo is also in the path of a proposed multi-billion dollar, bi-national development plan involving major business figures from both sides of the border, as well as government officials from New Mexico and Chihuahua.

For a more detailed history of the situation visit: Paso Del Sur website.

Action Requested:

Please use the sample English or Spanish version of the letter below, and sign with your name, city/state and send via email this Wednesday, Oct. 22, to the three email addresses noted below.

Please personalize the letter.

Don't just forward this email. Please invite anyone in your network of friends, families, civic groups, church and other groups to do the same. If you happen to miss the Wednesday Oct 22 "send" date, send it Thursday, Friday or whenever you can.

Send letters to:

secretarioparticularchihuahua@hotmail.com (This doesn't seem to work)

Sample Letter – English

Honorable Jose Reyes Baeza

Governor of the State of Chihuahua

Republic of Mexico

Owing to the escalation of violence in recent weeks against the inhabitants of the Colonia of Lomas del Poleo by the employees of the brothers, Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza, we are asking your immediate intervention so that the appropriate authorities might guarantee the security of the residents in this Colonia. Also we urge that you order the State Attorney General's office to immediately investigate the crimes committed in this area which have already been presented to the Attorney General.

As you well know the lands in Lomas del Poleo are the subject of a legal dispute in the Agrarian Court Number Five in Chihuahua so we are also asking you to oblige the Zaragozas to respect the law and immediately stop the campaign of oppression and harassment against the inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo. It is obvious that these two businessmen are trying to get the inhabitants to abandon their lands before the courts make their decision.

In short, Mr. Governor we only ask that the law be followed and restored.


(Your name, title, city, state, country)

Sample Letter: Spanish Version
Sr. José Reyes Baeza

Gobernador del Estado de Chihuahua, México.


Debido a la escalada de violencia desatada en las últimas semanas en contra de los habitantes de la parte alta de la colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo, por parte de trabajadores al servicio de Pedro y Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes, le solicitamos su inmediata intervención para que las autoridades correspondientes garanticen la seguridad de los vecinos de esa colonia. Asimismo, le urgimos ordene a la Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado la inmediata investigación de los delitos cometidos en esa zona, los cuales han sido oportunamente denunciados ante esa representación.

Como debe ser de su amplio conocimiento, las tierras de la Colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo están sujetas a una disputa legal que se dirime -- a través de distintas demandas en el Tribunal Unitario Agrario Número Cinco--, por lo que le solicitamos, también, obligue a los empresarios Zaragoza Fuentes respeten los tiempos de la ley y detengan inmediatamente la campaña de presión y hostigamiento que han levantado en contra de los vecinos en Lomas del Poleo. Es obvio que lo que pretenden estos dos empresarios es obligar a los colonos a que abandonen sus tierras, antes de que los tribunales competentes rindan su fallo final.

En suma, Sr Gobernador, lo único que le pedimos es que haga cumplir la ley y restaure el Estado de derecho en la colonia Lomas del Poleo.


(Your name, title, city, state)

22 October 2008

'We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics'

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap of Denver is media-savvy. The archdiocese has an excellent website.

You can listen to the archbishop’s homilies and also to some other recordings, including TV interviews, or read his columns in the Denver Catholic Register.

Last Sunday, when the gospel was ‘Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what Belongs to God’, Archbishop Chaput came out with a number of striking expressions, sound bites with substance. For example, while making it clear that the Church is in favour of the separation of Church and State, he said even more clearly, ‘We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics’.

He also asked if wives would be happy if ‘A married man can’t act like he’s a married man in public’.

The Lord was being providentially kind to the archbishop who pointed out that last Sunday’s readings weren’t chosen because the US elections are coming up but are part of the three-year Sunday cycle. Archbishop Chaput, whose parents were French-speaking Canadians and who is one-quarter North American Indian, has a best-seller at the moment, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.

In my most recent post I gave a link to the talk the Archbishop gave last Friday ‘as a citizen’ on the issue of abortion in the elections. (Americans will be voting for the whole House of Representatives and for one-third of the Senate as well as for President and Vice President). In his homily he mentioned that he had received many emails, from all over the world, some critical. One emailer expressed ‘embarrassment’ at what he had said.

It was in this context that Archbishop Chaput said that while he believes, as do the vast majority of Americans, in the separation of Church and State’, ‘We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics’. He wasn’t giving his personal opinion here but teaching clearly.
He then went on to draw the comparison between a married man and a voter. Would any wife want her husband to act as a married man only at home? When we go into the polling booth we are to act out of faith. He challenged Catholics in any party to bring their faith to bear on their party’s policies. And he pointed out that no matter what is legislated, eg, the requirement to wear crash-helmets on motorcycles, or no smoking areas, some group is ‘imposing’ its views on others.

More and more American bishops are speaking plainly about the gravity of the abortion issue in the context of the elections, even ‘sailing close to the wind’ in terms of the separation of Church and State, that some see a division among the American bishops, which may be no harm. I find it rather ironic that while Pope Pius XII is being condemned for allegedly not saying anything about the slaughter of Jews under Hitler, John Paul II and many bishops are being condemned for speaking out on behalf of the unborn.

Up to the 1950s most men in the Western world wore hats. Many houses had hat-racks in the hallway. Perhaps the US Senate and House had hat-racks outside their chambers where Democrats and Republicans, Protestants, Jews and Catholics left their hats. It seems to me that if there were such a thing as a ‘conscience-rack’ outside those exalted chambers only ‘Catholic’ legislators would feel the need to use it.

18 October 2008

Two tragedies in every abortion: killing an unborn child; killing an opportunity to love.

Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap of Denver, Colorado, USA, is one of the shining lights in the Church right now, preaching, teaching and speaking the truth with clarity and charity, especially the truth of the sacredness of human life.

The Archbishop gave an address last night, 17 October, at a dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women). The talk is titled 'Little Murders.'

Archbishop Chaput covered much of the same ground in his column in The Denver Catholic Register on 1 October. The column concludes with a memorable statement:

There are really two tragedies in every abortion: the killing of an unborn child; and the killing of an opportunity to love.

I've highlighted some parts of the full text below.

Respect Life Sunday and our calling to the ‘Gospel of Life’

Exactly 10 years ago this fall, America’s bishops issued a pastoral letter called “Living the Gospel of Life.” Even a decade later, this is no ordinary Church text. I believed then, and I believe now, that it’s the best document ever issued by the U.S. bishops on the priorities of Catholic citizenship. In writing it, the bishops sought to apply Pope John Paul II’s great encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”) to the American situation. The heart of their statement, paragraph No. 23, stresses that:

“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life.

“But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’—the living house of God—then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right—the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights” (emphasis in original).

This is why abortion is not merely one among many urgent issues, but rather the foundational one. It provides the cornerstone for a whole architecture of human dignity. When we revoke legal protection for unborn children, we violate the first and most important human right—the right to life itself. And once we do that, and then create a system of alibis to justify it, we begin to put every other human and civil right at risk.

This coming Sunday, Oct. 5, is national Respect Life Sunday. It’s a good moment to remember that over the past month we’ve had a couple of extraordinary witnesses to the preciousness of human life, even when that life is severely disabled.

Thomas Vander Woude, a Catholic father of seven, sacrificed his own life on Sept. 8 trying to save his son with Down syndrome from drowning. And around the same time Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and mother of five, began her campaign for vice-president. Palin’s youngest son, Trig, also has Down syndrome. One of the things that makes the example of these two parents “extraordinary” is that their disabled children exist at all. More than 80 percent of children diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome are now “terminated”—the news media’s antiseptic word for killing the innocent.

Raising a child with disabilities does not by itself qualify (or disqualify) anyone for public office. But it does demand a quiet kind of strength, wisdom, character, patience, self-sacrifice, trust in God and inconspicuous heroism. The many parents of children with special needs whom I know have discovered something important about what it means to be human. God’s invitation to love a disabled child, whose imperfections are so obvious, is his way of growing our hearts to love each other, who so often wear our own imperfections—which are just as real and just as disabling—hidden on the inside.

There are really two tragedies in every abortion: the killing of an unborn child; and the killing of an opportunity to love.

God's Frozen - and Patient - People: Under the Acacia, 17-10 October 2008

God’s Frozen - and Patient - People

The author is a Columban priest from Ireland who has been in the Philippines most of the time since 1971. Since October 2002 he has been based in Bacolod City as editor of Misyon, the magazine of the Columbans, and also has a personal blog (which you are reading!) This column is in the 17-19 October issue of Negros Times. Though I didn't avert to it when preparing the column, tomorrow is Mission Sunday, so it is very appropriate to post it now.

The culminating activities of the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Diocese of Bacolod are taking place this week. One striking difference between 1933, when Sorsogon-born Casimiro Lladoc became first bishop, is that while Bacolod still welcomes missionaries, it now sends them out. One such person is Father Ronald Magbanua CICM, ordained by Bishop Wenceslao S. Padilla CICM of Ulaanbaatar on January 9, 2005, in San Diego Pro-cathedral, Silay City, in the Diocese of Bacolod. Bishop Padilla, from Tubao, La Union, has created history in two ways. He is the first Filipino to be made bishop of a jurisdiction overseas and he is the first bishop ever in Mongolia.Growing up in Silay City, Father Ronald could never have imagined enduring the intense cold of a Mongolian winter. His story here first appeared in Misyon in July-August this year. A ger is a Mongolian tent. ‘Yurt’ is the Russian term.

Fr Ronald Magbanua is on the left. The photo includes some of his CICM (Missionhurst, Scheut Missionaries) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It was morning again; the caretaker of the church staggered to the main door of the ger-church to open it. Pulling out his key, he realized that the padlock was frozen. So he went back to his house nearby to take a piece of paper to heat the frozen padlock. “I wish the sun would shine,” he said to himself. “If not I will have a hard time opening this main door”. After some time he was able to open the frozen padlock. Now he had the challenge of lighting the frozen firewood and frozen coal. “I should light this firewood fast because it’s already 8:30am and the workers will be here soon”, he said. The yurt needs at least an hour to warm up and he only had only 30 minutes to go. “Ah, I better put more firewood because it heats faster compared to the coal”. So he filled the fireplace with firewood. At 9:00 o’clock the first worker arrived, “Ovoo (meaning ‘old man’), how come the yurt is still cold?” the worker asked. “Oh, I am very sorry, my daughter, the firewood is frozen and it is difficult to light”, answered the old man. So she helped him. Then the other workers arrived.

“Is there hot water?” one worker asked. “Let’s check, the water here is frozen too. Anyway, let’s heat it”.

At 10:00 o’clock, the yurt is still cold. One sewing trainee started her sewing machine and found it wouldn’t work - it too was frozen. It created only some strange sounds. “Stop the sewing machine”, shouted the sewing teacher, “You will only destroy it.” The secretary wanted to print something but her printer was frozen too. The Sister who prepares the Mass paraphernalia was worried because the holy water and clean water in the chapel was also frozen. The cleaner who wanted to sweep the floor couldn’t start her job of cleaning as well.

“Is their anything that is not frozen in this yurt?” one worker exclaimed.

“Nothing!” jokingly answered the youngest sewing trainee.

“When are we going to have our church building?” they asked each other. The parish priest answered, “Don’t worry, one day we will have our own church building, just a little sacrifice is needed”.

All of a sudden, there was an explosion. “What happened?” they asked. Then they heard the parish Sister shouting for help. Some workers rushed to help her, and a big fire greeted them. “The kerosene heater exploded!” one worker shouted. All then came to help. Good thing there were enough fire extinguishers to put out the fire.

“Father, will there be sewing classes today?” asked one sewing student. “I guess we’d better cancel the classes for today since the classroom needs to be cleaned”, answered the parish priest.

“We live in a yurt, we come here, it is still a yurt, is there no change in our daily life?” asked one youth. The parish priest once again answered, “Don’t worry, one day we will have our own church building”.

Afternoon came. It was still cold inside the yurt. Mass was about to begin but the amplifier, microphones and keyboard were all still frozen. The parish Sister was really worried now. She went to the parish priest and asked, “Father, is it okay not to use the microphone? Just please speak louder”.

“Yes, it’s okay, Sister”, the parish priest replied. During the Mass the congregation was complaining about the cold. They couldn’t concentrate on the Mass. Some were stamping their feet and therefore looked as if they were dancing. The yurt floor was frozen. Some wanted to be near the fireplace. The parish priest struggled to deliver a good homily.

The cold made many of the workers and even the parish priest sick. Some of the workers later approached the parish priest to ask permission to go home early.

At the end of the day, the parish priest thought to himself, “How come other people don’t understand our need for a church building of our own? Some have made their buildings very beautiful but we have nothing, even our appliances are exploding. All we have is a frozen yurt and the patient people of God”.

Without noticing, he answered himself with, “Don’t worry, Ronald, one day we will have our own church building”.

13 October 2008

“Lala" and Queen Elizabeth: Under the Acacia, 13-14 October 2008

This column appears in Negros Times, 13-14 October 2008

Both “Lala” and Queen Elizabeth II have have two birthdays, the real one and the official one. “Lala’s” official birthday is September 27 and she turned 29 last Saturday. Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday is celebrated in 53 Commonwealth countries, but not on the same date. Only the Falkland Island observes her official birthday on her real one, April 21. In the United Kingdom the Queen’s official birthday can be on the first, second or third Saturday in June. She turned 82 on her last birthday.

While there’s no confusion about the date of birth of Queen Elizabeth, there is about that of “Lala”. The young Princess Elizabeth was born in a palace in London. “Lala” was found shortly after birth in a trashcan in Cebu. Those who found her took her to the Asilo De La Milagrosa of the Daughters of Charity there. The Sisters noticed that the little girl had Down Syndrome and took her in and raised her. Since they didn’t know who her parents were they had to choose for her.

The Sisters chose “Vicente” as her family name, in honor of St. Vincent de Paul, and “Louilla” as her Christian name, in honor of St. Louise de Marillac. The two saints founded the Daughters of Charity in France in 1633. “Lala”, as all her friends know her, probably has something else in common with St. Louise. She was almost certainly born out of wedlock, as the saint was, and, like St. Louise, never knew her mother. I suspect that “Lala’s” mother, probably very young and unmarried, panicked – this possibly added to when she saw that her daughter wasn’t “normal” - and left her baby where someone could find her and take care of her.

I first met “Lala” in Cebu in 1992 at a Faith and Light celebration. We had just begun a community there, after a retreat given by the co-founder of the movement, Jean Vanier, a Canadian layman, in Holy Family Retreat House, Cebu City, in October 1991. During the retreat he gave a public talk in the auditorium of St. Theresa’s College, as I recall, and a group of interested people got together after that. The gathering at which “Lala” was present included members of Faith and Light from Manila who had come to tell us more about the movement.

I could see immediately that “Lala” had a special gift – she’s a natural “ice-breaker”. Though she seldom says anything, she lights up any group into which she comes, unless she’s in a bad mood, which happens from time to time.

“Lala” became a member of our Faith and Light community in Cebu but I lost contact with her when I went to Lianga, Surigao del Sur, in 1993 as parish priest and to Manila the following year to become vocation director of the Columbans. But one day when I visited the L’Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, known as “Ang Arko”, I was surprised to see “Lala” there. L’Arche, the French for “The Ark” as in Noah’s Ark, was founded by Jean Vanier, in 1964 when he invited two men with learning disabilities, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, who had been living in an institution, to join him in a small cottage he had bought and was renovating in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Jean had no intention of founding anything, but he realized very quickly that he had made a commitment to these two men. One of them, I forget which, chose to live independently some years later, something he could never have done had he stayed not met Jean. Out of these small beginnings has grown an international movement of about 130 residential communities where those with learning disabilities are enabled to live in a family-type situation and to develop their abilities to the greatest extent possible.

Jordan and Raymon, now young men, were welcomed by Ang Arko when they were very young. Both have physical as well as learning disabilities. The original house was in Manila but the community moved later to Cainta.

In Holy Week 2001, as I mentioned in my last column, I attended the international pilgrimage of Faith and Light to Lourdes as chaplain to the group from the Philippines. “Lala” was one of the twelve or so Filipinos.

The Easter Vigil was celebrated in the underground basilica. Some of the Old Testament Vigil readings were dramatized. During the account of creation when the words “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him” were read, a spotlight shone on a young man in a wheelchair. But what moved me most was when “Lala” was part of a group dramatizing the reading of the Exodus.

I simply marveled at the fact that a young woman who should never have been born, according to the “wisdom” of so many, left after birth among garbage, was on the other side of the world helping to proclaim the Word of God to thousands of people, many like herslelf, and doing so with the joy that permeates her soul.

Queen Elizabeth has been blessed by God with a long and healthy life, in which she continues to serve her people with dignity. Though she is among the richest people in the world, “Lala”, also with her two birthdays, enjoys even greater riches, because the words of Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, have been revealed in her life: “God has lifted up the lowly”.

There is no Faith and Light community yet in Bacolod. Anyone interested may contact me at undertheacacia@gmail.com

Rafael Simi (left) and Jean Vanier (right). You can listen to an interview with Jean here. He turned 80 on 10 September.

12 October 2008

Filipino Prelate of Marshall Islands: Under the Acacia, 10-12 October 2008

I'm planning to use material from Misyon for my Friday Under the Acacia column in Negros Times. For those of you outside of the Philippines, a 'Negrense' is a person from the island of Negros. This article appeared, in a slightly different form, in the July-August issue of Misyon. I hope to show over time how the missionary aspect of the Church in the Philippines is continually growing, thanks be to God.

Negrense Prefect Apostolic of Marshall Islands

The writer edits www.misyononline.com and has a blog at www.bangortobobbio.blogspot.com

Last January Fr. Raymundo T. Sabio, MSC, (centre in the photo) who grew up in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, was installed as Prefect Apostolic of the Marshall Islands. A prefecture apostolic is like a diocese except that it’s not fully self-supporting. The prefect is sometimes a bishop, sometimes not, but has the same responsibility and authority in his prefecture that a bishop has in his diocese.

The Prefecture of the Marshall Islands was set up on 23 April 1993. In 2004 there were 4,601 Catholics officially listed, 9.04 percent of the population of 50,874. The vast majority of the others are Protestants.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, due east of the Philippines, consists of 1,152 islands grouped in 34 atolls and 870 reefs. The total land area is only 180 square kilometers but is spread over a million share kilometers in the pacific. There are 33 municipalities. 60 percent of the people live in the two islands of Majuro and Kwajalein. Majuro, the capital, has a population of 25,000. The USA handles security, defense and foreign affairs and the currency is the US dollar.

I was surprised at the time that the local media didn’t seem to be aware that a priest who grew up in a parish in the Diocese of Bacolod that is now in the Diocese of Kabankalan, had been given responsibility by the Holy Father for the Church in another Pacific nation, and in the year when Bacolod is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a diocese.

Here is a letter Father Sabio sent me and a report on his installation, both of which were published in the July-August 2008 issue of MISYON, http://www.misyononline.com/

February 11, 2008, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

Dear Fr Sean Coyle,

Aineman an Anji Jemed im yokwe an Mary Jined! (Marshallese for, ‘Peace of God our Father and love of Mary our Mother!’)

I am very pleased to note that Sister Fidelis made it for the day of my installation as Apostolic Prefect, representing the Sabio Family on January 6. (Presentation Sister Fidelis is based at Scala Retreat House, Bacolod City).The Lord has led me to this place after a long journey that started in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. Then to Cebu; and on to Manila. After 14 years of ministry in the in the Philippines as formator of college-level seminarians, vocation director, novice master and theology professor, I was transplanted to South Korea where I spent 19 fruitful years of priestly work, assisting seafarers, migrant/factory workers, the expatriate communities, harbor workers as well as airport employees and air-travelers. Indeed, it was a ministry to the sea, land and air people. And finally I departed for the third part of my life, arriving in the Marshall Islands (unheard of by many!) on October 14, 2005. It is not an easy mission area because the apostolic prefecture is spread over various atolls / tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean, located between Guam and Hawaii. My rough estimate is: the area covered by the prefecture apostolic would be equivalent to the whole of the Visayas. From Majuro, the seat of the Prefecture, to Ebeye, the second parish center, is a 40-minute flight by jet. But I trust the Lord who gives me the strength and courage I need to be His, serving His People. And I place my life in the arms of our Lady of the Sacred Heart who will intercede for me and lead me closer to the very Heart of the Incarnate Word.

May the Good Lord continue to guide and assist you and your staff in your publication/media ministry so that the ‘mission ad gentes’ will become more and more appealing and challenging to the young people.

Yours very sincerely and gratefully in the Heart of our Lord,

(Fr.) Ray Sabio, MSC

Apostolic Prefect of the Marshall Islands

January 6 is the date of the Solemnity of Epiphany, one of the great feasts in the Roman Catholic Church. This year on that day the new Apostolic Prefect of the Marshall Islands, Fr. Raymundo T. Sabio, MSC, was installed by Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio. The nuncio, from Brooklyn, New York City, is based in New Zealand and is the Vatican’s envoy to that country and to ten other island nations in the South Pacific. The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Uliga, Majuro. At the same time, the care of the Prefecture was transferred from the Jesuits to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).

The presence of Archbishop Anthony Apuron OFMCap of Agaña, Guam, was highly appreciated. He was present as President of the Pacific Episcopal Conference (CEPAC) and as the Metropolitan Archbishop under whose jurisdiction the Prefecture of the Marshall Islands belongs. Also gracing the occasion were five Jesuits: Fr. Ken Hesel SJ, Jesuit Superior of the Region of Micronesia, Fr. James C. Gould SJ, the former Apostolic Prefect, Fr. Richard McAuliff SJ, Fr. Tom McGrath SJ and Fr Arthur Leger SJ.

The MSCs were represented by Fr. Simon Mani, Superior of the MSC Pacific Union, Fr. Tito Maratas, Provincial Superior of MSC Philippines, Fr. Yohanes Sujono and Fr. Ariel Galido. It was indeed a sight to behold with so many priests and two archbishops in the sanctuary of the parish church. Rev. Alfred Capelle assisted in the Holy Mass in his capacity as deacon.

The ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at almost 11. Assumption Cathedral was filled to capacity by both the local Marshallese Catholics and the Catholic members of the various foreign communities. Although the great majority were the Catholics of Assumption Cathedral Parish of Majuro and of St. Francis Xavier Chapel of Laura, a good number of Catholics from Queen of Peace Parish, Kwajalein, came for the occasion. The sacred songs were sung beautifully in Marshallese, English and Kiribati languages.

May God bless this dedicated Negrense missionary priest.

Email me at mailto:undertheacacia@gmail.com.

09 October 2008

Philippine Legislators Push Two-children Families

Zélie and Louis Martin, parents of St Thérèse, to be beatified 19 October.

Some of our legislators in the Philippines probably would not have approved of the 'irresponsibility' of Louis and Zélie Martin because they had nine children, four of whom died in infancy, including their only two sons. Their youngest child is known to the world as St Thérèse of Lisieux. Three of her sisters also became Carmelite Nuns, Marie, Pauline and Céline, while the fourth, Léonie, became a Visitandine nun.

Section 16 of House Bill No 5043 reads: Ideal Family Size. - The State shall assist couples, parents and individuals to achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable development and encourage them to have two children as the ideal family size. Attaining the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory. No punitive action shall be imposed on parents having more than two children.

On the other hand, the same legislators would probably be happy that the Martin children didn't add to the population of France, though, as Filipinos, they would be horrified at the family name not being continued. But how many families have produced a St Thérèse? And how many canonized saints have parents subsequently beatified? And how many family names are carried on in such a way as that of the Martin Family, honoured throughout the world and giving inspiration to so many?

The promotion of two-children families, as was done during the Marcos Dictatorship, is designed to put pressure on couples. Part of the legacy of Marcos, as I have found, is a certain sense of embarrassment among some, though not all, who have grown up in large families.

The Martin Family, courtesy of Jackie Parkes.

I don't know if the legislators promoting Republic of the Philippines House Bill No 5043 have read the following report or if they are aware of the well established fact that an average of 2.1 children is necessary to maintain a country's population. They probably give 'sermons' about 'close family ties' and 'Philippine family values' without looking at what has happened in China, for example, where the one-child policy is so rigorously imposed, and is happening in some western European countries where, within a generation or two, the average child will have no brothers or sisters, no uncles or aunts. Is this what we want?
Population statistics and projections were released recently showing that European countries are dying out, even with immigration, their populations aging and shrinking. A report released this week by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical service, showed that by 2015, the number of deaths in Europe will have outstripped the number of births. By 2060, the ratio of people of working age to those over age 65 will be two to one.

None of the countries of Europe currently have a general fertility rate above replacement level and it is predicted that what is being called a "demographic winter" will strike Europe within thirty years.

The report showed that the growth momentum of Europe's 27 member states will continue to carry it until 2035; after this the population will begin to decline drastically from a predicted 521 million to 506 million by 2060. The report says that until 2035, "positive net migration would be the only population growth factor.""However, from 2035 this positive net migration would no longer counterbalance the negative natural change, and the population is projected to begin to fall."

All of the countries studied in the report, with the exceptions of the Republic of Ireland, Andorra, Poland, Malta, the Principality of Monaco, allow abortion with few or no restrictions. Nearly all the countries of the European Union maintain state funded contraception programmes.

The report showed that by 2060, Britain would have the largest population with a current fertility rate, according to the Office for National Statistics, of 1.91 children per woman and nearly restrictionless immigration policies. The ONS predicts a population of 70 million by 2031, but says that at least 70 per cent of the rise will be attributable directly to immigration. Germany, currently the biggest country in the EU with more than 82 million people, will see its population shrink by 14 per cent according to the Eurostat report.

ONS figures released last week showed that there are now more pensioners than children in the UK. Even so, given the situation of other countries, the report revealed that Britain will have the youngest population in Europe. By 2060, 24.7 per cent of people in Britain will be 65 or older but in Poland, the proportion will be 36.2 per cent. About 17 per cent of Europeans are currently aged 65 or older; by 2060 the numbers will have risen to 30 per cent.

The average age for Britons is 39 and will be 42 in 2060, but this will be the lowest age in Europe with the exception of Luxembourg. The average age of Europeans is now just over 40; this will be 48 by 2060. The current median age for women in France, 40.7 years, is already over that at which women can easily conceive.

Desperate countries have begun implementing various schemes to try to convince their populations to continue the species but these have yielded small results and overall fertility rates have continued to fall. Sweden offers one of the most generous government child benefits and maternity leave programmes in Europe, with women able to take as many as 15 months on 80 per cent pay. The efforts, however, have yielded only a tiny increase in the birth rate from 1.5 children per woman in 1999 to 1.71 in 2004. Meanwhile the government of Sweden continues to fully fund contraceptive programmes and 36,045 Swedish children died by abortion in 2006.

With population growth and economic growth closely connected, some are predicting that the demographic crisis will begin to exacerbate historic tensions between countries and regions and various ethnic groups. Barry McLerran, producer of the film "Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family", said Russia's population crisis was an overlooked factor in its recent invasion of Georgia.McLerran noted that due to Russia's low birth rate, 1.17 children per woman, and the shortened lifespan due to disease, Russia's population is declining by approximately 750,000 people a year. Efforts by the Russian government to boost its population, including paying parents the equivalent of US $9,200 for every child after the first one, are failing.
McLerran asks, "So, where does a nation with a plummeting birth rate find people?" One answer, he suggests, is territorial expansion.

And the problem is not limited to Europe. In 1989, 11.6 per cent of Japan's population was over 65. Less than 20 years later, seniors are 21.1 per cent of the Japanese people. The documentary points out that in less than 40 years, fertility rates have fallen by over 50 per cent worldwide. In 1970, the average woman had 6 children during her lifetime. Today, the global average is 2.9. Worldwide, there are 6 million fewer children under six years of age today than there were in 1990. LifeSite through Family & Life.

07 October 2008

A Guide to the Rosary from the Faroe Islands

Kirkjubøur spiritual and cultural centre of the Faroe Islands
from time of the first settlers to the Reformation.
Buildings included several churches, a bishop´s residence and seminary.

In the summer of 2000 I spent nearly six weeks in the Faroe Islands in the north Atlantic after having given a retreat in Cebuano to the Filipinos in Reykjavík, Iceland, and travelling around that country meeting the Filipinos living there and celebrating Mass with them in their homes, since there are very few Catholic churches there.

The Faroe Islands are under the sovereignty of Denmark but have some autonomy. They are not part of the European Union and have their own language of which they are very proud, but not in an ‘over and against others’ way. There are very few Catholics among the population of about 45,000. There is a community of six Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the capital, Torshavn, from Belgium, Ireland, Korea and Malta. There is no resident priest but the parish is administered from Copenhagen. The Diocese of Copenhagen covers Denmark, the Faroes and Greenland. Most of the time there is a priest but last year, for example, priests were there for 15 different ‘slots’, three of them filled by the parish priest, Fr Lars Messerschmidt. However, there is a permanent deacon, the Reverend Christian Gabrielsen, a Dane.



1) The Annunciation
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”
(Luke 1: 26-38; Isaiah 7:14)
2) The Visitation
“Blessed are you among women”
(Luke 1: 39-56)
3) The Birth of Jesus
“A Saviour has been born to you”
(Luke 2: 1-20; John 1: 14)
4) The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
“Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”
(Luke 2: 22-35; John 1: 9-11)
5) The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
“”Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father´s affairs?”
(Luke 2: 41-52)

The carving of Our Lady of Kirkjubøur is a copy of the original carving
which is to be found on one of the Kirkjubøur benches,
and currently on display in the National Museum.
This carving is the handwork of parishioner, Ole Jacob Nielsen,
and is carved in Faroese wood.


1) The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”
(Luke 3: 15-22)
2) The Miracle at the Marriage Feast in Cana
“They have no wine”
(John 2: 1-11)
3) The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God and the Call to Conversion
“Repent and believe in the Good News”
(Mark 1: 14-15; Matthew 4:23)
4) The Transfiguration of Jesus
“There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzingly white,
whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them”
(Mark 9: 2-9)

5) The Institution of the Eucharist
“Do this as a memorial of me”
(1 Corinthians 11: 23-27; John 13: 2-20)


1) The Agony in the Garden
“Let your will be done, not mine”
(Luke 22: 39-53)
2) The Scourging at the Pillar
“He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified”
(Matthew 27: 11-26)
3) The Crowning of Jesus with Thorns
“Having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head”
(Matthew 27: 27 -31)
4) The Carrying of the Cross
“Carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull”
(John 19: 17-22; Luke 23: 26-32)
5) The Crucifixion
“It is accomplished”
(Luke 23: 33-46; John 19: 23-37)

Stained glass window located at the church entrance, Mariukirkjan, Torshavn, the only Catholic chapel in the Islands,
is the work of Danish artist, Sven Havsteen Mikkelsen.

A great portent appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

(Revelation 12: 1)


1) The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead
“He is not here; he has risen”
(Luke 24: 1-8; John 20: 11-18)
2) The Ascension into Heaven
“he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight”
(Acts 1: 3-11: Matthew 28: 18-20)
3) The Descent of the Holy Spirit
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit”
(Acts 2: 1-13; John 14: 16-21)
4) The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
“all men will be brought to life in Christ”
(1 Corinthians 15: 20-23; Ephesians 2:4-10, Luke 1: 46-55)

5) The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven
“a great sign appeared in heaven”
(Revelation 12: 1-10; John 19: 25-27)

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