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THE ORDER OF THE PIOUS SCHOOLS THE PIARIST FATHERS IN ASIA

2003 December n. 25
Orient
VIETNAM
Fr. Jose P. Burgues, Sch.P.

In this time when vocations are scarce in some places of the Order, in others it seems to be a promise of plenty. Thinking of the future of the Pious Schools, we should try to be in these countries where our presence is not only necessary (needs of evangelization, education of poor children), but also sustainable with native vocations. In Asia there are, probably, several of these kind of places. One of them is Vietnam.

In Vietnam there is a significative Catholic minority (around 8 million people). The government allows the practice of Catholic religion, but it controls the number of priestly ordinations. The consequence is that there are many young men trying to enter to the seminary that cannot be accepted. Two years ago we decided to contact some Vietnamese Bishops, planning the possibility of attracting some of those "exceeding" vocations, in order to form them as Piarists and later on founding with them a community in Vietnam. Three Vietnamese candidates are already living and receiving formation in our Manila House, and others will follow. With God's blessings, they will be in a few years from now the first Piarists in Vietnam.

 

FREEDOM FROM WITH-IN

Br. Lily Lorona

Panggaban is the name of the popular valley in our town, San Roque, Liloan, in Southern Leyte, 500 meters away from the seashore, and wide open to the Pacific Ocean. Looking from the top of the valley, I could see and feel the beautiful panoramas; the light cold wind moving from the different corners of the valley, the rice fields covered with light green color for the growing rice and dry yellow for the ripe, the sound of the Maya birds (our national bird) singing all over the valley, and the narrow run of the river connecting to the wide open sea.

While passing through the narrow run of the river, early in the morning, way back 1989, during the rainy season, my father, wearing his farmer attire, saw a little baby turtle. The turtle had a brown and black color combination with a tiny white color scattered everywhere in his back. His size was 4x2 inches. My father watched the turtle and he thought that it might be pleasant for his children to bring this creature home. So, he took it, and put it in his old and musty plastic bag that he always carried with him. In the mid-afternoon while coming home, he was very excited that we, his children, would find pleasure in it. He got a gray container of 20 inches wide and 5 inches height and placed the turtle in it. We called him Pagong in our Tagalog language. Of course, as a young child at the age of 10, I was very happy knowing that we had a turtle. Following the said event, I went to the school, galloping and eager to tell my classmates and friends, and to invite them to see our turtle. "Yappy...!" In Cebuano means glorious joy.  Those who came were happy, but Pagong was too shy to stick out his head; however, these friends and classmates of mine were able to touch Pagong.

During weekends, I used to go with my father to Panggaban valley because that was the time that I could help him. I also had the opportunity to play with the different kinds of fish in the river and sometimes to go swimming.  One day while enjoying the richness of the river, I could see and hear the Maya birds flying and singing with their natural song. It seemed very happy and free to fly wherever they wanted as if they did not have problem at all. The same with all the other animals who were enjoying the beauty of the nature. "How beautiful and awful their lives; full of life!" A voice said coming from with-in. This voice (wisdom) from with-in had led me to think and to question that later on shift my thinking: "If these animals are happy, free to live wherever they like, how about Pagong? Is he happy? How about the freedom to enjoy the beauty of nature, and the freedom to live in the place where he likes? Did he attain that freedom?"

From the time we have had this turtle in our possession until the time of my great realization, several years had passed. I was then in 4th year high school, at the age of 16. I was there observing his growing moment, the drastic change of his color, I might have been there when this turtle felt lonely, but I did not realized it. I might have been there when this turtle was looking for the fresh water to drink, the fresh air to breath, desiring food to eat, the cheerful sunlight to see, and the companion to relate with. The turtle was being placed in the northeast corner of our dining room; it was difficult for the sunlight to give light into the place. He was the only kind of animal in the house except our dog. On the day of my realization, I had got the courage to look at his condition reflectively. Hearing that voice from with-in, I thought that he looked very sad, and looking to his naked eyes, it seemed to me that there were tears rolling in his face. If I was in his condition how could I feel? Again, I heard the inner voice from with-in, "I have done nothing, but why I am here? Please, help me back to the place where I used to be. I could see here nothing except this jail of container."

 His condition became harder and harder, and there were times that I could hardly sleep because his condition disturbed my mind. Towards the end of the school year during summer time, I talked to my father about the condition of Pagong. I said to him, "Tatay (the name of a father in Filipino language), Yes, we are very happy with the presence of Pagong, and he is already part of our lives, but is he happy in this place?" He did not response, but he looked at me hesitantly; so, I asked his permission to free the turtle to the place where he was before. He agreed right away, and said, "It's up to you!" The following day after his approval, it was a sunny morning; I took the turtle into my naked hands and we went to Panggaban valley to the narrow run of the river where my father saw him. I could hear the flowing water, the Mayas birds singing, and sounds of other animals; there from my hands the turtle was going to be freed and soon to enjoy the fresh water, the fresh air, the desirable food, and his companions. Then, I smoothly put the turtle into the placid part of the water, and there he disappeared right away, and the only mark of his presence that I could recognize was the bubble on the water. He jumped just before my fingers touched on the water level, he could not wait for few seconds.

Without my knowledge, there it was my father looking at me from a distance almost on the top of the valley. He seemed to be a stranger.

The moral of this story is the freedom from with-in. No matter what religion, race, culture, economic and political situation, and popularity in the society, we all need to be free. We have the same right to enjoy the gift of nature. Like the story of the turtle, he was supposed to have the right to enjoy the beauty of nature as the other animals did. However, we human sometimes deny the existence of others' freedom. It is through our freedom from with-in that we can say that we are free, and by looking and reflecting on the small details of our daily experience, we may know whether we are really free or not. 

This is an open-ended reflection, and you are absolutely free to add this reflection of mine and share it to your friends.

 

From Japan

An Impression

 

Bro. PJ Caliao

 On October 11-13 2003, the Diocese of Yokohama celebrated its yearly gathering of young people called  "the Diocese of Yokohama Youth Weekend". I together with the other juniors in Tokyo went to join the said event. It was held in 'Gotemba', one of the places in Japan which is famous for its beautiful and old-fashioned sights. We were informed before that no other Filipinos will come except us, but fortunately there were some other who came; most of them work in Japan and there was also a Filipina sister. There were also Vietnamese seminarians and a lay, and also there was an American priest. The rest were all Japanese: priests, deacons, seminarians and the youth.

There were a lot of activities like different kind of group games, hiking, sports, sharing, etc. And then, one could say that it was omoshiroi' (interesting), not only because there were many different activities but also for the experience itself. Like for example the basketball and "Frisbee game", where boys and girls played together; and also with other different games introduced, like the Vietnamese race game. The use also of the language made it more interesting, for we use not only Japanese but also English, Vietnamese and Tagalog. So, it made everybody say: 'tanoshikatta' (enjoyable), for it was indeed a happy experience!

I thought at first that all participants were Catholics, because it was an activity initiated by the Diocese, but I was mistaken. There were also some Buddhists and others who were not yet baptized. I was confused at first but later I felt comfortable for I was reminded the theme that said "One in Christ". I found out then that that was why we foreigners and non-Catholics were there, because we are all united and one in Christ. It was during the sharing that I have known that non-Catholics were present on that activity. Further, I also found their purpose of going there. Some said that they were alone at home, some went to have fun, and others want to meet new friends, but all of them have the curiosity of this unique activity and they wanted to know more, that why they participated. Their questions made me discover about their willingness to learn more about the Catholic Church. There were very basic questions like: why do we have to make the sign of the cross? what's the purpose of the mass? why do we have to receive the host on the hand?, and many more. I read in their eyes their eagerness on the topic and I felt in their heart their interests about the discussion. I am a seminarian, that's why they had the courage to ask me such that, but there was a difficulty because everything had to be translated. However, I hope that I just delivered and shared my part successfully.

Before going to Japan, I had already in mind some views of the Japanese about the Church and their attitude against  it, that's why when I knew that there are only about 0.5% Catholics here in Japan, I was not surprised. When I see that most of the people who are attending in the mass in our Parish, Tobe Church, are old, I am not scandalized, for I expected this already and understood it. But in the said activity, I discovered things that changed my my impression: their eagerness to learn more about the Church, their willingness to attend our activity and their interest on knowing more about our faith are eventually new for me. I never expected that despite the contradiction of religion, they still have this concern about our faith. Anyhow, that was just an impression.

The activity ended with a meaningful mass presided by the Bishop of Yokohama. And I saw that everybody was happy. But I believe that it was not only an enjoyment and amusement what everybody felt, but also the spirit of being united, as one with Christ. I too was very glad, but I remained bewildered with my impression for I think that it was not only a mere or ordinary impression, but also a significant one. I hope that it will not only continue or remain in their hearts and minds, but also it will improve, and then these interests of the young people may become a strong basis for the development of their faith.

...Brief  News...

From Japan

 

  • In Kaisei our students have actively participated in the Days of Sports and Culture. Our baseball team has not qualified for the Kosien (finals) of spring time. We have a constant number of enrollments in our Yochien, and this is good news.
  • The faithfull of Yokkaichi Parish, together wit those of two neighboring parishes, have ahd their yearly outing, visiting Nagoya Port. On November 9, the community of foreigners had the First Communion celebration. On November 23 our Bishop came to administer the sacrement of Confirmation to 25 people.
  • Tobe Parish organized an outing to the Trappist Monastery near Nasu. Our juniors went also, and they had the opportunity to see our brother Bryan, who is doing nearby his preparatory year before theological studies. In the feast of Christ the King, three children from our parish will receive the first communion.
  • Last September 9-11 the Juniors attended the annual Youth Gathering of the Diocese of Yokohama in Gotemba. It was an opportunity for them to meet young people, both Catholic and non-Catholic. They also were invited to Annual Open House Festival in the Tokyo Catholic Seminary, and by the Theologate of the Salesians in Chofu. Tony and Edmund have finished their studies of Japanese in Naganuma, and now they are taking some courses on religious matters.

 

From the Philippines

 

  • Two aspirants from the Dioceses of Vinh Long (Vietnam), Cao Tri and Chanh Dai, came in September to live in our House of Manila. They joined Quang Vinh, also Vietnamese, who is with us already for several months. After learning well English, they will start their Philosophy Studies. May the Lord make of them the pillars of our future foundation in Vietnam.
  • At the end of October our Juniors Aljun, Nonoy and Marlon, together with Fr. Ted, had conducted a seminar on Piarist formation and a vocation search-in in Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao. The Juniors of Manila were also campaigning in different places of Luzon during those days. At the end of October nine new postulants came to live with us. In the other hand, the Juniors Charles and Joseph decided to leave. We wish them good luck in everything.
  • The postulants of Cebu, with Fr. Rafael and some members of the Calasanzian Fraternity made the first Goum Raid in the Philippines during the break of October. They were very happy with their treaking in the mountains, willing to start again. The novices went with Fr. Jose to Panay island (Ilo ilo and Antique), following the program "Family Visit".
  • Frs. Mirek and Juanjo had enjoyed their well deserved holidays in their countries. Fr. Adam, after several months in Cebu and Manila, is preparing his bagage to go to Japan, where he will work after learning the language. Fr. David Powers, the Provincial of the USA, is spending some days with us at the endo of November and beginning of December. This is a good occasion to strengthen our relationship between neighbors separated only by the width of the Pacific Ocean.

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