Christmas 2021 / New Year 2022
“A child is born to us,
A Savior is given to us! »
At the end of a trying year,
at the beginning of a new year full of uncertainties,
Do not be afraid, open your heart to the unexpected.
Marvel at what is born and grows,
Hold a child in your arms
And contemplate the mystery of life
that begins and will not end.
Love: it’s Christmas!
This year has gone even faster than the previous ones!
In Manila, the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic lasted for 19 months, from March 2020 to October 2021, the longest lockdown in the world! Schools were closed for almost two years, churches could only accommodate 10% of the faithful… As of mid-December, only 40 percent of the 110 million Filipinos were vaccinated.
The consequences are severe: social distancing, isolation, unemployment, inflation, diseases, depression, growing poverty. Street children are most at risk.
With the borders closed, three of our brothers were stranded for months in Africa. New applicants have not been able to join our communities. They are still stranded in India, Indonesia and the Philippine islands. The novitiate had to close its doors.
Adjusting to the new reality
Life went on, however.
Our student brothers were exhausted following their classes and group work on their screens, without being able to physically meet their classmates or teachers. All activities were online.
We organized meetings, moments of relaxation and sharing such as retreats, formation sessions, participated in online assemblies such as the Asia Forum and the European Forum, celebrations of vows and renewal of the vows of the brothers. But always in small numbers…
For our friends – especially those from the nearby squatter areas – we organized prayer and sharing meetings online. The churches being almost closed, we broadcast our Sunday Mass in collaboration with Bayard.
To enter this new world, a Digital Communication Commission has been created. It is in the process of equipping a studio for recordings and broadcasts.
Courageously, Father Cris went to homes or morgues to celebrate funerals and comfort families. We participated in community pantries where those who did not have enough to eat could come and take for free according to their needs. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish continued. This was possible thanks to your generosity.
In June, taking advantage of a relaxation of the lockdown rules, three of our brothers went to find a community in Digos, in the very south of the Philippines, the first foundation outside Manila. The bishop has entrusted us with the animation of a parish and a sanctuary with about fifteen chapels and BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) in the mountains.
Maintaining our commitments
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic (March 2020), all classes at Assumption Language College (ALC), our language school, have been online. We put a lot of energy into maintaining personal ties with teachers and students, flexibly managing an average of 70 students and 17 teachers, while facing competing offers on the internet. New programs are launched, such as English for kindergarten educators, call center operators and young people looking for skilled jobs. We are preparing to gradually resume face-to-face classes.
The Philanthropic Development Office Foundation (PDO) created by the school is actively seeking donors for scholarships and to improve educational materials suitable for online teaching.
At Bayard Philippines, all activities have gone digital. Editorial and commercial initiatives have multiplied as proposals for prayer time, Lectio divina, a blog to root faith in life.
Bayard Academy offers catechesis proposals, training sessions and online retreats for schools and parishes.
Our team goes to meet street children. It offers them “Bata” (child in Tagalog), a magazine with stories, games, prayers. This is their only book!
In 2022, we very much hope to be able to launch a “Living with Christ” application, promote “La Croix International” and offer more catechesis content.
Kaloob, our NGO, is now led by a new Asian team. It continues the projects implemented before the pandemic: food and medical assistance in poor areas, scholarships, cow program. It will set up new projects, including small neighborhood grocery stores and new communication tools. Its baptism of fire came with Super Typhoon Rai that ravaged the central and southern Philippines nine days before Christmas.
Formation for a new world
One of my responsibilities is the formation of brothers in our community and in the Asia-Oceania Vicariate. It is a question of accompanying them in their discernment, their commitment to religious life and their desire to become priests.
I am more concerned with self-knowledge, the rereading of life, the formation of interiority and moral conscience, the use of social media, a reflection on the type of priest in very clerical cultures, openness to the world and internationality.
How can we arouse and nourish passion for the great causes of God and men and not the defense of an institution?
I am led to study a hundred files of admission to vows and ordinations. It is a question of giving elements of discernment to superiors called to make decisions and also to instruct some difficult situations.
In May, I organized a formation session with 5 deacons and 13 young Assumptionist priests from Asia. On the program: an introduction to the theology of ministries and a reflection on how to live our double vocation as religious and priest, with a sharing of experiences always enriching.
Next March, a session of formators from Asia will address education in affectivity in religious life. A highly topical theme in the context of sexual abuse in the Church and society, a topic still taboo in Asia.
In the Vicariate, leadership training is a priority and a challenge. How can we train superiors, formators and project managers in authoritarian cultures without much dialogue and debate?
I also collaborate in several Commissions: Communication and Apostolate and provide a number of translations and archives.
As part of the European Assumptionist University, I participate in the development of a formation on interculturality. I am the author of a module on “Authority at the service of living together and mission”. This online formation will be launched in the first quarter of 2022.
The French-speaking Catholic community in Manila has melted. Most of the families have gone back to Europe. Once a month, I go to a family. I celebrate the Mass there and we broadcast it. On other Sundays, we meet on the internet for a common prayer, easily reproducible by a family, an important moment to exchange news and to support each other. On December 24, we met for real with the children preparing for First Communion for a living nativity scene and the Christmas Mass.
These multiple meetings and encounters on different digital platforms are exhausting and frustrating. This is especially true for international meetings whose participants are from such different cultures. The face-to-face meeting is essential to dialogue and communicate really, to stimulate thought, to develop common projects. More personally, I try to organize myself so as not to succumb to the flood of information and solicitations on social networks, to find time to read, think, reflect, write, meditate, taste silence and pray… not to mention getting vaccinated. I have never written so many letters (more than 2,000) in a year, editorials, homilies, and various reflections on all kinds of media… a torture for the future postulator in charge of my cause!
A trying month of December
On the eve of the first Sunday of Advent, I learned of the so rapid death of a very close friend, Frans, my novitiate companion, a brother, and a confidant, one of the founders of the Assumption in Korea (where he spent nearly thirty years) and of our Vicariate. He was looking forward to coming to Manila. We rejoiced to welcome an “elder” who gave his life for the Assumption in Asia. The Lord’s purposes are truly surprising!
Then nine days before Christmas, the super typhoon “Rai / Odette” hits the center and south of the Philippines where most of our brothers are from.
And still the Covid and its varriants… which will probably force me to cancel my trip to France because I am not sure if I can return to Manila. I will have to wait before seeing my family and friends again, and finally hug my great-grandniece and great-grandnephew, Emma-Line and Malo.
Christmas: a time to say thank you
This Christmas time is a time to rest.
The house is quiet. The Filipino brothers have joined their family after two years of estrangement. I stay with the brothers and hosts from Vietnam, China and Indonesia.
The daily rules are relaxed. We meet to pray, share meals, share, celebrate.
It’s a time for friends, to share news, a time also to relax, walk, listen to music, watch a movie, sleep… find a new balance of life… without forgetting to help those in need.
Thank you for your wishes, your news, your encouragement, your attentions, your friendship, your joys, your commitments, your dreams… also your sorrows and sufferings to carry them in our thoughts and prayers.
New Year, new hope
The New Year will provide us with many opportunities to actively think and build the world in the spirit of Christmas.
On May 9, 2022, Filipino citizens will go to the polls to elect the country’s president and vice president, senators, deputies, regional governors, mayors and their councilors on the same day, in a single round of voting. It is a fight with its share of violence, corruption, vote buying, and “fake news” in a country that holds the record for hours spent on social media. Actors, boxer and leaders of family dynasties compete for power, privileges and… impunity. A widow, Leni Robredo, seeks to incarnate change in dignity, justice and law.
But 35 years after the ousted dictator fled into exile, his son is leading the polls with the current president’s daughter as vice president. They are supported by an alliance of corrupt former presidents, condemned by the courts…
They sell dreams, make unrealistic promises, falsify history, but do not talk about the priorities or choices to be implemented for a more egalitarian, less corrupt and less violent society.
This is a real challenge for the Church in this most Catholic country in Asia: how to build a common future rooted on the values of the Gospel where the poor are at the center. Courageous voices are rising, such as that of journalist Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, and that of Bishop Ambo David, the new president of the bishops’ conference. Will they awaken consciences? Will the youth vote redistribute the situation?
2022 will also be the year of the Synod on Synodality convened by Pope Francis. He invites us to listen to what the Spirit of Jesus says to the Church, to dream of the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes bloom, to stimulate trust, to heal wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from others, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, to warm hearts and to give strength to our heads for our common mission.
The challenge is great. Until now, we still remain “among ourselves”, without going to meet young people, those who move away from the Church or no longer go there – especially after this long confinement – without going to meet the many victims of society, especially families and children who live in slums, under bridges or in the streets. Without listening to their dreams, their desires and their thirst for life.
For us Assumptionists, it will be a year to prepare the Chapters of our different Provinces and the General Chapter of June 2023… and to strengthen the life of the Vicariate of Asia-Oceania. For me, it will be a year to pass the baton … even if any programming is difficult because of the uncertainties related to the global health situation.
(As I am completing this letter, my Provincial asks me to reassume the responsibility of superior of Adveniat for 18 months, and my brothers have just elected me as their delegate for the Provincial Chapter of 2023!)
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree” Jesus advises us (Mark 13:28).
Practice seeing what is born, what grows, what announces. newness.
Participate humbly but fully in the construction of the world and the Kingdom of God by putting at the center of every project the child, the poor and the victim…
Good luck, with a lot of hope! See you soon.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING US TO HELP
To support the projects of Kaloob, several options are possible:
* In the Philippines, by bank transfers:
Account Name: Kaloob Development Office Foundation Inc.
Bank Name: Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
Accounts Number: EURO Account: 3084-0528-08
DOLLAR Account: 3084-0527-94
PESO Account: 3081-1160-58
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM
Branch Code: 0308-Loyola
* In the United States, by checks:
Make your check payable to the Assumptionists, specify “For Kaloob”,
and mail it to: Assumptionists – 330 Market Street, Brighton, MA 02135
OUR PRESENCE IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
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Assumption Language College – ALC
WEBSITE – https://alcmanila.ph/
ALC PDO – Philanthropic Development Office
FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/lwcphilippines
WEBSITE – www.bayard.ph
INSTAGRAM – BAYARD PHILIPPINES
Bayard Assumption Academy