Now practically all of us in the parish ae excited and busy preparing for our annual Christmas Party with this year's theme, Paskwa sa Parokya 2008: Pagsaulog sang Paghigugma kag Pagpasalamat on December 27 at the St. Joseph Community Center. Highlight of the celebration is a Daigon (Caroling) competition participated in by seven groups representing the varioud BEC areas, Mandated Organizations and Ministries in the parish. First prize is P7,000, second prize is P5,000, and third prize is P3,000, with the consolation prize of P1,000 each for the four non-winning entries. This time we are tapping the various business establishments in the BEC areas covered by our parish, as well the Mandated Organizations, and some of our reliable benefactors to help us raise funds for the cash prizes. Aside from a catered dinner, numerous door prizes (courtesy of generous donors) also await the lucky participants of the evening.
In Part III of the book, Dan writes to Sam about how important it is to give kindness a chance: “In the animal kingdom, vulnerability can bring out aggression in other animals. This sometimes happens with humans also. But I have found out, instead, that my vulnerability brings out the kindness in people… Sometimes situations call for us to act strong and brave even when we don’t feel that way. But those are few and far between. More often, the payoff is better if you don’t pretend you feel strong when you feel weak or pretend you are brave when you’re scared. I really believe the world might be a better place if everyone who felt vulnerable would say, ‘I have a problem and I’m doing the best I can.’
No doubt, the one event that brought our people’s vulnerability to the fore during the past three months was typhoon Frank. The killer typhoon brought untold misery and unquantifiable damage to Panay Island during the last days of June. The storm brought flash floods which destroyed property, bruised the psyche, and caused much misery to our already long-suffering people. We felt so helpless to respond to many initial requests from parishioners for immediate help and emergency assistance as floodwaters rose to dangerous levels in some areas, and reached waist-deep inside the Monastery in record time. The library books, computers, appliances and supplies on the ground floor had to be moved immediately. For a week electricity was cut. Water supply was cut and potable water rationed. We relied on canned food and preserved rations. Roads were impassable due to mud and silt. Hospitals were bursting at the seams with the sick and injured. Hardest hit in our Parish was Barangay Sambag with several dead. We had hit the wall!
Almost immediately we texted friends near and far for help. They did not disappoint us! It was touching to see how our friends in Iloilo, although victims themselves, rose to the occasion. Our dear Tita Elena Malaga sent us cooked food, potable water, shovels and wheelbarrows. She also helped in facilitating the restoration and reconnection of our deep well. A kind friend, Irene, owner of a quaint Japanese restaurant in Pavia, lent us her heavy equipment gratis. Even more local friends, too many to mention, came to our aid in many wonderful ways! Our parishioners at Mt Carmel Shrine, facilitated by Fr. Alex Collera, were not to be outdone. A “Bulig Iloilo” Drive was spearheaded on one Sunday in the Shrine Parish with our own Carmelite Student-Friars manning the donation booths. It was no surprise that generous donations in cash and in kind for the flood victims poured in. Philippine Airlines airlifted at least a hundred sacks of clothes from Manila to Iloilo free of charge! Friends from all over the country sent us their love offerings bank-to-bank. Several chapters of our OCDS from Luzon and the Visayas sent financial help. Mother May Catherine of Bacolod Carmel sent us cooked food for a week! Our dear friend, BongBong Garcia, big boss of Romac Services-Iloilo, sent us his workers to help put order to the Monastery. Finally, Edgar Tubola, a former postulant, facilitated a clean up operation of our property by 170 Russian, Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino cadets from a merchant marine academy based in Singapore!
I have watched this process with people over and over again. When tragedy hits us in the face and traumatizes our hearts, we rage and cry. But I always remember that we literally run into so much kindness when we hit the wall!
July and August have been quieter and serener months, thank God. It was a rainy feast of Our Lady on the 16th of July. Celebrations were kept at a low key. With the usual introductory classes on theology and spirituality, the postulants finished their Psycho-Spiritual Integration Sessions with Cynthia Baga at the Dominican Retreat House in Molo, and their inputs on Human Sexuality at St. Clement’s Retreat House in La Paz. Through it all, Fr. Oscarito Boongaling has been an affirming and guiding presence for our five postulants, who all passed the first deliberation with flying colors. Our newly minted parish priest, Fr. Dan Lim had his “baptism of fire” with typhoon Frank! Together with Bro. Arnel Panique, he has tirelessly facilitated the distribution of relief goods, and made personal visitations to affected areas. Aside from his duties as procurator, Bro. Arnel supervises the endless repairs that need to be done after the events of last June. During the visit of Fr. Mike Fitzgerald to our community, Bro. Arnel demonstrated his prowess in the kitchen. He prepared dinner with salad and Japanese maki, much to our delight. Last but not least, the community’s venerable patriach and resident prayer warrior, Bro. Herman Gaylan, never fails to astound us. He continues to edify and inspire us by his simple presence and simple demeanor.
At present, we are initiating some improvements in our mortuaries and renovating our parish comfort rooms to give better service to our steadily expanding clientele. The community has purchased a brand new white and silver Isuzu Crosswind XUV at excellent installment terms to service our needs as well. Finally, we hope to continue to keep up the maintenance of our facilities to the best of our abilities in the face of an increasing number of regular Mass-goers and a very encouraging jump in the Mass collections and donations.
The events of the past months are an enduring testatment to the connection between people regardless of our abilities and limitations, no matter how difficult the obstacles and situations may seem. With the Apostle Paul, we too can say: Indeed, everything is Grace!
From Jaro, madamo guid nga salamat sa tanan!
Rev. Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD
Edith Stein, in a profound reflection on the nature of community, speaks for those rare members who are the community's "core, from which its character is shaped and which guarantees its enduring being." They are the "carriers of the communal life . . . insofar as their personal being is devoted to the community." They are the community's "lifepower" source of its "mighty impulses" and its vision. They are entirely absorbed' in carrying the communal spirit forward.
Edith's words aptly describe the humanity, self-gift and dedication to which our new Community at St. Joseph the worker calls itself this triennium, and of which th House's 55 year history bears striking example and witness. As the first foundation of the Anglo-Irish Province in the Philippines, the present group of friars look forward to be generative in and for our life solidly rooted in Carmelite tradition yet not afraid of creativity, allowing for a diversity of expressions of our one ideal.
This communal commitment was initially tested just last April and May. Yours truly was left to administer the Parish for three weeks in April while Fr. Dan was in the Unite States and newly ordained Fr. Oskie was celebrating Thanksgiving masses at the Carmels of our Nuns in Luzon. Despite laryngitis, yours truly managed well with the help of guest priests, the office staff and the able support of Bros. Arnel and Herman. April was also made more special with the birthday celebrations for Bros. Arnel and Bosco and Herman (who turned 70!).
The task of preparing for the Parish Fiesta and Installation of the new Parish Priest fell on my shoulders as well. Happily, our dynamic brother Arnel able managed the many fiesta preparations that had to be attended to Bro. Arnel was also chosen "church custodian" for the triennium. As CC, he will be assisted by truly and Bro. Herman in overseeing the maintenance of church and house facilities. It was a privilege to have my predecessor, Fr. Alex ("Fr. A") back for this year's fiesta and installation as well. We cannot be grateful enough for his six years of dedication and hard work.
Two wonderful occasions marked May 1: the annual Parish Fiesta and the Installation of the new Parish Priest. Both memorable occasions were graced by twelve concelebratinig priests and presided over by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. A sumptuous sit down dinner and program for at least 50 people followed the liturgical rites. Ur unassuming Fr. Dan, our "PP" has since then taken on his duties as pastor with music dedication.
May 7 marked the beginning of the Postulancy Program. This year we are blessed to have John Eric Alim (lucena City), Gregorio Baguio, Jr. (Cagayan de Oro City), Le Van Dong ("Josh", Dong Nai, Vietnam), The postulants have had several formation sessions and visits to the various apostolate areas in the Parish. It is wonderful to experience the new energy and dynamism these young men bring to community life! The indefatigable Fr. Oskie has since then assumed his many responsibilities as postulant director (PD for short) with gusto. With the postulants, the present group of conventuals: Yours truly (Prior), Fr. Dan Lim (PP and 1st Councilor), Fr. Oskie Boongaling (PD & 2nd Councilor), Bros. Arnel Panique (Procurator and CC) and Herman Gaylan (our Prayer Warrior, PW for short) hope to be Edith's words, "carriers of communal life", "entirely absorbed" in carrying this communal spirit froward for the sake of the Church.
From Jaro, we all send our warmest regards and best wishes!