The General Assembly of the St. Matthew Province 2017

General Assembly 2017

“Oramus et Servimus”

We Pray and We Serve

Oasis of Prayer, Lalaan II, Silang, Cavite

April 17-21, 2017

Spiritual Retreat

First Day

April 17, 2017 (Monday)

The General Assembly [of the Perpetually Professed Religious and Priests of the St. Matthew Province] 2017 officially opened with a simple liturgy of “Unveiling of the Icon of the Trinity” at 3:00pm, which was immediately succeeded by an introduction to the Spiritual Retreat delivered by the invited Master himself, Fr. Enrico Gonzales, OP. In his usual lively and ever comic mood, he explained that a Retreat is a renewal from flamboyance to genuine enthusiasm and an antidote to acedia. He wished that through the present retreat, its participants may recover the “joy” of living, which is the true goal of education. He warned, however, not to abuse the true spirit of enjoyment the way the classical Greeks in the mythology did. The joy we find in this world is limited, and to go beyond such limit is to abuse, and to destroy oneself and joy itself, he added. He even went further, describing man and the world that gives him joy as one – an inseparable microcosm, where moderation is imperative. Moreover, he emphasized that the ultimate goal of Christian Education is “love”. God, he stressed, is love and is beyond measure. Love cannot be too little or too much, it can only be true or false, he explained quoting St. Thomas of Aquinas. He concluded, hence, that education of the heart to this love is imperative.

In the evening, after reciting the holy rosary led by Bro. Peter Hoang Van Dong, and vespers headed by Fr. Nicolas Villora, Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta, the Vicar General, presided over the celebration of the Holy Mass, where Fr. Gonzales deliver a homily. Being a Dominican, it came naturally from him to invite everyone to preach – and to preach “hope”. He highlighted that as followers of Jesus, we are Easter people, who hope that like Him we will also someday die, rise and come again, as a loving community, in glory.

Rev. Zander Conson led the common compline at 9:30pm to end the first day.

Second Day

April 18, 2017 (Tuesday)

Morning Sessions

            The assembly opened the day with common morning prayers led by Bro. Marcelino Lavente, Jr. at 6:30am, and with the lauds headed by Fr. Ulyses Angus. The Holy Eucharist was presided over by Fr. John Joffer Lucas, with Fr. Gonzales delivering the homily, reechoing the question of Jesus to Mary Magdalene outside His tomb weeping, “Whom are you looking for?” Relating the gospel episode to stories of vocations, he reminded the participants to be very clear about discerning the gift they received from God himself. He continued by recalling the Philippine Church’s dedication of this year for Parishes as Communion of Communities, saying that vocations’ seedbed are communities, and first of all, families – venues of encounter with the risen Jesus.

            Taking the floor once more, Fr. Gonzales commenced his morning talk on Educating the Heart. Bringing back to mind what he already highlighted the previous day, he exhorted the retreatants to preach love, to preach God and to preach truth in love. Faith, he said, is education of the heart and we learn love by “osmotic” process from womb to tomb. He pointed out that God/Love/Faith must be preached in the [natural] family and in the greater family – the Church. So much was the value he accentuated for the family, which he categorized further into Kapatid (Brothers and Sisters), Kaibigan (Friends) and Kapwa (Neighbors), that he asserted that they are the proper beneficiaries of Jesus’ love. Finally, he admonished them to be Preachers of Reconciliation, taking on the challenge of continuing forgiveness – forgiving after having been forgiven.

            Individual picture-taking also commenced this day, during moments of personal reflection.

            Bro. Joseph Phan Hoang Nguyen led the prayers, with Fr. Ulyses Angus still heading the recitation of the midday psalmody.

Afternoon Sessions

            The last session of the Spiritual Retreat commenced with the recitation of the midafternoon psalmody with Fr. Ulyses Angus presiding over it and with Bro. Marcelino Lavente, Jr. leading the other prayers. To complete his series of interventions, Fr. Gonzales focused his reflections on the Love of Kaibigan (Friends) [from Love of Kapatid (Brothers and Sisters), which discussed earlier]. To develop this theme, he immediately narrated how the Eucharist itself was instituted in the context of friendship. He so stressed the significance of friendship that he even considered it to be the only love that lasts and the love behind all loves. Then, for the last time, referring to God’s friendship, he called it grace – from love of God to love of others, resulting to a communion of love. It is precisely because of God’s friendship with men that he opted to choose them as his ministers. Precisely because He is their friend that he saw something good in them, even if they themselves have not, or at least not yet, discovered such goodness. In this friendship the fullness of communication flows, so do God’s call and man’s obedience.

            Fr. Gonzales concluded by thanking everyone, assuring them of his prayers and asking them to do the same for him. Fr. Mariano Antonio Ranera, Jr. conferred to the Retreat Master some simple tokens of appreciation, while Fr. Herman Abcede expressed his sincerest gratitude, on behalf of the perpetually professed religious of the St. Matthew Province, including Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, the General Superior and his Councilors, Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta and Fr. Gilson Luiz Maia, for spending the time with the participants of the General Assembly in this context of Spiritual Exercises.

            A group picture with Fr. Enrico Gonzales, OP was taken, right after final well wishes were exchanged.

Evening Activities

            As an appropriate rite to end the evening prayers led by Bro. Marcelino Lavente, Jr. and Fr. Ulyses Angus, Rev. Jonrey Lauron presided over the solemn Penitential Rite in preparation for a night of confessions.

            The day ended with socialization activities done by groups divided according to the participants’ years in the Priesthood [and religious life (for Brothers)].

Assembly Proper

Third Day

April 19, 2017 (Wednesday)

Morning Sessions

            The morning prayers and praises led by Bro. Kenneth Cortez and Fr. Rodolfo Patiag, Jr. opened the third day for the participants, which was immediately succeeded by the celebration of the Holy Mass presided over by Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, the General Superior, in whose homily he said that such liturgy officially opens the General Assembly proper, in a sacramental gathering where the entire Province encounters Jesus. He reminded his listeners how the day’s reading also narrated of an encounter with Jesus. Two disheartened disciples met Jesus on their way to Emmaus, but failed to recognize Him because of too much despair. Jesus, on the other hand, being a true friend, understood their deep sorrow and explained the Scriptures to them which made their hearts burn once more, until, through the breaking of the bread, they finally recognized Him. Fr. Bruno, using the message of this biblical narrative, invited everyone to make such encounters with Jesus, through gatherings like this current one, a profound communion of hope, that hey all be prophets of true hope, instead of bearers of sadness, pessimism or fear.

            Before giving the floor to Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, Rev. Espiredion Verano, Jr. briefly facilitated the participants’ Evaluation of the past days’ Spiritual Retreat. He, then, presided over the opening liturgy right after.

            Fr. Dexter Prudenciano read through the set objectives of the General Superior’s intervention, then, called on Fr. Bruno Rampazzo to deliver his message.

            Fr. Rampazzo, among his very detailed report, expounded on the theme Starting from Avignone means Starting from the Charism of the Rogate, then, presented the document of the 12th General Chapter, the Orientation of the General Government in the next Six Years. Finally, he concluded by thanking everyone for their commitment, work and love for the Congregation. He wished them all the best and assured them of his prayers that they may make their own the charism of St. Hannibal, that they may be agents of communion, able to interpret the signs of the times, to show love and trust for everyone and to be men of self-renewal.

After the intervention of the Fr. Rampazzo, the Open Forum followed. Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta’s and even of Fr. Gilson Luiz Maia’s presence and right to respond to questions, observations and comments, being General Councilors were stressed by Fr. Bruno. Remarks came from the representatives of the varied groups (by years in the Priesthood and Religious Life). Among those who spoke were: Fr. Benjamin Redoble, Jr., Fr. Antonio Dammay, Fr. Julius Descartin, Fr. King Cena, Fr. Rogie Quinga, and Rev. Mark Robin Destura.

Fr. Gilson Luiz Maia also made his brief intervention, expressing his gratitude for the chance to be able to take part of this General Assembly, including the Spiritual Retreat. He also thanked the Province for having given two confreres to be part of the General Government. He also spoke of this task being a General Councilor in charge of the Laity, the Youth and the Parishes, and his previous pastoral experiences among the laity, the youth and some parishes in Brazil, he said will definitely enrich his service to the Congregation now. Again, he thanked everyone, in conclusion.

Fr. Prudenciano, then, closed the morning session by summarizing what just transpired.

Afternoon and Evening Session

            Together, the midafternoon prayers were recited at 3:00pm, led by Bro. Kenneth Cortez and Fr. Rodolfo Patiag, Jr. at the pavilion. From there, the assembly transferred to the Di Francia Auditorium of the Rogationist College-Cavite, where Fr. Dexter Prudenciano introduced Fr. Herman Abcede, the Provincial Superior before he presented his report on the status of the St. Matthew Province. This was succeeded by Bro. Nilo Pelobello’s report on the Economic Situation of the Province, being the Provincial Treasurer. He, however, called on Fr. Prudenciano to present the recently drafted Directory and Manual of Economic and Financial Administration first, before delivering his very detailed work. A number of questions, clarifications, observations and suggestions were entertained by the reporters, but the responses shall be given the following day.

            After thanking everyone, Fr. Prudenciano led the prayer to end the days’ session. Everybody proceeded from there to the Caffe’ Sant’Antonio for dinner, followed by socialization.

Fourth Day

April 20, 2017 (Thursday)

            Bro. Joseph Phan Hoang Nguyen and Fr. Mariano Antonio Ranera, Jr. headed the morning prayers and loads, which opened the fourth day of the General Assembly. In advance celebration of the 25th Priestly Ordination of Fr. Gilson Luiz Maia, he presided over the Holy Mass. In his homily, he narrated how he lived and intends to continue living in joy and hope his priesthood, that he fell in love with it so deeply over the years. He mentioned some of his main apostolates in Brazil, before his was recently elected as one of the General Councilors. Towards the end of the Eucharistic celebration, he expressed how envious he is, on behalf of the St. Luke Province, of the St. Matthew Province having a saintly Fr. Joseph Aveni who watched over its beginnings and initial growth. Fr. Benjamin Redoble, Jr., who himself will remember his ordination to the Priesthood 25 years ago, spoke briefly on how his life as a priest was filled both with god and bad experienced, which helped him love the sacred gift even more. He joined Fr. Maia in blessing the congregation after the Mass.

            Rev. Jonrey Lauron led the prayer which commenced the morning sessions, then, called on Fr. Herman Abcede to take the floor to present his responses to the questions, comments and suggestions raised by some of the confreres the previous day regarding his report on the status of the Province. At one point, Fr. Abcede gave Bro. Nilo Pelobello the microphone so he can respond to the queries related to the Province’s Administration of its Goods.

Before dismissing the assembly, Fr. Carlos Guzman facilitated the orientation on how the group works will proceed on the later part of the morning. After a short break the participants broke into smaller groups to work on the drafted Directory of the Scholarship Program, Manual on Economic and Financial Administration, and Directory of Formation.

            The entire afternoon was spent on group works, which ended with the evening Prayers and the Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations presided over by Fr. Benjamin Redoble, Jr., who in his homily emphasized the beauty of friendship – a relationship graced with love and kindness. He explained how the relationship among confreres give convincing witness which is the most effective strategy to attract vocations.

            In celebration of the 25th Priestly Ordination Anniversary of Fr. Redoble and Fr. Maia, the entire assembly spent time together over churrasco for dinner and a short program with performances and games.

Fifth and Final Day

April 21, 2017 (Friday)

            The morning was greeted by prayers and praises, headed by Bro. Peter Hoang Van Dong and Fr. Ronald Masilang.

            Fr. Masilang also led the prayers to open the morning sessions, after which he gave a brief orientation about how the day will proceed. Fr. Ariel Tecson, then took the opportunity to explain the efforts already done on the drafting of the Directory on Formation. He said that an Ad Hoc Committee to finalize the document, composed of members who initiated the work, shall be appointed. The Directory of Formation was divided into four sector deliberated by smaller groups. Fr. Ulrich was called on to present the work of the first group. He was assisted by Fr. Antonio Nocellado. Fr. Francis Paul Escaño reported next, assisted by Fr. Francisco Gringo Tagabi. The third group’s report was presented by Fr. Viktor Emmanuel Aurellana, with Fr. Ryan Jimenez assisting him. Fr. Masilang, with the help of Fr. Sherwin Valenzuela, presented the fourth group’s accomplishment. Representing the group who dealt with the Manual on Economic and Financial Administration, Fr. Mariano Antonio Ranera, Jr. reported. Papers were distributed for the participants’ questions, clarifications and suggestions to be submitted to the members of the secretariat. Fr. Herman made clarifications about the contribution to the RogCare fund and its current use. Fr. Niptale Frogoza made some proposals about how the religious should comply with the expected contributions to the Social Security System, for their benefits in the years to come. Fr. Tommy Latina made clarifications about how the Caffe’ Sant’Antonio deals with the benefactors, and more so, with confreres and vice versa. Rev. Mark Robin Destura suggested the SSS documents/information be sent to individual confreres. Fr. Viktor Emmanuel Aurellana spoke about the need to improve on how the confreres communicate with each other, that the process be prompt, or at least, acknowledge and support our efforts. He also reminded the confreres to communicate directly to persons concerned instead of having unnecessary channels. Fr. Antonio Dammay suggested that the collected contact details be share to all. Fr. Benjamin Redoble, Jr. reminded the confreres about the set Homecoming of former seminarians and religious on 2020. Fr. Abcede appointed him as coordinator on this matter. Final reminders were given before dismissal for prayers and lunch.

            To begin with the afternoon sessions, after a simple prayer, Fr. Ricardo Caperiña, the leader the group that worked on the Directory of the Scholarship Program, reported on their accomplishment, with Bro. Mark Robin Destura. The floor was opened for questions. Among those who talked were Fr. Benjamin Redoble, Fr. Ryan Jimenez, Fr. Francis Paul Escaño, Fr. Jessie Martirizar, Fr. Danny Montaña and Fr. Ronald Masilang. Some questions written in pieces of papers were read by Fr. Masilang. Fr. Orville Cajigal responded to all the queries.

            After all the reports, the leaders and secretaries of the different groups were given time to integrate all other modifications presented during the assembly.

            Rev. Espiredion Verano, Jr. facilitated the 15-minute evaluation of the entire event. Then, the celebration of the Closing Rite, led by Rev. Jonrey Lauron, followed, succeeded by personal recitation of the Holy Rosary. Just as the General Assembly was opened by the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, it was concluded invoking God’s grace, through the same liturgy, presided over by Fr. Herman Abcede, who in his homily exhorted the confreres to always trust in God, to have the courage to take risks and to believe in the Divine Providence. He thanked everyone for the successful encounter, then called on Fr. Bruno Rampazzo to give his final words to the participants. Fr. Rampazzo thanked the confreres for their warm welcome, then, exhorted them to go on with hope, always trusting in God, for it is only through his grace that the Province can accomplish its mission.

            In the evening, Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, with Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta, with the Provincial Council of the St. Matthew Province, led by Fr. Herman Abcede, met with the confreres working in the Missions of Vietnam, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Some the missionaries shared about their community and its members, their apostolates, projects and future plans. Fr. Rampazzo, in turn, appreciated the developments they have made in the past years, which have been fruits of their journey, work and sacrifices. He, then, reminded them how enriching it is to be working in a mission outside one’s country. He also exhorted them to work together with enthusiasm, always living the charism, which is rooted in the gospel, which characterized the life of St. Hannibal and to try to express it in a harmonious way in the different culture where they find themselves. He assured them on his prayer and asked them to pray for him and the General Government as well.

Acknowledgement:

The community of the St. Hannibal Mary Discernment Center facilitated the assembly in the chanting of psalms during all prayer time, with Bro. Lloyd Villahermosa providing the accompanying music. Many thanks to those in charge of many varied tasks (photographers and members of the secretariat, included) for delivering well that made the gathering a success. Sincerest appreciation of the Province goes out to the confreres at the Oasis of Prayer for your warm and hospitable welcome to all. Thanks to all the perpetually professed confreres for their presence, participation and contribution, particularly Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, the General Superior, who came with two of his Councilors, Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta and Fr. Gilson Luiz Maia, and of course Fr. Herman Abcede, the Provincial Superior and his Council. Finally, congratulations to the Ad Hoc Committee who exerted generous efforts in organizing and facilitating this General Assembly, with the assistance of Bro. Al John Provido, much to the delight of its participants. We remember as well those confreres who, due to certain apostolic concerns and other valid reasons, were impeded to participate in the General Assembly 2017. The Province is always with you, as you were with us spiritually in this encounter. Acknowledging here, too, the presence of Fr. Antonio Paciello. See you all again, in God’s grace!