July 15, 2019, San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Pampanga region of the Philippines, expressed great joy at the July 13, 2019, election of Father Gerard Francisco Timoner, OP, as the next Master of the Dominican Order. He was elected during the Dominican Friars’ July 7-August 4, 2019, General Chapter, held in Biên Hoà, Vietnam.
“It’s a wonderful surprise that the Brothers elected an Asian and a Filipino at the same time,” said Sister Liberty “Libay” Mendoza, OP. “I think his election brings along the challenges of how Asian, Filipino Dominicans can share further, more substantially in the work of evangelization. … I guess it is the same call for the rest of us Filipino Dominicans, to be gifts to the world by making use of the gifts of who we are and what we can do for Jesus’ mission.”
Chapters are the meetings in which Catholic religious congregations set the agenda for the coming years and elect leadership to carry out that agenda.
Father Gerard, 51, will serve a nine-year term as Master of the Dominican Order, leading about 6,000 Dominican Friars in 80 countries. In addition, he will serve as head of the entire worldwide Dominican family, which encompasses cloistered nuns; active, apostolic Sisters; Dominican Laity associated formally with the Friars; lay Associates of the Congregations of Dominican Sisters; and Dominican movements such as Dominican Young Adults. He succeeds Father Bruno Cadoré, OP, of France.
“He has always been like a big brother to us,” Sister Libay said. She recalled the annual retreat that Father Gerard directed for the Sisters years ago as “one of the most relaxing retreats we ever had. He is quite down to Earth. He has a very good sense of humor, and during sessions he just loved telling stories.”
Sister Libay also recalled Father Gerard’s generosity in treating the Sisters to ice cream and his humility during the retreat he led. “One time he tried joining the Sisters doing the dishes,” she said. “One would not feel intimidated when he was around.”
Father Gerard – known affectionately by the Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter as “Father Gert” – was in religious formation with Sister May Cano, OP. The two were novices together, engaging in common studies of Dominican life and spirituality, and they served together in the formation of other Dominicans. “He was very simple, kind, brilliant, with deep reflections – a down to earth, intelligent, joyful Friar like St. Dominic,” Sister May recalled. In addition, he is “well versed in the Bible and full of wisdom.”
Born on January 26, 1968, in Daet, of the Camarines Norte province of the Philippines, Father Gerard studied philosophy at the Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City, in 1991 and earned his theology degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1994. Father Gerard later served the University as Vice Rector for Religious Affairs and as Rector of the central seminary.
Ordained in 1995, he earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2004.
Through the years, Father Gerard has served both the Dominican family and the Catholic Church: as Provincial in the Philippines; as Father Bruno’s assistant for Asia and the Pacific; and as a member of the Church’s International Theological Commission, appointed by Pope Francis in 2014.
After his election, Father Gerard issued a challenge to the Dominican family, quoted in an article in Good News Pilipanas.com: “We Dominicans must serve the Church with what we are: a communion of brothers,” he said. “We must not look continually at ourselves, but at the Church, which we must help to save and build.”
Father Gerard with the Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter after their annual retreat in 2012. Father Gerard led the retreat.
By Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP
Principal, Dominican School of Apalit
June 14, 2017, Pampanga, the Philippines – As the Dominican School of Apalit, located in the region of Pampanga in the Philippines, anticipates its 20th anniversary in 2018, Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP, reflects on how faculty members and staff have worked to form the students as young Dominicans.
The Dominican School of Apalit (DSA) will turn 20 in 2018. One of the lessons we have been impressing upon the hearts of our young pupils is “compatior” or compassion. The learning community, from the youngest 4-year-olds to those in the 12th grade, in collaboration with the parents and local government units, has been engaged in the process of learning what it means to give compassionate care for all of creation. It is presumed, however, that the seed of compassion was first seen, sown, and nurtured in the homes of our pupils.
To be a Dominican stakeholder means not just to acquire profitable competencies that prepare an individual for the “university of life,” but also to walk an extra mile, to be other-oriented. It means to share not just canned goods or a bowl of hot soup during disaster relief operations or peak sharing seasons, but to see, smell, and feel the holy presence of God in the people who are poor, in the faces of the indigenous Aetas, the indigent pupils in nearby government-run schools, or the out-of-school children residing at a nearby public cemetery.
The hope of the school staff is that these encounters would strike a chord in the hearts of our young Dominicans, urging them to forget themselves and change the small space where they stand. Compassion for all of creation is translated into concrete actions.
How has Dominican School of Apalit preached in terms of living out its stance on compassion for all of creation? Teatro Dominiko, the school club for students who have inclination and passion for stage-acting, has mounted well-attended plays dealing with social and ecological themes: Mommy Ko Nature in 2011, Balik-bayan Box in 2014, and Luzviminda in January 2017.
Mommy Ko Nature exhorts spectators to suffer with, weep, and even bleed for Mother Earth as she continues to experience wanton destruction. Every child of nature is awakened from its slumber caused by indifference and must pledge to nurse his Mother, named Nature.
Balik-bayan Box is a tribute to our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), in particular to the many Filipino parents who saw the heart-wrenching need to leave children behind, risk working on foreign shores, and remit crisp foreign currencies back to their families, with the hope that this will ensure a more secure and stable future for their loved ones.
Luzviminda, a contracted name for the three major islands in the Philippines – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – aims to remind the audience about the current ecological state of the country. The play advocates respect for the dignity of all life forms – the marginalized tribal groups, plants, animals, fish, and everything else that breathes and lives.
Providentially, this preaching medium – theater – has been helping us to send the message about the urgency of taking part in rehabilitating and healing the planet Pope Francis calls “our common home” and of being more conscious of the social ills besetting the country and the world.
In partnership with Caritas Manila, DSA – and the other schools in which the Sisters in Our Lady of Remedies Chapter serve – recently drafted an Eco-Ministry Plan. We are acting on that plan in many ways.
DSA is situated near the Pampanga River and numerous coastal spots, which have been clogged by thriving water lilies that cause flooding during rains. Our School Head, Sister Rosita M. Yaya, OP, and the Parents-Teachers Association are working with the local government of Apalit, and Senator Cynthia Villar’s Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance Foundation to solve the problem by removing water lilies and turning them into materials for handicraft weaving.
We at DSA hope to care for the legacy of the Pampanga River and other local coastal bodies so our students will understand that the river has its own life. It is our duty to keep that life flowing.
Feature photo (top): Prep students from Dominican School of Apalit perform a welcoming dance.