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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Religious working to turn ‘painful’ split into missionary venture

ANTIPOLO, Philippines (UCAN). Forty-two members of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) in the Philippines are working to build a new missionary society while waiting to be released from their congregation.

Bishop Crisostomo Yalung of Antipolo told UCA News Sept. 28 that the members have asked the congregation’s general government in Rome to formally release them. “I opened up to this group thinking there is a divine message in all that is happening,” Bishop Yalung said.

The 37 priests, a brother, a deacon and three seminarians failed to reconcile differences with their congregation in matters of leadership, administration and mission orientation. On June 12, the 40 Filipinos and two Belgian priests formed a pious association of male Religious called the Missionaries of Jesus.

Bishop Yalung has allowed the Missionaries of Jesus to work in his diocese, east of Manila. “While they help in pastoral work, the clergy here knows they are a distinct group and their aim is transitional,” he said.

He offered the missioners a house near the diocese’s seminary. “Before me, they renewed their vows so that there is continuity as Religious,” he said.

Church law allows Religious wishing to be relieved of their vows in a congregation to take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to a bishop and thereby to remain Religious.

Bishop Yalung also hopes “much later on” to plan with the group a center for missionary activity, “since the Philippines is known to be the springboard for missionary evangelization.”

According to Father Romeo Nimez, the congregation’s Philippine provincial, the group is considered “on leave” from CICM while they await a response from CICM’s general governing body.

Father Wilfredo Dulay, a member of the new group, told UCA News that five members work in a predominantly Muslim community, as well as in a mission with indigenous people and a parish in the southern Philippines.

A priest member is also discussing with a bishop overseas the possibility of a mission among youth in that country. The Missionaries of Jesus plan to open up to foreign members as well.

Bishop Yalung has appointed four members of the new group to two new parishes in Antipolo that have migrants, squatters and some Dumagat indigenous people. Father Dulay was appointed in June as rector of the diocesan college seminary along with another confrere as formator.

Father Dulay, who has been with the CICM for 38 years, says his age and long years with the congregation have made separation “painful” to accept.

A third of the separating members are in their 30s, most are from 40 to 50 years old, and some are in their 60s.

Father Dulay said that for nearly three years, the group has been calling attention to their congregation’s “outdated” mission orientation and the need to re-examine their charism in the light of witnessing among other faiths.

He envisions a more “Christ-centered mission” that is less “power-based” and employs a “humbler approach” in witnessing to God’s love for the poor. He recalled how some confreres in the Philippines described a dialogue program that priests were engaged in with Muslims in the south as “a waste of time.”

The congregation’s “absolute” regard for overseas mission is another aspect of the charism Father Dulay cited as “outdated (and) inadequate.” He said that “mission is not just about being overseas,” but “spreading the universal mission of Christ to all men and women through a dialogue of cultures and religions.” He added that some CICM missioners he visited overseas told him they were doing what local priests there could do.

However, Father Nimez said going out of one’s home country is integral to the congregation founded by Belgian Father Theophile Verbist in 1862. He said Father Dulay and other Missionaries of Jesus priests had been in positions to push reform as former provincials, council members and even second superior in the general government, but CICM confreres vetoed their proposals.

A Filipino CICM priest in Asia told UCA News that he will not join the new group because he feels that as a CICM member, he can do the kind of missionary work envisioned by the Missionaries of Jesus.

Following the 1999 CICM general chapter, when Father Dulay spoke on “rumblings within the CICM seismograph,” some Philippine members asked their general government to create a second Philippine province. That request was denied, as was their next proposal to create an autonomous mission district directly under the CICM government in Rome. Either proposal would have provided the “needed structural and creative space” for mission, the new group’s concept paper said.

Moreover, Father Dulay cited different ways the general government dealt with Filipino and Belgian members. They questioned mission expenses approved by Filipino provincials in a way they never would question Belgians, he said.

“Dependency and condescension” were words the Missionaries of Jesus concept paper used to describe relations between Filipinos and some Belgian priests.

If Father Dulay and his group are released from their congregation, some 120 CICM priests and brothers will remain in the Philippines. Two-thirds of CICM’s 74 Filipino priests are in foreign missions, Father Nimez said.

04 October 2002


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