We are starting to receive information from all over the world about the activities that are being planned around the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism. On this occasion we are publishing a letter from Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M., Dean of the St. Vincent de Paul School of Theology, Philippines, announcing the activities that the School will promote during this anniversary:
Welcome back after the joyful reunions of Christmas and New Year. I know you had a nice time with your families and communities. I also hope you had some time to rest after the hectic Christmas activities.
2017 is a special year for the Vincentian family. It is the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism. On January 25, 1617, the young priest, Vincent de Paul, preached his first mission sermon in the small chapel of Folleville in France. This small church still stands today. It was a small village then yet hundreds came to confession that day so much so that they had to invite the Jesuits in a nearby town of Amiens – now a big city – in order to help him. The event came to be known as the “stampede to the confessional.” That was the beginning of the work of Congregation of the Mission “to go to the peripheries,” to borrow the now famous word of Pope Francis. While most priests then preferred to live in the cities, Vincent wanted his priests to go to the rural areas where the poor are to bring them the Good News of Jesus. Long before, Vincent already realized that the church should be a Church of the poor, with the poor and among the poor. And its ministers, if their lives are to be meaningful, are people whose hearts find their home among the margins.
Later on the same year, another crucial event happened. Vincent was a pastor of a small parish in Chatillon-les-Dombes. One Sunday morning before the Mass, a parishioner came to inform that a whole family was sick some kilometers from the church. Vincent set aside his prepared homily and preached about the need to help them. After the Mass, many parishioners came to the rescue of the sick family. The event was dubbed as the “stampede to the house of the poor.” Vincent realized that “charity” to be sustainable should be organized and systemic.
These are the two founding events of the Vincentian family to which we all belong. Thus, in SVST, we tried to organize activities in order to commemorate not only these past events but more importantly how the Vincentian charism plays itself out in our times according to the original spirit of Vincent de Paul. Beyond the usual academic and pastoral activities that we need to carry out, we also launch the following initiatives in SVST.
- Care for the Victims of Extra Judicial Killings. Before Christmas, we were involved in taking care of the EJK victims in Payatas. We helped in their funerals because the funeral home charges made it almost impossible for them to bury the dead. This year, we commit ourselves to help the Ina ng Lupang Pangako Parish in the rehabilitation of their families – documentation of cases, pursuing legal matters, processing the psychological effects on their wives and children, livelihood, education of their children, and other things. What we have decided so far is to meet the families twice a month as a community of support. In Payatas alone, we have 10 families. We still have to reach out on the others. There is a trumpeted program of rehabilitation for drug addicts by both the State (who sponsor the killings as well) and the official Church. But for the most part, the victims’ families are left unattended and looked at with scorn and prejudice. When we first met them, they were crying for help because their neighbors were no longer talking to them; no one even came to the wake. Those among us who would like to help, please let us know.
- Faith in Action: Catholic Social Teaching on the Ground. Our CST book which is several years in the making will be launched this year. It consists of learning modules on the themes of Catholic Social Teaching for the use of community facilitators and grassroots educators. To make it accessible to our communities, it comes in three versions – English, Tagalog and Cebuano. It also comes with film documentaries (by the famous filmmaker Ditsi Carolino) of concrete stories how CST is lived in the everyday life of people on the ground and video of the songs of Gary Granada for grassroots educational purposes.
- SVST Ecological Initiatives. If the “cry of the earth is the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si), we launch our sustainable ecological initiatives starting this school year (2016 – 2017). We intend to transform the SVST and De Paul House surroundings into permaculture gardens in four phases. We engage our students into these ecological programs as integrated in a course on community projects management. We will soon announce diploma courses on ecological sustainability and spirituality.
- International Concilium Conference 2017. SVST and Adamson University will host the International Board of Editors of the theological journal Concilium. International speakers will dialogue with local Catholic and Protestant theologians on the theme “Asian Christianities; Post-colonial Encounters” on June 29 – July 1, 2017. This conference is open to all who are interested. Announcements will be made soon.
St. Vincent did not only live in the 1600s. After 400 years, we who belong to his family try our best to make his spirit alive in our times.
Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M.