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This summer, July 31 to August 4, 2019, the Adrian Dominican Sisters held a congregational gathering, Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, during which Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission from sponsored institutions gathered to celebrate the present and look together toward the future. The Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Philippines, hosted its own Pagyakap sa Hinaharap October 5-6, 2019, with 300 Partners in Mission. Following is a reflection on the event by Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP.
October 17, 2019, San Fernando, the Philippines – Pagyakap sa Hinaharap has been a gift graciously given to us, a gift that, when unwrapped, reveals countless gems of wisdom and gives us essential take-aways as we aspire to prayerfully and intentionally embrace the future.
We appreciate the words of the Archbishop of San Fernanco Florentino Lavarias, who reminded us of our identity as children of God, an identity that speaks of our unconditional worth against the market value that the secular world wrongly impresses on us to put premium on.
We affirm the wisdom of our esteemed Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, who pointed out to us the common purpose that binds us together – the mission of Jesus and our participation in it. Thank you, Sister Pat, for reminding us that each of us here is a charism carrier, and that we must embrace our future using the compass of our charism and to preach by the way we live our lives.
You challenged us to assume a stance of mindfulness so we can have the time for quiet listening. We say ‘Yes’ to what prophetic imagination calls us to be and do – to walk our society into the crisis where it does not want to go and to walk our society out of that crisis.
Left: Youth work together on a project during their separate part of the Gathering. Right: Sister Rosita Yaya, OP, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, at one of the sessions of Pagyakap sa Hinaharap.
We appreciate how attorney Alex Lacson pointed out to us radical reforms for a more Christian Philippines, a country which for decades has been plagued by poverty due to corruption, problematic leadership, and greed. While the realities are just too grim and leave us with enraged hearts, we hold on to the hope that a renewed and more Christian Philippines will spring forth to life if and when radical reforms are taken. These could include re-engineering the economy, overhauling the political system, eliminating corruption, re-orienting education, modernizing the military, re-training the police, and enabling an expeditious justice system.
We appreciate the presence as well as the shared faith and life experiences of our panelists. The sacred spaces they shared let us see into how God has been walking with and working through them. God hears the cry of the poor. Dear members of the panel of sharers, thank you for challenging us not just to see and judge, but even more, to act for justice and to come in solidarity with you.
Participants share their joy during the Gathering with dancing.
We appreciate the scholarly manner by which Bishop Ambo David opened our hearts and kept them burning as he guided us through the biblical foundation of embracing the future. We keep in our memory that the future we await can only come to fruition if we courageously embrace our past; see the future as God designed it for us; live in the now; and embrace the future with the eternal now.
We appreciate Father Quirico Pedregosa for recommending to us a strategic Dominican perspective of responding to the changing conditions of our time. Walking through the birthing moments of the Dominican Order propelled by the missionary impulse to preach the Gospel, we are challenged to go to the peripheries, where the Order started its life and flourished through time, and with a sense of urgency, imbibe attitudes of going to where people are, to engage in dialogue with them, and to collaborate with them. It is only through collaboration that we can become a family of preachers – a family of Dominicans.
Local school children perform a dance.
Embracing the future from a Dominican perspective necessitates embracing itinerancy – the freedom to move on and to choose to do things differently. Jesus went to the peripheries when he walked on the Earth. We who passionately follow him have to tread in the same direction.
We appreciate Father Jeff Aytona for awakening the Spirit of Mission in the hearts and minds of the youth; for letting them see that owning a sense of the future is to see who they are at the present moment — treasures of the Church; priceless pearls of God’s kingdom. To the youth, we appreciate the ways you preached to us these days of our gathering through your songs and dances, through your positive energy and creativity that animates us right now
We appreciate Miss Bel Katigbak for guiding us through our planning workshop – a planning in the context of the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter Enactments of 2016, a planning which gives us greater opportunity to participate in the Mission of Jesus.
We appreciate each one of you for taking time and letting your voice be heard so that there are more sets of arms outstretched, embracing together boldly and confidently the future.
As a grace of this gathering, Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, let us ask ourselves the following yes or no questions:
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.