29 September 2009

Heroism in Manila floods

People are stranded in Cainta, province of Rizal , eastern Manila

Last Saturday tropical storm Ketsana ('Ondoy' in the Philippines) brought devastating floods to Metro Manila. Today's Philippine Daily Inquirer carries the story of 'Muelmar Magallanes, a powerful swimmer who braved rampaging floods to save more than 30 people, but ended up sacrificing his life in a last trip to rescue a baby girl who was being swept away on a styrofoam box.

'Family members and people whom Magallanes saved hailed on Monday the 18-year-old construction worker a hero, as his body lay in a coffin at a makeshift evacuation center near their destroyed riverside village in Quezon City.

'“I am going to be forever grateful to Muelmar. He gave his life for my baby. I will never forget his sacrifice,” said Menchie Peñalosa, the mother of the 6-month-old girl whom he carried to safety before being swept away himself.'

'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends - Wala nang pagmahahal nahihigit pa sa pagaalay sa sariling buhay alang-alang sa mga kanyang mga kaibigan (Jn 15:13).'

Aida De Leon grieves in Pasig City , east of Manila

The same report tells how Judge Ralph Lee 'From 4 p.m. to midnight, . . . combed the neighborhood 10 feet under water for trapped residents, each time loading at least three people on his machine [a Jet Ski]and taking them to a bakery on high ground at the Palmera 4 subdivision, where his rescue effort was centered.

'He personally took 32 people, mostly women and children, to safety.

'“It probably took me around 20 plus trips to do that,” Judge Lee said.

'“In the evening, the residents were able to help me rescue more people when the rubber boats came … We had no light except a flashlight provided by a homeowner,” he added.

'With his son Ram and other homeowners, the effort brought some 100 people to safer ground.'

Full story here.

An aerial view aboard a Philippine Air Force chopper shows devastation brought by Tropical Storm Ketsana in Cainta, province of Rizal , eastern Manila

Residents are evacuated by police boats during flooding in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila

A Philippine Air Force aerial shot shows damaged houses in Marikina City , Metro Manila. More than 70 people were killed, Manila was blacked out and airline flights were suspended as a powerful tropical storm battered the main Philippines island of Luzon

Residents wait to be evacuated from a partially submerged house during flooding in Bocaue, north of Manila

Thousands of people in the Philippine capital and nearby towns were marooned by flash floods after a strong tropical storm hit the main island of Luzon , disaster officials said

Residents cross a flooded street with the use of a rope in Quezon City

A boy is lifted onto the roof of a building to escape the flooding in the Quezon City suburban of Manila . Nearly a month's worth of rain fell in just six hours Saturday, triggering the worst flooding in the Philippine capital in 42 years, which stranded thousands on rooftops in the city and elsewhere

Residents clamber on electric wires to stay out of floodwaters while others wade neck-deep in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila

A victim of floodings is rescued in Pasig City , east of Manila . Authorities rushed rescue and relief to thousands of people who spent the night on the roofs of their submerged houses in Manila and surrounding provinces

Commuters wade through waist-deep floodwaters after heavy rains dumped by Tropical Storm Ketsana (locally known as Ondoy) on Saturday, Sept. 26, in Manila

28 September 2009

Devastating floods in Manila

Flooded Cainta, Rizal, Metro Manila (two photos and above and first below)

Last October I posted an item in The Pilgrims' Inn, the editor's blog of Misyon, about my friend Louella 'Lala' Vicente and her extraordinary story. Lala was born with Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and left in a garbage pail. I also posted the story, 'Lala' and Queen Elizabeth, on this blog. She lives in the L'Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, an area that was very badly hit by the floods in Manila over the weekend. Cainta is one of the many cities and towns that make up Metro Manila, a totally urban area with very little open space and hardly any parks.

Yesterday, the 27th, was Lala's 30th birthday. I don't have any news on the situation in Punla, the name of the house where the L'Arche community lives. I do know that Lala had been looking forward with great excitement to her big day.

Juding by the photos above, Lala and her friends must have been badly affected as Punla is low-lying.

A shelter in Pasig City, Metro Manila

A mother in Cainta grieving for her son

25 September 2009

5,000th priest in 164-year history of the Church in Korea ordained in Year for Priests

As a Columban I have a special interest in the Church in Korea since we have been there since 1933. A Fides report indicates how the Church has grown in South Korea in recent decades. The report was published two days ago but Asianews carried the same story on 30 June. You'll find that below too.

But this is not a story for today only but one that brings hope for the future. May God continue to fill the hearts of young Koreans with generosity and zeal for the Gospel.

ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - 5,000th priest in 164-year history of the Church in Korea ordained in Year for Priests

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) – It is a landmark within the Year for Priests, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, and which will serve as an inspiration in the vocational ministry in Korea: the Church's celebration of the ordination of the 5,000th priest in its history, beginning in 1845, with the ordination of the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr (in picture above).
The ordination liturgy for Fr. Dionysious Son Ho-bin, of the Archdiocese of Seoul, celebrated by Cardinal Nicholas Cheoung, was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of faithful who gave thanks for this gift to the Church in Korea, which lights the way for the future.

In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides from Cardinal Cheoung, the Prelate told us: “When I was ordained a priest in 1961, there were only 250 Korean priests. In the last 50 years, the number has grown to 5,000 [editor's note: the number of priests today in South Korea is more than 3,200 of whom nearly 2,700 are diocesan priests] and this flowering of vocations to the priesthood is a sign that the Church in Korea is journeying in accord with the will and grace of God.” The Cardinal then invited all the Korean priests to learn from the example of Saint John Mary Vianney in living out their priestly life and asked the youth not to silence the voice of their conscience, but to respond with generosity to the Lord's call, as He “sends new laborers into His fields.”

In addition to the ordination of Fr. Son Ho-bin in Seoul, which had a great impact on the nation, in other Korean dioceses as well, various initiatives for the Year for Priests have been taking place, with days and moments of prayer for priests. Instructions on how to gain the plenary indulgence have been distributed in parishes and the faithful are continually being reminded of spiritual and moral support, as well as practical aid, they can offer the priests in their parishes, which have the gift of administering the Sacraments for the benefit of the community. (PA)(Agenzia Fides 23/9/2009)

Asianews also carries the story - dated 30 June 2009, which indicates that the Fides Agency, based in the Vatican, is a little late in catching up on it!

The 5,000th Korean priest is ordained in Seoul

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

Cardinal Nicholas Chung Jin-suk presided over the ordination ceremony for 27 priests and deacons. The prelate remembers the first Korean priest ordained 164 years ago who died a martyr’s death. The number of South Korean Catholics tops five million or about 10 per cent of the population.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – After 164 years since the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Dae-gon, was ordained the Catholic Church welcomed its 5000th Korean priest, this in a country, South Korea, where Catholics now number five million or 10 per cent of the population.

Cardinal Nicholas Chung Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, presided over the ceremony of ordination for 27 priests and deacons at Olympic Park in downtown Seoul.

The event was indeed particularly poignant because Dionysious Son Ho-bin from Jaegi-dong Parish was among them. He is Korea’s 5000th Korean priest.

“Today, here at this place, the 5000th Korean priest is born to the example of Father Andrew Kim Dae-gon, the first Korean priest, who died a martyr 164 years ago during harsh persecution,” Cardinal Chung said. “We are honoured to preside over the ordination” as “we celebrate the year of St. Paul and the Year of the Priest.”

Some 14,000 priests, religious and faithful were present at the ceremony. They prayed for the new priests and the new deacons, who will celebrate their first Mass in their respective parishes.
Recently the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) released data showing that as of the end of 2008, local Catholics numbered just over five million or 9.9 percent of the total population of 50,394,374. This represents a 130,000 increase from 2007.

The CBCK noted that while the Catholic population has increased by 2.7 per cent a year on average over the past 10 years, the country's overall population has edged forward by just 0.8 per cent.

Pope's message to UN climate change summit

Much has been written about climate change. There seems to be clear evidence that a major change in our climate is going on right now. We know that this has happened before in history and in pre-human history.Some say the present change is caused by man while others say it's part of the cycle.

Some who say that it's part of a natural cycle accuse those who say it's man made as being scaremongers. Some of the latter accuse some of the former of being paid - or duped - PR people for groups such as the oil lobby.

I just don't know which side of the argument I accept but what I do see clearly is the fundamental importance of respecting all that God has created and of which he has made us stewards.

Pope Benedict's message is strong and reminds us of the relationship between God and us, made in his image, and the earth in which He has placed us, and the deadly effect on the lives of many now, such as the Brazilian children with the Pontiff in the photo above, and in the future caused by our lack of respect for creation, which is a form of rejection of our loving Creator.

I have highlighted parts of the Pope's message.

VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a transcription of the Pope's video message to participants in the UN summit on climate change, which was held in New York on 22 September.

"I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of His creation", says Benedict XVI speaking English. "In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who are meeting at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.

"The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator Who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of His creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development. In my recent Encyclical, 'Caritas in Veritate', I referred to such questions recalling the 'pressing moral need for renewed solidarity' not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations.

"How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognised with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world. Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery".

The Holy Father concluded by inviting participants in the UN summit "to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop 'that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God'".


You can find links to the video at the bottom of this page under 'Observor Missions'.

The three photos of nature were taken by Kurt Pala, a Columban seminarian here in the Philippines, whose father Theonilo, a professional diver, was killed almost two months ago in a work-related accident.

23 September 2009

Indian priest donates kidney to Hindu stranger

AsiaNews carried a remarkable story yesterday about 49-year-old Fr Davis Chiramel from Kerala, India, who is giving one of his kidneys to a married Hindu man whom he doesn't know.It reminds me of the story of St Maximilian Kolbe OFMConv who gave his life in a Nazi concentration camp to save the life of a young, married Polish soldier whom he did not know.

I have highlighted some parts of the report.


Catholic priest donates kidney to save Hindu man

by Nirmala Carvalho

In Kerala, Father Chiramel offers one of his kidneys to an unknown recipient. The priest said he was inspired by the ‘Year for Priest’. “For me donating an organ is a unique and privileged opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Fr Davis Chiramel, a 49-year-old Catholic priest from Kerala, donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger. The clergyman is parish priest at St Francis Xavier Church in Vadanapally (Kerala). Earlier this year he decided to help a Hindu father of two, a complete stranger who was suffering from renal failure.

Father Chiramel is also the general secretary of the Accident Care and Transport Services (ACTS) in Thrissur. On 15 February, volunteers in the organisation were at his church. They
talked about a Hindu man named Gopinath
who had suffered renal failure. Because of that, he was being forced to go to the Jubilee Mission Hospital in Thrissur every three days for dialysis treatment. He needed a transplant but the volunteers did not know how to go about getting one, suggesting that it might cost a million rupees (US$ 21,000), but above all wondering how they could find a donor. In India, there is one donor per million.

When Father Chiramel heard the ACTS volunteers discuss the matter, he rebuked them because “I realised they were talking about finding someone from whom to buy a kidney.”

In India as in Pakistan and Nepal, organ trafficking, especially in kidneys, is big business. Indian authorities are hard pressed to stop such commerce that sees the poor sell their organs for
little money whilst rich but sick people unscrupulously pay a lot to improve their health.

Given the situation, Father Chiramel decided to donate the organ himself. Hospital tests followed to determine computability; administrative steps began to get the necessary authorisation.

The clergyman told AsiaNews that for him “donating a kidney was a blessing, which began in February. However, I only realised what I was doing on 19 June. On that day the Pope opened the ‘Year for Priests’ and I was in the hospital for the necessary tests for the transplant. Everything happened in an instant. I realised that I had been blessed with the possibility of offering my body to save a man.”

Father Chiramel uses words like “joy”, “gift” and “treasure” to describe what happened to him. “Christ is the source and origin of every good action; it is He who gives the strength and
courage to act,” the priest said. “I never thought I could donate my kidney, even less to a total stranger.”

Gopinath and Father Chiramel will meet for the first time on 30 September, when the transplant will be performed at the Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi. For the clergyman, this will be the fulfillment of something that “changed my life.”

“Christ gives of himself every day for the world’s salvation. In the Mass, priests offer the sacrifice of His body and His blood, but they do it without sharing in our Lord’s pain and
suffering,” Father Chiramel said. “For me the possibility of donating an organ to someone I did not know is a unique and privileged opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering.”

20 September 2009

A "g'day" in Melbourne

Connex suburban train, Melbourne

"G'day" is a common greeting in Australia. Today I had a very "g'day" here in Melbourne.

Strathmore railway station is just down the road from St Columban's in Essendon, a Melbourne suburb. I went into the city by train this afternoon to meet a new friend from the Philippines, Joy Manalo, who is doing a year's post-graduate studies at Clayton University here and whose mother Angie attends my weekday Masses in Bacolod. We spent about two hours in a Starbucks discussing the situation in the Philippines over a cappuccino, my favourite drink.

My colleagues at St Columban's told me that I could buy a ticket in the newsagents along the way but it was closed. The machine at the station - it's a 'non-person' station - wouldn't accept my $20 dollar bill. It did state very clearly that it didn't give change of more than ten dollars. A man told me to get on the train and explain to an inspector at Flinders Street Station, in the heart of Melbourne, but that he might not be happy.

As it turned out, the inspector whom I approached, a middle-aged man, was very helpful, even though I think his initial reaction was similar to mine when someone approaches me with a hard-luck story. But when I asked him 'What can I do?' he said he would let me out and told me where to buy a ticket.

I had seen myself as, technically, having broken the law but my online research later showed me that I hadn't, as I had made every reasonable effort to get a ticket both before and after my journey.

When I was wondering what platform to go to to catch my train back to Strathmore, I approached another inspector, a woman of a similar age to the first. She too was most helpful, going with me to the big board where they showed the information but which I hadn't been able to decipher.

Then when I was just about to get on the escalator to go down to Platform 4 I heard someone calling "Father Sean" I turned around and saw a smiling Chinese-Filipino, Hector Uy, who with his wife Imee had made a Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Cebu some months ago before emigrating to Australia. I had been the priest on their weekend.

St Fidelis Church, Moreland, Victoria

At each of the three Masses in St Fidelis/Our Lady of Perpetual SuccourParish, where I was doing the mission appeal for the Columbans, I mentioned Father Bernard Way, a Melbourne-born Columban who was among the pioneering group that went to Burma in the mid-1930s. He died in 1993. The reason was that an article her wrote for The Far East, the Irish Columban magazine now known as Far East - our magazine here in Australia and New Zealand retains the original name - captured my teenage imagination when I was seriously thinking of being a missionary priest. It was about his printing press in his parish in the mountains of northern Burma.

I never met Father Barney but wrote him for his Golden Jubilee and mentioned the part his printing press had played in my discovery of my vocation.

Afterthe Saturday evening Mass a couple who had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary approached me. The wife told me that Father Barney's sister, Margaret, had made her wedding dress. After the Mass in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, a chapel in a school in the parish, another couple approached me. The husband told me, if I recollect correctly, that Father Barney or someone in his family had been his godfather. After the Sunday morning Mass in St Fidelis another man told me that his dad had been the Way family's butcher.

And during the week I met a niece of Father Barney, the daughter of his twin brother, who works part-time at the Columban house here.

Father Way teaching young Kachin men in Burma to sing Gregorian chant.

I frequently have this kind of experience wherever I go. We usually call them 'small world' experiences but for me as a missionary they are expressions of the reality that we truly are God the Father's beloved sons and daughters and the beloved brothers and sisters of Jesus and therefore of one another. As a priest I find that I am trusted as a link between so many people, living and dead.
I was especially happy to meet people with links to a Columban priest whom I never met but whose article about his printing press was one of the clearest signposts on the road to discovering my vocation. May Father Barney Way rest in peace.

16 September 2009

Hurtful terms in Philippine movie, Kimmy Dora, for persons with disabilities

The letter below, from Ms Landa A. Bautista (in photo below), Curriculum Director of The Learning Center, Inc (TLC), was sent to me by email today. I haven't seen the movie Kimmy Dora and am unlikely to do so. This is not in any way a review of the film but I agree very much with the central point that Ms Bautista is making.

I know that many people use the terms 'retarded','mentally retarded', 'MR' and 'mongoloid' with no desire whatever to hurt anyone. All of these terms have been in use for a long time but are better dropped at this stage. I'll highlight parts of the letter and add some [comments].

The Learning Center, Inc. (TLC) is deeply saddened by the demeaning language used in the movie “Kimmy Dora”. I appeal to everyone to please stop the derogatory use of the words “retarded” and “mongoloid”. Remember, it only seems like a funny & petty joke until you yourself have a child with special needs.

As a Special Educator and as someone who advocates the universal acceptance of differences, this comes with a call that you help ban the movie "KimmyDora". Or, AT THE VERY LEAST, help educate people on the hurtful consequences of ignorance and insensitivity to people with developmental conditions. [As I haven't seen the movie I can't ask that it be banned].

Help speak up for the many members of the special needs community who cannot speak out for themselves.

Our thoughts shape our words and eventually, our actions. How we initially see individuals with special needs is primarily reflected by our language. We can use it to discriminate against special people OR dispel negative stereotypes about them....

I sincerely pray we choose, and likewise tell everyone we know, to do the latter.


Just this weekend, I've observed a rise in the disturbingly nonchalant and offensive use of these terms. It truly hurts me that a single movie can erase the hard work involved in removing the social stigma associated with these terms.

Entertainment need not be insensitive to be funny. This is an appeal to local producers to research and use acceptable, politically correct terms for membersof the differently-abled special population AND portray them in a positivelight. [I don't like the term 'politically correct' since it has become a form of censorship in many ways but I see the need for language that it accurate and without negative or derogatory overtones. Nor do I particularly like the term 'differently-abled' though it is a positive term reminding us that everyone has some ability. But we have to face the reality that there are many people, not only those with learning disabilities, who need the practical support of others to use their abilities, no matter how limited, to the full]. Please do not put the influence of media to waste. Use it to educate people, not pull them into the dark ages of ignorance and apathy. [I like this. The media, in whatever form, can be used for good or bad purposes].

We pray for everyone's enlightenment. Please help us spread theword. Godspeed!

All good wishes,
Ms. Landa A. Bautista, M.A.Ed.
Curriculum Director
The Learning Center, Inc. (TLC)

I came across this video on the L'Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, the only one in the Philippines, a home where persons with mental and learning disabilities, some of them with severe physical disabilities as well, are given a chance to develop their abilities. Over the years Columban seminarians have gone their regularly. Maira San Juan, a Columban lay missionary in Korea, lived there before as an assistant.

The photos of the two young men were taken at a celebration for the 80th birthday of Marie-Hélène Mathieu who, with Jean Vanier, founded Faith and Light. Jean also founded L'Arche. Both movements have persons with learning disabilities as their 'VIPs'.

15 September 2009

A Safe Haven

Fr Gary Walker at Holy Family Home, Bacolod City

My Columban colleague Fr Gary Walker, editor of The Far East, the Columban magazine for Australia and New Zealand wrote an article about Holy Family Home, Bacolod City, A Safe Haven, after visiting there last year. You can read it here in the August issue of The Far East.

We have Father Gary's article as our featured video at the moment on Misyon.

In July-August 2008 we had another article about Holy Family Home, 'A Child Redeemed is a Generation Saved' by Richelle Verdeprado, whom the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family have enabled to study at third level. Richelle is now in her third year of a four-year course in Social Work at the University of Negros Occidental - Recoletos (UNO-R), run by the Augustinian Recollects, known in the Philippines as the Recoletos. She has been involved in campus journalism since her elementary days and works in our office during vacations.

13 September 2009

Have sex, eating and drinking lost their meaning for many Catholics?

Chef Bobby Flay with Fr Leo Patalinghug

Philippine-born Father Leo Patalinghug of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, the first diocese in the USA, recently won a televised 'Fajita Throwdown' contest against a renowned American chef Bobby Flay.

I'm afraid that I wouldn't know a fajita from a football. I think it's a popular Mexican dish. My ignorance of matters culinary remind me of a song that was popular way back in 1954 when I was 11, sung by an English singer, Alma Cogan, 'I Can't Tell a Waltz from a Tango'. (I do know the difference between those two and could do a good waltz once upon a time but never got the hang of the latter).

Father Leo has his own website, Grace Before Meals, and at the heart of his cooking apostolate is building Catholic families.

When I was based in Britain from 2000 to 2002 I remember reading about a survey among young people in England that showed that a majority had never experienced a family meal. The 'Sunday roast' was always a major event in the life of nearly every family in Ireland and in Britain when I was young. Very often the centrepiece was roast beef, hence the name, and it would provide sandwiches or cold meat meals for at least one day, if not two. Sunday was the only day we got dessert in our family.

Today obesity is a major problem in Western countries. there are many factors but I believe that one of them is that eating has been dissociated to a large degree from its social dimension and is seen by many as a way of 'tanking up', often with junk food.

By the same token, binge drinking by young people is a grave matter of concern in Ireland and Britain, especially at weekends, where people go out with one thing in mind: to get drunk. Again, the social dimension of drinking is utterly lost.

Earlier this month a group of newly-graduated students, aged between 17 and 19, of St Vincent's, Cork, aCatholic girls' school, held a dinner-dance at which a condom was placed at each table-setting. This was the doing of some of the organisers. I was utterly shocked. I know that young people in Ireland have, to a large degree, rejected the Catholic faith. This incident to me indicates a group of people with little or no moral bearings, little or no sense of responsibility for their actions, and no understanding whatever of sexuality - after going through a Catholic school. One of the organisers, a young woman, was quoted in The Irish Examiner, 'It is a responsible thing to do. People are going to be drunk and things will happen.' In other words, her expectations of herself and her friends, some of them minors, was that they would be utterly irresponsible.

I wonder what the reaction would have been had a box of cigarettes been placed in front of everyone.

I remember another Columban priest who served briefly in the US Army at the end of the Korean War before entering the seminary telling me that his group in Korea were all given condoms when going off duty. He refused to take them and even spoke to the Catholic chaplain about it. The latter just shrugged his shoulders.

Are we now into an era where three of God's basic life-giving gifts, sex, food and drink, have lost their deepest meaning for many, even those coming out of Catholic schools? Have they lost their true social meaning?

Father Leo is building family life by reinforcing the family meal. May God grace him abundantly before, during and after meals.

Slight technical problem: I was unable to drag the photos down. Maybe 'Down Under' here in Australia you're supposed to drag them up. I'll check with someone tomorrow.

09 September 2009

Heading for Melbourne

St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne

Tomorrow I fly from Manila to Melbourne to do some mission appeals for the Columbans there. I spent two years on this kind of work in Britain, from 2000 to 2002, and have also done appeal work in the US midwest, during the summer of 1990, and later that year in Ireland, in Irish-speaking parishes. I love the 'buzz' around a parish on Sunday morning - and Saturday evening - and have found people and priests everywhere to be truly welcoming. The experience can give everyone, including the visiting missionary, a greater sense of the universality of the Church and of its mission to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

05 September 2009

Jesus heals a deaf man

Today's gospel shows us Jesus healing a deaf man who had a speech impediment. I grew up knowing those who were profoundly deaf as 'deaf and dumb', the term that some still use. However, 'dumb' has come to mean 'stupid', quite probably because people who were deaf were perceived as such.

Those who are profoundly deaf describe themselves as a group as 'The Deaf', wtih a capital 'D', not 'heaing impaired, which is not quite the same thing. Many become hearing impaired as they grow older. while they have difficulty in communicating, they have had a life-long experience of sharing a common language with those around them. The Deaf don't, not even within their own families. The only 'native signers' I have met have been children of one or two deaf parents, who learned Sign Language as they learned to speak.

Those of us who have all our faculties tend to think that blindness is 'worse' than deafness. But deafness is isolating in a way that no other physical disability is, as those born deaf cannot share the language of their family and community.

Father Joseph Coyle, a Columban who worked for many years in Negros Occidental here in the Philippines, pioneered pastoral ministry to the Deaf here. Though there is a small but growing number of priests who can sign Mass, including Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of Jaro, very few are aware of the Deaf among us. I know of priests and people who won't allow interpreters for the Deaf at Mass, as 'they are a distraction'. This is not general but it does happen.

St Francis de Sales is the patron saint of the Deaf - and of journalists - because of his friendship with a deaf servant, Martin. He came to know the great humanity and faith of Martin.

Father Joseph Coyle died in December 1991 but his work was continued and developed by Mrs Salvacion V. Tinsay. Tita Salving, as everyone knew her, died in August last year.

St Mark in today's gospel uses the Aramaic word that Jesus used in healing the deaf man, 'Ephphata!' 'Be opened', emphasising the importance of this event.

St Francis de Sales

Health Care Council Presents International Conference

By a happy coincidence, the Vatican announced a new initiative in reaching out to the hearing impaired - I guess it includes both those who are born deaf and those who become deaf later - as reported in Zenit:

Vatican to Focus on Hearing Impaired

ROME, SEPT. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).-The Vatican recognizes that people with hearing impairments have muchto offer the Church, and will stop to consider this contribution duringa November conference.

Officials from the Pontifical Council forHealth Care Ministry presented their 24th international conference toBenedict XVI last Wednesday after the general audience, L'OsservatoreRomano reported today. The theme, drawn in part from Mark 7:34, is"Ephphata! The Deaf in the Life of the Church."

During thepresentation, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the health caredicastery, explained that the purpose of the conference is "to offer anopportunity to the Church to appreciate the contribution of deaf peoplein the various areas of apostolate."

Among the participants willbe Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, Great Britain, president ofthe International Catholic Foundation for the Service of Deaf Persons.

Alsopresent will be the past two presidents of the Vatican's health carecouncil: , Cardinals Javier Lozano Barragán and Fiorenzo Angelini.

Thecongress will reflect, on one hand, on the medical, psychological andsocial aspects of deafness and, on the other, on the pastoral needs ofthis group.

Specialists from around the globe will contribute,as will catechists, priests, families and volunteers dedicated to thepastoral care of the deaf.

Among them will be Spanish FatherJaime Gutiérrez Villanueva, a priest of St. Mary of Silence church inMadrid, a parish created in 1973 by two deaf priests and a dozenfaithful with this impairment.

Mk 7:31-37 (RSV)

Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."

03 September 2009

An ironic meeting: José Ramos Horta meets Fidel Ramos.

East Timor President José Ramos Horta with former President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines at Manila Cathedral, 5 August, before the funeral Mass for former President Cory Aquino.

After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize José Ramos Horta ‘was banned from visiting the Philippines during an APEC meeting which took place there in late 1996; the ban was subsequently extended.’

It was the second time that Mr Ramos Horta was kept from visiting the Philippines:

In 1994, the Philippines also banned Ramos-Horta from attending a conference in Manila on human rights in East Timor. The government said that allowing his entry would harm relations with Indonesia.

Ramos-Horta said he felt no resentment toward the Philippine government because it faced pressure from Indonesia.

"I can only sympathise with the Philippine government because I know that deep down they have a profound sympathy for the people of East Timor," he said.

But he was amazed at being portrayed as a trouble-maker at the Apec summit.

"Who am I to be able to disrupt a summit of mighty states," he said. "I am a bit like Mickey Mouse ... and they are accusing me, a Mickey Mouse, of trying to disrupt a party of elephants."

The irony is that Fidel Ramos was president at the time.

Poll: many Asian Youth don't understand Eucharist

John Paul II, World Youth Day, Manila, 1995

CBCP News, the newsagency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, reported yesterday that a poll shows that many Asian youth don't understand the Eucharist.

I'm not surprised by this. I find that many older people, not only in the Philippines, but in Ireland and elsewhere, seem to lack an awareness that the bread and wine brought up at the offertory of the Mass becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. I frequently hear Catholics referring to the Precious Blood as 'the wine'. Very few seem to genuflect when the enter a church.

The five recent Sundays when the Gospel reading was taken from John 6 was an opportunity to teach people the basics, an opportunity that I took. I also heard Archbishop Charles J, Chaput OFM Cap of Denver do the same in his homilies during that period and which can be heard online.

A couple of years ago when I did the same one Sunday in the parish where I now go home to in Ireland. Afterwards a man around my own age came to me and thanked me.

Here is the CBCP News report:

MANILA, Sept 2, 2009—In this modern age, still many young Asian Catholics do not fully understand what the Eucharist is all about, according to a survey.

This situation has served as an “eye opener” for the Catholic hierarchy to make theological and pastoral reflections on the Eucharist and the young faithful.

The poll, they said, also provided them a more “factual look” at the youth who are not just the future of the Church “but the hope of the present.”

Initiated by the Youth Desk of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), the survey showed how young people have taken the Eucharist out of context.

In the 1, 033 youth respondents aged 15 to 35 from 12 Asian countries including the Philippines, 30 percent believe that it protects them from harm and 17 percent think that it is a mean to obtain luck.

Infanta Bishop Rolando Tirona, however, said the result should not be a cause alarm because a bulk of those surveyed has a “tremendous” appreciation of the Mass.

“Majority of them or 65 percent believe that they are receiving the body of Christ in Holy Communion,” the survey said.

Also, half of the respondents have recognized that the Eucharist “help them grown in their relationship with God.”

The Youth Desk was organized under the Office of the Laity, chaired by Bishop Tirona, as the official arm of FABC that responds to the needs and concerns of Asian youth.
Little influence

While majority of them claimed of actively participating and have ‘adequate’ understanding in the Eucharist, still some said it really doesn’t have much weight into their daily lives.

“Though young Catholics generally rated themselves as adequate in terms of their understanding(2.2 mean rating) and average in their participation (7.06 mean rating ) in the Eucharist, they also revealed that it has had a very little influence on their daily activities (1.97 mean rating),” the survey showed.

Only 0.6 percent of Asian Catholic youth acknowledge the parish as their source of information and understanding on the Eucharist and more than 50 percent claimed to have known through “personal readings”.

When asked about their reasons for attending the Mass, majority expressed their desire to worship, give thanks and pray.

“This has more weight compared to the community dimension and the formative component that the Mass offers,” the FABC said.

“61% of the respondents maintain that silence before the Eucharist helps them to prepare for the celebration. There may be a need however, to support them in preparing through reflection on the Sunday readings (33%) going on a Eucharistic fast (37%) and going to confession (33%),” it added.


Bishop Tirona said what the Church now wants to do if for the young faithful realized that the Eucharist is a “very powerful force” that can move them to be “agents of transformation.”

“That is the challenge,” said the chairman of FABC’s Office of the Laity.

One way of doing this, according to him, is for the Church to come up with a “creative liturgy”.
In other words, he added, the celebration of the Mass should speak to the young people.

AYD: A catalyst

The survey book was launched during the 9th FABC plenary assembly last August 2009 at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

It is hoped that the study may be considered in evaluating catechesis for the young as well as pastoral programs that aim to instill a “Eucharistic spirituality” among them.

The survey will also serve as a major resource paper to be used in the upcoming Asian Youth Day to be held in the Diocese of Imus from November 20 to 30, 2009.

“We hope that this event would serve as a catalyst,” Bishop Tirona said. “We really want them to help the Church in its mission to transform.”

San Fernando Auxiliary Bishop Roberto Mallari said Asian Youth Day is a pilgrimage of faith, where young people from diverse backgrounds meet and experience the love of God.

“We wanted to bring together young Catholics from Asia to celebrate and learn about their faith on a more regular basis,” he said.

He said the Catholic festival is a way to reach out to the next generation of Catholics and ensure that the core teachings of Christ are transmitted and lived. (Roy Lagarde)

World Youth Day, Manila, 1995, Closing Mass

Tabernacle in Mariukirkjan, the Church of Mary, Torshavn, the only Catholic church in the Faroe Islands. Designed by Ole Jacob Nielsen, a parishioner.

I came across an article on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on KATÓLSKA KIRKJEN, Tórshavn, Føroyar (Faroe Islands), the website of the tiny Catholic community there. It teaches the basics.

On the last Sunday of each month, there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the parish church (Mariukirkjan) between three and six o´clock in the afternoon, followed by Evening Prayer (Vespers) in Faroese. When the Wise Men followed the star to Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus, they fell down on their knees when they saw the child with his mother and adored him. Every time we hear about people in the Bible meeting God, we are told that they fall on their faces and adore God. Adoration is the reaction of a believer in an encounter with the almighty God.

Once, many years ago, a mother told me that she came into a Catholic church with her seven or eight-year-old son. They went to the tabernacle, where the Real Presence of Jesus under the form of consecrated Bread is kept. The boy threw himself down spontaneously in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The mother got embarrassed and looked around her to see if anyone had seen it. I asked her: “What did you feel?”. She replied: “I wanted to do the same, but didn´t dare!”

Jesus shows us his great love by making his dwelling amongst us under the form of bread, which is reserved in the tabernacle in the Catholic church: “And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).
Why is Jesus really present in our Catholic churches in this way? In order to draw everyone to himself in a very “earthly” way. It is a place where we can go and meet Jesus today. The church is his dwelling, not just when we gather for Mass or prayer services, but all the time. The church is a holy place, because it is God´s house on earth.

We, Catholics, believe with all our heart, that the bread and wine really change during Mass to the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Bread is therefore the sign of Jesus´ real presence also after Mass. Faith in Jesus´ Sacramental and Real Presence has been deeply anchored in the hearts of Catholics for hundreds of years, with the result that we not only gather around him during Mass, but also have Adoration in front of the exposed Sacrament or privately seek him in the church for our personal prayer in front of the tabernacle.

There is a story about a priest who once came into a country church and saw an old man sitting quietly before the tabernacle at the altar. The priest had noticed him before. He asked him: What are you doing?” He answered. “I look at him and he looks at me, and then we ´re happy”. That is faith!

Benediction in Mariukirjan, Tórshavn

The individual and communal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a continuation of the Mass. It is as if we can never stop being together with Jesus whom we meet during Mass.

Just as it is Jesus himself (and not the priest) who invites us to come to Mass and to his table, it is also he who invites us to pay him a visit in the church during the day or during the course of the week.

The monthly adoration in our church is an invitation from the Lord to be together with him in order to receive his love and to adore him as our God. Come, therefore, as often as possible, even if it´s only for part of the time. Non-Catholics are also welcome!

It is the Church´s ancient tradition to close each day with Evening Prayer (Vespers), which is the liturgical evening prayer service. It is prayed daily in convents, but many parish churches also pray, for example, on Sunday, just as there are many lay people who pray it privately and unite themselves with the whole church in the daily praise of our Triune God. Therefore, we end Adoration with Evening prayer, so that our parish can also be united in this worldwide fellowship of prayer.