SYNODALITY: Visit of Fr. Patrick and Fr. Daniel
5 March 2019. Talamban, Cebu City.
The Youth Ministry Department in Rome has sent two of their full-time staff, Fr. Patrick Anthonyraj, SDB and Fr. Daniel Garcia, SDB, in the Philippine provinces of FIN and FIS as an act of synodality in order to see for themselves the different educative interventions in the sector of schools (BED and College), TVET and the many sectors doing social action programs like those in the parishes, youth centers, and Boys Homes.
Fr. Patrick, as coordinator for the EAO region for schools and TVET centers, first visited Don Bosco Technical College (DBTC) and met with the lay coordinators and the high school principal, Fr. Jerome Dublois, SDB. He asked them about their peak experiences at DBTC and some of the points that significantly came out are the following: the sense of family is felt, spiritual formation of the students to the teaching and non-teaching personnel is very much appreciated, the preventive system is practiced also by the lay staff and the one obvious result is that there are no bullies among students, there is also a strong sense of spontaneity, and most important of all is that they are one in the mission of the Salesians for the youth. Before ending the day, Fr. Patrick had the chance to give a good afternoon talk to the students before their dismissal. And in that short talk he stressed on three “Ds” that each Bosconian has to consider in their life as a student: Devotion, Discipline, and Dedication. Likewise, he visited Don Bosco Liloan and met with the TVET director Bro. Silvestre Cresencio, SDB and the shop instructors and the same with the school, its vice principal, Fr. Rhine Marco Bollozos, SDB and the government teachers who shared that the Salesians’ greater contribution in the life of the students is the spiritual and values formation and proper discipline. Still, he visited Don Bosco Pasil and was welcomed by the Salesians themselves. One of the strong points in the sharing is the realization that they need to reach out to the alumni of the TVET. It was highly encouraged to do a separate alumni gathering for the TVET graduates apart from the regular school alumni and the purpose of the suggestion is for greater spontaneity every time TVET alumni gathers and that the Salesians may be able to do a pastoral accompaniment or guidance for their respective families.
On the other hand, Fr. Daniel’s visit focused more on the parish, school, and Boys Home social works. He first visited Don Bosco Liloan and found the place a “paradise” or as described by Fr. Klement Vaclav, SDB, the “Valdocco of FIS!” since almost all the sectoral works of residential care, aftercare, TVET, parish, school, and the oratory are all an outreach to the poor. Also, he visited the prime parish of the FIS, Lourdes Parish and Shrine, and was impressed by the feeding program for the malnourished children and their mothers, the hundreds of beneficiary (young people) through its sponsorship or scholarship program, the active organization of the basic ecclesial communities, catechetical program especially for the public schools (which is in the Philippine context are mostly poor), and the active oratory-youth center. In general, he was very much impressed of the prophetic witnessing of the Salesians and Lay Mission Partners in the parish community headed by their parish priest and rector, Fr. Randolph Figuracion, SDB. He also visited Don Bosco Technical College and met with the lay partners and the Vice President for academic affairs, Fr. Vernil Lopez, SDB. One of the significant sharing they had is the possibility of giving scholarship for the poor especially in the context of the college education. Still, Fr. Daniel visited Don Bosco Dumangas in Iloilo (a rural setting) and was assisted by the sector head for Children in Need of Special Protection, Bro. Arsenio Gustilo III, SDB. He met with the Salesians and their staff and special spent time with the students and the 22 boys under the residential care. Again, he was very impressed by how much the Salesians worked so hard for the poor even with the limited financial capabilities.
Before Fr. Patrick and Fr Daniel left, the former on February 25 and the latter on March 2, Fr. Joriz Calsa, SDB (Commission on Youth Delegate FIS) made an appointment for them, on separate occasions, to meet the aspirants and novices of the Salesian seminary in Lawaan, Talisay City. Fr. Patrick gave a talk on Salesian Ministry and had an open forum afterward. Meanwhile, Fr. Daniel stressed on the gradual immersion of the formandi in the social services rendered by the Salesians emphasizing that it should become part of their system, mentality, and even spirituality. He also shared something about Our Lady of Guadalupe after learning that the principal patroness of Cebu is with that title since he is not only a Marian devotee but a Mexican.
The FIS province feels so blessed with their visit and we felt that the congregation is indeed going down to the level of the particular context of the ministry not to command but to walk side by side with his people, like Jesus walking side by side with the two disciples going to Emmaus. We look forward for a greater “missionary synodality” in the congregation and in the provinces.