The annual Religious Life Week organized by ICLA took off on January 20, 2017 with an Opening Prayer led by the Vietnamese students of ICLA.The whole community participated in the reading of the Scripture text from the Book of Isaiah (61:1-2a) and of a short prayer projected on the screen. This was followed by a prayer-dance interpretation of the song The Mission by Jamie Rivera.


In his Words of Welcome during the 24th Religious Life Week, Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF – ICLA Director – stated "this year's theme has to do with who we are - since the times of our founders and foundresses; precisely, since the time the Holy Spirit gave birth to Religious Life - and with what the world today expects of us. As Religious we are a prophetic presence in and for the Church and the world. And today, we are expected to be so, especially in the peripheries - both in the geographical and existential senses of the term."


Sr. Amelia Vasquez, RSCJ – Coordinator of the Spirituality Department of ICLA – gave the Overview. She announced the three invited resource persons, who would give the keynote presentation on each day of the Conference. She also outlined the 3-day conference (20-22 Jan.) and the 5-day short courses (23-27 Jan.) and encouraged the participants to take this opportunity to learn from and with the Resource Persons in both the Conference and the Short Courses.


Dr. NatiPagadut, Secretary General of the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate (ECBA) and Scripture professor in ICLA, introduced the keynote speaker, Sr. Laurie Brink, OP.


For Day 1 of the Conference, Sr. Laurie Brink spoke about: Presence, Prophecy, and Passion: Biblical Spirituality and Apostolic Religious  Life. She started with the beautiful reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians (1:3-6). She answered the question: What do we mean by "Spirituality"? She presented several scriptural passages (Psalm 23, Jer 20:14-18, Mark 14:36, Acts 2, and Gen 32:23-31) from which she drew an apt metaphor for the Spiritual Life, namely: 1) the search for God, 2) wrestling to understand the manifestation of God, 3) an earnest desire to name the mystery, and 4) a deep longing for a blessing.


Sr. Laurie spoke about Presence: The Experience of God with three aspects: encounter, call, and communion as our expressions of our experience of God's presence. She also presented Prophecy: At the Service of the Spirit focusing on Resistance/Insistence, Prophetic Dialogue, Speaking Forth, and Speaking Against. When she came to the third P - Passion - She talked about Passion: The Word made Flesh with three stages: 1) On the Way, 2) In the Midst, and 3) after Easter.

To give a chance to the participants to interiorize the insights presented and to appropriate these insights in their personal lives, the whole presentation was interspersed with moments for reflection with some reflection questions.

Sr. Laurie Brink ended her presentation with these words: "At various moments in our lives, we pass from Presence, to Prophecy, to Passion - and back. Biblical perspectives on a Spirituality of Apostolic Religious Life clearly show us that our coming to God is an organic process. We are invited to return again and again to our Scriptures for support, direction, and inspiration. For as we hear in the Gospel of John:

        These are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief, you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

A dyad sharing enabled the participants not just to listen to the talk but also to share with one another their insights and answers to the reflection questions given by Sr. Laurie Brink in the course of her talk.


The conference ended with an Open Forum, where participants were again given an opportunity to actively participate through their questions and comments on the keynote presentation by the resource person.

The Registration team reported a total of 454 participants on the first day of the Conference.

                                                                                                                                                Prepared by: Lettie A. Taberdo


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By Amalia Teresita B. Rosana, Ph.D

Each year, ICLA celebrates the cultural richness of each of the countries represented by the student population. The first this year, held on October 22, 2016, was hosted by the Indonesian and East Timorese students, composed of Religious sisters and priests and some lay people. 

It opened with a beautiful liturgy led by Fr. Kristian Cangkung, cmf as main presider and co-presiders were Fr. Jose Ximenes, SDB and Fr. Wanto, SCY. Indonesian religious sisters led the procession in their traditional liturgical dance that gave a glimpse of Indonesian religious culture. Another set of Indonesian sisters offered the gifts by way of another solemn dance at the Offertory procession. Fr. Jose Ximenes, SDB gave the homily on the theme, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Bro. Benad Simbolon, CMM, was the conductor of the choir made up of Indonesian students within and outside of ICLA. They sang Indonesian liturgical songs. 

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Indeed, it was an evening of cultural festivity without distracting from its solemnity. A feast of Indonesian food was spread out prepared by the students themselves and brought by some Indonesian guests. 

A cultural show followed the dinner with more Indonesian dances interpreting the theme, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. To show the community spirit of ICLA students, the other countries (Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, India, and the Philippines), all participated with glee delighting the guests and the rest of ICLA community such that they would clap in appreciation for every presentation.



By Fr. Ferdy Melo, cmf 

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Saturday, October 22, 2016 was a memorable day for the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) Resident Community. In the light of the main theme, “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity), Indonesian and East Timorese residents and some guests brought the whole community to a profound reflection on the beauty of living together in diversity in a solemn cultural Mass and cultural show hosted by these two countries. 

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Present at this cultural Mass as well as cultural night were Fr. Samuel H. Canilang, CMF, Director of the Institute, ICLA Staff and professors, guests, and all resident students from different countries: The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand, Laos, India, East Timor and Indonesia. In his remarks, Fr. Samuel H. Canilang, CMF, thanked the host countries for the solemn Eucharistic celebration and for bringing the community to experience different faces of Asian Churches and cultures.


That memorable night was really a night to experience the beauty of living in unity in diversity. And regarding this Thomas Berry- an American Eco-theologian once said, “Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection."  And we are here in this beautiful place telling the story as well as experiencing this profound perfection of living as brothers and sisters. To borrow what the psalmist said, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Ps 133:1). Indeed, it is a blessing to live as brothers and sisters here at ICLA and at the same time share our multicultural richness among our fellow travelers.
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We, Indonesian and East Timorese through this cultural Mass and program want to tell as well as share with others our story of multiculturality, our story of diversity and yet inclusivity, that beyond the differences we face and live with in our respective countries: Indonesia with Pancasila (five principles) as its official philosophical foundation of the state with its motto: “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) and East Timor, with its motto: “Unidade, Asaun, Progresu (Unity, Action, Progress), there is a common inner longing for unity. At the very heart of this multiculturality and diversity, there is an unquenchable thirst for unity and inclusivity. And we believe that the summit of unity and fraternity is when we acknowledge our fellow-travelers as brothers and sisters. At the heart of cultural diversity, there is a profound call of the Gospel to live in unity, as Paul insisted in his letter to the Ephesians, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (Eph 2: 19). For those precious gifts we are here sharing those stories while offering to God these two countries: Indonesia and East Timor, and all of us the witnesses and messengers of unity and inclusivity of God’s Kingdom here at ICLA.

12th Missiology Forum

Written by Fr. Mark Marbella

On November 11, 2016, the community of ICLA held the 12th Missiology Forum at the Moraleda Hall. The theme of the forum was Mercy and Compassion: The Essence of Mission in Asia. The faculty and students of ICLA, students from the University of Santo Tomas and from some religious congregations attended the forum.

The Forum opened with a doxology prepared by a group of ICLA students from the Philippines.





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Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD, Head of the Missiology Department of ICLA, delivered the welcome address. He opened for us the general situation of mission in our own hemisphere. He also served as the Master of Ceremonies.

The keynote address was delivered by Fr. Oscar Ante, OFM - a Missiology Professor in ICLA. He talked about the just concluded Year of Mercy and its application in the Asian setting. 

Situationers in three Asian countries were given by Sr. Wang Pinpin of China, Fr. Sergio Maniba of the Philippines and Fr. Ashesh Dio of Bangladesh. Sr. Wang Pinpin presented the situation of women in China. According to her, women remain one of the most vulnerable groups in that country. The full text of her presentation was published earlier in this website. Fr. Serge Maniba spoke about the situation and plight of the farmers, specifically in Antique (Southern Philippines). He emphasized that those who till the land and give us food for our table should never be neglected because we will go hungry without them. The full text of his presentation was also published earlier in this website. Fr. Ashesh Dio presented the harsh situation of the indigenous people in Bangladesh. He shared that people use religion as a whipping rod to justify abuses against those who first settled in their land. Justice should never be denied for the indigenous people because with justice comes peace.

 Pinpin1Fr Serge1Fr Dio1There were colorful ice breakers and intermission numbers performed by ICLA students from Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar.

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Finally, Fr. Edgar Javier thanked the students for the hard work they put into the preparation and holding of the Missiology Forum, the students who presented the situationers from China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and all those who graced the event. He ended by inviting everyone to the 13th Missiology Forum in 2017. 


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Sr. Wang Pinpin, MSJ

(On 11 November 2016, Sr. Wang Pinpin gave this presentation during the 12th Missiology Forum held at the Institute for Consecrated Life.) Pinpin


The People's Republic of China (PRC) is a sovereign state in East Asia. It is the world's most populous state, with a population of over 1.381 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party of China, with its seat of government in Beijing. The people of China is made up of 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 92% of the total population. 

China has had a remarkable economic growth in this past decade. It is currently the second largest economy in the world. Chinese women have played a significant role in this flourishing economy. This presentation discusses the situation of the women in China and calls attention to a long journey ahead, on the path towards attaining gender equality.1 

I. What is the Situation of Women in China?

Women's situation in China varies from place to place. My presentation will be in general terms.

In the families:

First of all, the role of women in the family is crucial. A mother’s presence can help the family be more stable. However, she is tied to the household work even if she is working outside. The decisions in the family are made by the husband, and the woman is considered as an extension of the man. Due to prolonged care-giving, women have less opportunities for professional growth. They see this as natural. Child care and education are also the women's responsibilities because most men still do not feel that they have to participate in house work and in child care. This places a double burden on working mothers.2 In addition, the former one-child-policy led married couple to maintain the sole care of both parents. This care became more likely the responsibility of women than men.3 

In the economy:

The economic reforms of the last twenty five years have affected Chinese women. As guaranteed employment under the state-controlled economy disappeared, women have lost ground. Meanwhile, these give opportunity for educated and capable women to be self-employed. Today, many young women from the countryside migrate to cities to look for jobs.4

Along the rise of economic reforms, gender inequality in the work places has increased. Discrimination of women is reflected on the following characteristics:

  • Women have lower income levels.
  • Higher positions are given to men.
  • Women experience forced early retirement, which results to problems of insecurity.
  • There is a higher percentage of women who are laid-off compared to men.

In politics:

Although women have made inroads into the political system, their impact is still minimal. There has been no woman in the top tier of power (the Standing Committee of CCCCP) in China since 1949. According to the All-China Women’s Federation compiled survey, which showed that by 2010, there are 26 ministers in the government of China, only 3 (11.5%) are women. . In the 12th National People's Congress, women represent 23.4% of the total number of Representatives in 2013.5 However, a close look at the distribution of women in power structures reveals the clear disadvantage of women in the political system in China.6

In culture and religion:

Women’s positions in culture tend to be subordinate to men's positions. In Chinese society, women cannot carry the family name (cannot continue the family line of their father) and they have no right to pay respect to their ancestors. Therefore, having a son is more favored than having a daughter in the family both in the present life and in the life after death.7  

In the church, the participation of women is an extension of their domestic roles; they have very little role in decision making. For instance, most parish councils are still male-dominated.8 

From the above, we conclude that:

» The whole thrust of development based on economic growth and profits favor those who have power and wealth. Women are often excluded from visible holding of authority.9

» Due to lack of education and the influence of patriarchal society, women suffer from gender inequality and discrimination.

» Traditionally, the son is favored in China. Moreover, with the one-child policy, male is more desirable. These factors cause the abortion of female fetus. 

II. Why do we consider this situation?

Ø In Chinese Culture, (Zhong Guo Wen Hua),中国文化 some of the qualities of compassion are described in Tao Te Ching.

  • Tao Te Ching Chapter 61 refers to female force in a positive light. The feminine prevails by her quietness, by lowering herself through her quietness. Taoists   traditionally have a positive view of women.10
  • According to Lao Tse, water is the source of life; it maintains and nourishes the existence of the cosmos. Without water, no living creature can survive.   “Water is the symbol of mobility and tenderness; the greater the height from which the water flows down, the greater the force it carries. In the same way, the immense love and compassion flowing from the mother’s heart impacts on the nurturing and the development of her child.”11
  • At the center of Taoism stands the concept of the Yin and Yang. Yin and yang are the female and male energy; they cannot exist without the other, they are unified and equal while representing different things.12

Ø In Sacred Scripture, God is shown as a loving and compassionate God. Let me cite how God’s mercy and compassion are manifested to women.

  • Isaiah 49:15 -Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Obviously, it is to show the love which God has for his people is stronger than that which is produced by the most tender ties created by any natural relation. The love of a mother for her infant child is the strongest attachment in nature.
  • Luke 8:41-56 - Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: He heals the bleeding woman. Jesus treated her as having worth, not blaming her for what the cultic code of cleanness would have considered as a defiling of him. Out of love, he relieved her of any sense of guilt for her seemingly unlawful act and lifted her up wholly by calling her "Daughter." He affirmed her that her faith saved her. The act "emphasizes the remarkable compassion of the one doing the good deed.13
  • John 4 - Christ's way of acting is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.  "If you knew the gift of God,..." Jesus says to the Samaritan woman during their conversation; this shows his great esteem for the dignity of women and for the vocation which enables them to share in his messianic mission (Pope John Paul II — MD).

 Ø In the Church's Teaching: Let us see how our Church teaches about mercy and compassion.

  • The Church's way has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and inclusiveness, the way of calling everyone to approach the mercy seat of God, to turn away from evil and come home to the loving embrace of God. Pope Francis’ repeated call to treat others with mercy and compassion, particularly to the weak and the disadvantaged, is a strong reminder of the need to recognize the dignity of women.14
  • As Pope Francis quoted the poignant words of Saint John XXIII in Misericordiae Vultus (#4b), the Church is depicted as a Bride and a mother. “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity…The Catholic Church wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.” He further stressed that the Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations, and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy. For in mercy, we find proof of how God loves us.

III. How do we respond to this situation?

 1. Education and formation

The formation of religious and lay people needs to be reconsidered.15

  • Promote the values of Chinese culture which emphasizes the importance of women, particularly respect for mothers.
  • Facilitate partnership between women and men in the family, in the Church and in society.
  • Bring awareness to both women and men about gender sensitivity in our daily life and in the division of roles and responsibilities in the family, in the church and in the society.16
  • Promote encounters and dialogue between women and men in the Church especially in decision–making.
  • Explore the Gospels and reflect on how Jesus treats women through Bible sharing in the church.

 2. Leadership training for women

  • Assisting women to examine the existing structures within the Church and identifying areas where women have a rightful role in the Church.17
  • Awakening women to reclaim their particular and significant contribution in the family, in society, and in the Church. They also need to recognize their dignity and to use their authority wisely to nurture life.
  • Affirming and facilitating networking among women groups so that they will be empowered by one another and form a solid support system for each other.18



By reflecting on the life of women in China from various aspects, generally, we can say that Chinese women, just like women in other parts of the world, are carriers of love. In them, mercy and compassion is embodied. Their importance in history is easily felt, yet their rights as individuals are hardly acknowledged and enhanced in the society and in the Church.

Continuously following the spirit of the year of mercy, we can  all be missionaries of God’s mercy and compassion in uplifting the life of women through “… building a community of sisters and brothers who live as faithful disciples of Jesus and who bear witness to his message to the world." Therefore, by striving to build bridges of understanding and collaboration and by sharing our particular gifts and talents, we can become effective instruments to promote God’s reign in today’s China.19 



1Benxiang Zeng, “Women’s Political Participation in China: Improved or Not?” Journal of International Women's Studies, Volume 15, Jan-2014, 136.

2 FABC, Vol 2, 114.

3 Lanyan Chen and Hilary Standing, “Gender Equity in Transitional China’s Healthcare Policy Reforms,” Feminist Economics, vol. 13, no. 3-4 (2007): p. 189-212.

4See Cara Abraham, “Women's Roles in China”, http://resources.primarysource.org/content.php?pid=78888&;sid=584078  

5See http://acwf.people.com.cn/n/2015/0310/c99060-26667539.html

6Zeng Benxiang, “Women's Political Participation in China: Improved or Not?” Journal of International Women's Studies, Volume 15, Jan-2014, 139-140.

7See “Son Preference in China”, http://www.wikigender.org/wiki/son-preference-in-china/

8 FABC, Vol 2, 115.

9Ibid., 93.

10Taoism & Gender Roles, http://taoismvsaustralia.weebly.com/taoism-and-gender-roles.html

11 Monteior and Gutzler, Ecclesia of Women in Asia: Gathering the Voices of the Silenced, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Mar., 2007), 262

12Taoism & Gender Roles, http://taoismvsaustralia.weebly.com/taoism-and-gender-roles.html

13Jesus' interactions with women, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus%27_interactions_with_women

14Pope Francis “At a Crossroads of Two Ways of Thinking”, At Mass with the Newly Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica, L’OSSERBATORE ROMANO, No. 8, 20 February, 2015.

15 FABC, Vol 2, 116.

16 Ibid., 117.


18 Ibid., 115

19 FABC, Vol 2, 94.


Fr SergeThe Farmers of the Philippines

Fr. Serge C. Maniba

(On 11 November 2016, Fr. Serge C. Maniba gave this presentation during the Missiology Forum held at the Institute for Consecrated Life.) 



This talk is about mercy and compassion: the essence of mission in Asia. The focus of my talk is about the farmers of the Philippines. In this talk I will try to answer the following questions: Who are the farmers of the Philippines? What are their faces? What is their situation? How should mercy and compassion be communicated, preached, shared with them?

According to Dr. Marilyn Elauria, in her paper submitted as a country paper for the International Seminar on Cultivating the Young Generation of Farmers with Farmland Policy Implications,1 May 25-29, 2015, MARDI, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia, of the 30 million hectares total land area of the Philippines, 9.67 million hectares is an agricultural area or about 30 percent of the total land area is cultivated by almost 5 million farmers. These farmers are spread all over the country from Luzon, down to Visayas and Mindanao.

I don’t intend to cover all the farmers of the Philippines because that is impossible to do. Instead, I will limit my scope to the “faces” of the farmers of Antique, of whom I am part of, and with whom I share life and ministry with. 



There are different kinds of farmers in the Philippines. A few who own a vast track of land and hire hundreds of workers to work in their farm: these are the rich farmers of the country. There are also farmers who are not so rich but own a considerable size of land and enjoy the fruits of their labors the whole year round without worrying where to get their food for their families. These are the middle class farmers and those others who live above the poverty line. And there are farmers who work hard in the farm but don’t own a land because they have no resources to buy their land. Either they are legal tenants of land owners or squatters in the land, or those we call illegal settlers because they cannot afford to reach even the level of legal tenancy. These are the poor farmers who are hired by land owners to work in their farms and receive a little from their labor; or the farmers who scour the land after harvest time to pick up and gather whatever is left in the farm, or those refuse that had fallen back to the ground after harvest time. These are the marginalized farmers, often faceless because they are unknown, thus nameless, and the poorest of the farmers.

Of these three categories of farmers, I will share with you something about those poorest, faceless, nameless, unknown farmers of the Philippines, specifically situated in Antique, a place where mountains meet the sea.

I am a rural boy and I carry with me different faces of farmers. I have beautiful memories of the life in the farm as well as the sad voices of groaning and suffering of farmers and their families that echo in the country side, filling every corner of the farmlands.

I was born in a family of farmers. I know the season of planting, growing, and harvesting. I know how to feed animals like goats, cows, carabaos, etc. Early in my life, I was privileged to experience what it means to be a child of farmers and to work by tilling the land. I volunteered, together with other children, to work during planting season so that we earn a little more for our school allowance because we get little from our parents. I know how to wait for the rice we planted until they yield their fruits on harvest time. And the time of waiting means shortage of food in the table of farmers, increase in loans as they have to borrow money to buy rice and other basic needs of their families, and hungry stomach for many children when their parents cannot anymore find people who will lend them more money.

When I was ordained as priest of the Diocese of San Jose, Antique, these “faces” of the farmers, and “faces” of the fisher folks as well, who are also faces of the poor, became clearer to me. The villages of the parishes I served are both situated in the mountains and near the sea. When I visit the mountain villages, I see farmers tilling the land either under the heavy down pour of the rain or under the scorching heat of the sun. Their physical built, small stature and wasted bodies, and the color of their skins already tell the tale of their stories: stories of poverty and their search for liberation and fullness of life. Taking a little time to listen to their stories, I heard the “cry of the poor” echoed in the groaning of these farmers.

Back in the comfort of parish rectory, the poor, most of them farmers, will knock at my door bringing with them a list of their needs, hoping the Church can provide them answers. 1. Money to buy seeds for planting; 2. Money to buy fertilizers when planting is over; 3. Money for the tuition fee of their children in school, as well as for school supplies, uniforms, and other miscellaneous fees. 4. Money to buy rice, oil for their lamps, fish, salt, etc. 4. Money for medicine or pay for hospital bills as many of them are sick and have no money to buy medicine or to pay the hospitalization. 5. Money for the casket and the burial of their sick who died due to lack of proper care, food, and medicine. The list is long and endless.

Encountering these marginalized farmers who belong to the category we call “the poor”, the face and names of these faceless and nameless farmers begin to emerge:

1.The small, dark-skinned, thin, “men”, head of the families or male children able to work in the farm.

2.The small, dark-skinned, thin, women, mothers nursing their malnourished kids, from a breast emptied of milk due to malnutrition.

3.Small, dark-skinned, malnourished, children crying for milk or food because their stomach still feel empty.

4.Small, dark-skinned, wasted physically, young people, going to school walking long distances, hungry because their breakfast has to be eaten later in the morning to serve as their lunch as well. They call their meal “brunch”: combination of breakfast and lunch. Many of them drop out of school when harvest season arrives because they have to go to the farm and help in harvesting the crops.



These are some of the faces of poverty of the farmers of the Philippines as revealed by the farmers of Antique.

There are many factors that cause the poverty of these farmer. One comes from the cycle of nature as the Philippines is visited by typhoons more than twenty times each year. Farms and the crops of the farmers, costing millions, are destroyed and lost in just a day or two when strong typhoons come. Worst and tragic of all is the loss of thousands of human lives that had been recorded just a few years ago. This week of, Yolanda victims, still carrying the wounds and pains of the tragedy, are commemorating the strongest typhoon that hit the Philippines (November 8, 2013) and had destroyed the thousand lives in Visayas.

Then comes the human factors that aggravate the situation of the poor farmers. Government policies and programs that are designed to alleviate the poverty of the people are riddled by corruption that siphoned the resources of the government, meant for the basic services of the people, into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians in cahoots with a few greedy individuals and their shadowy business transactions. Families of the victims of typhoon Yolanda continue to complain that government help comes so slow, while other victims of previous typhoons had lost the hope of ever receiving the aid promised them.

Corruption in the Philippines has many other faces than what I had mentioned. But sufficed to say here that natural calamities and corruption in the government have been the greatest cross the poor Filipino people, majority of them are farmers, have to carry each day.

Given this situation of the poorest of the farmers of the Philippines, revealed concretely in the many faces of poverty of the farmers of Antique, what is the mission of the Church towards them? And how should mission be done with them, among them, and for them?

As the theme of our forum today says: Mercy and Compassion is the essence of Mission in Asia. Pope Francis says: “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.”2 With these words Pope Francis invited the Church to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is a pilgrimage, a journey to the mercy of God. This journey is traditionally symbolized as a pilgrimage to Rome, during which the pilgrim crosses the threshold of the Holy Doors, at the four great basilicas in Rome.3 Here in the Philippines, Churches had been declared as pilgrim sites, just like in Rome, where people can go and cross the threshold of the Holy Doors of the Church as a symbolic act of crossing the threshold of God’s mercy.

Doing mission with mercy and compassion towards the farmers of the Philippines, is first of all, a spiritual journey into the heart of God, the source of mission. It is first an invitation to experience that mercy and compassion had been given us. Interpreting the invitation of Pope Francis, Mark-David Janus says that “crossing the threshold means leaving behind doubt and fear and allowing God’s love to embrace us. It is a spiritual journey representing the journey of our lives, a journey through our self-understanding, a journey that leads us to a complete and final trust in the love God is for us.4 There, in the merciful and compassionate heart of God, the individual believer and the Church as communion of believers, are transformed. We experience conversion, which is the transformation of hearts effected by the embrace of the merciful and compassionate Father.

This merciful and compassionate heart of God is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In Exodus 3: 1-22, when God called Moses through the burning bush, he said to Moses in verse 7: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land and to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” The groaning of the suffering Israelites had reached heaven, had penetrated the heart of God, and evoked his mercy and compassion. Moved by their suffering, God had come down to deliver them from their misery caused by their fellow human beings, in the person of the Egyptians.

The farmers of the Philippines had been crying out in pain year after year. In faith we can say that their cries had reached heaven, heard by God, touched the heart of God; and as he came down from heaven to deliver the Israelites from their slavery, so God does today for all the suffering people of the world, the farmers included. His saving mercy and compassion had never been withdrawn since the time he had done it to the Israelites. The Sacred Scriptures recorded this enduring mercy and compassion of God translated in concrete through the mission of Moses, the prophets of the Old Testament, our Lord, Jesus Christ, his apostles, and the Early Church.

The essence of mission in Asia today is the nothing but the same mission that flows from the merciful and compassionate heart of God. This mercy and compassion is fully revealed in the life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis said that “the message of Jesus is mercy…it is the Lord’s strongest message.”5 In the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on December 8, 2015, Pope Francis reminded the Church that “Mercy is very foundation of the Church’s life. All her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”6 He continues to say: “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”7



This is the Church that is born out of the heart of Jesus on the Cross: a missionary Church, as Jesus is the Missionary Son born out of the heart of a Missionary God. In Evangelii Gaudium 27, Pope Francis shares his dream of a Church that moves away from “conservation mode” to the “missionary mode;” from “mere administration” to “permanently in a state of mission;” an “outward-looking, rather than an inward-looking, church; a church more concerned about affairs “ad-extra” rather than issues “ad-intra” (EG 27-28)- preferring a “church bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (EG 49).8

This Missionary Church takes the poor, here the farmers, at heart and embraces them with mercy and compassion. The deepest and ultimate reason for this, according to Pope Francis, is the fact that:

“Our faith in Christ, who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members (EG 186). Each individual Christian and every community is called to be instrument of God for the liberation and the promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully part of society (EG 187). That is why, (says Pope Francis), I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us…We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization, (which is based on mercy and compassion), is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way (EG 198).”9

The “mercy and compassion as essence of mission” transforms the Church to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.10 Concretely, it means that the doors of our churches and parish rectories, are wide open to welcome the poor farmers with their long list of needs, even if we know we cannot answer all of them. It means welcoming the small-dark skinned, thin, men, women, young people, and children into our table and share with them our food as guests, friends, brothers and sisters, and not as beggars. It also means, we are willing to go out the doors of our comforts and enter the homes of the poor/farmers in the mountains and farmlands; to share a meal with them; listen to their stories of suffering as well as their dreams for a better life; and willing to stand up and walk with them as they claim their dignity as children of God, members of the household of God, in a society that had rejected them and relegated them to the margins of social, political, economic, and religious life.



To conclude this talk, let me quote the epilogue of Mark-David Janus, in his book Crossing the Threshold of Mercy. He said:

“God has chosen the path of mercy as the road Christian walk. During this holy year, we have been pilgrims on this road, journeying to the mercy of God. This is not a geographic pilgrimage, there were no mile markers, no fixed destinations, and this side of heaven, there is no end to our travels. This is a pilgrimage of the soul. We make the journey only to remind ourselves what we seek: the mercy of God, which by God’s mercy we already possess. We pilgrims make the journey together to encourage ourselves to keep believing in this merciful love, to believe it so deeply that we live it, to believe it so deeply that we bet our life on it, this life and our life hereafter.

Mercy is the path we aspire to walk; only mercy gives us the strength to live a life of mercy, and that same mercy leads to our ultimate destination, the last threshold we shall ever cross:”11

“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21: 3-7)”



1Marirlyn M. Elauria, “Farm Land Policy and Financing Program for Young Generation in the Philippines” (2015-06-09), http://ap.fftc.agnet.org/ap_db.php?id=448 (accessed November 9, 2016).

2Mark David Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy (New York: Paulist Press, 2015), 1.


4Janus, Crossing the Threshold, 1. 

5Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy, translated by Oonagh Stransky (London: Bluebird Books of Life, 2016), ix.

6Ibid., 39

7Janus, Crossing the Threshold, 5.

8See Antonio Pernia, “The Stranger and the Poor: Two Challenges to the Missionary Church in Evangelii Gaudium”, in Missio Inter Gentes vol. 1, no. 1 (January 2015), 37-56. 

9Ibid., 39. 

10Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy, 5. 

11Janus, Crossing the Threshold of Mercy, 151-152.


















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