About 724 priests aptly reflected on the significance of ‘dialogue, communion, and mission’ during the 44th Diocesan Clergy of Mindanao (DCM) Convention hosted by the Diocese of Malaybalay on Feb. 17 to 19. The annual convention reflected on the theme “DCM Commits to Dialogue, Communion and Mission Towards Harmony”, which is a play of words echoing the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples.
Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay thanked the Mindanao clergy for giving meaning to the letters ‘DCM’, acknowledging the grace they asked for a deeper reflection of the words dialogue, communion, and mission. In the event’s opening Mass, Cabantan in his homily recounted Archbishop Romulo Valles’ words of gratitude to the Mindanao Church “especially its first leaders, bishops, priests, religious men and women who started Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference in 1971.”
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reportedly said these words on their formators’ meeting, the night before the official start of the convention The MSPC, Bp. Cabantan added, brought forth many activities and one of these is the gathering of its clergy – the DCM Convention; for its youth, the MSPC Youth Conference, and for its catechists, the Mindanao Catechists’ Convention.
“Through the MSPC, we have different activities in the (Mindanao) church where we gather, we bond, we get additional strength and where we share, so we can continue the mission entrusted to us by the Lord,” he said. Reflecting on the convention’s theme, he also made one good example in the life of the late prelate of Marawi, Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud. “His life in Marawi is an apostolate of presence, a dialogue of life and faith, together with the Protestant Dansalan College of Marawi,” said Cabantan. He also acknowledged that even before the formal setting up of the interreligious dialogue movement particularly in the Mindanao Church, the first missionaries, especially in these largely Muslim inhabited areas, have long been in dialogue with the community.
Bp. Cabantan said that Mindanao has a vast history of promoting and catalyzing dialogue – the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City that was started by Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra PIME in 1984 and the Bishops-Ulama Conference in which retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao was among the co-convenors. Bp. Cabantan’s homily also discussed how the life of the clergy and missionaries in Mindanao started and improved the dialogue and communion with the indigenous peoples.
“In Bukidnon, we have Fr. Vincent Cullen, SJ,” he said.
The basic ecclesial community (BEC) in the country is also one of the legacies of the Mindanao Church, he added. According to the CBCP-BEC official website, “In the late 1960s, immediately after Vatican II, foreign missionaries in the frontier mission areas in Mindanao and Negros formed the first BECs.” The Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC), which was first held in 1971 and since then meets every 3 years, was instrumental in propagating these BECs all over Mindanao.
Some dioceses and parishes in Visayas and Luzon soon adopted the formation of BECs as their pastoral thrust. Bp. Cabantan encouraged the Mindanao clergy to celebrate dialogue, which started in the Mindanao church and was adopted by the whole Philippine church.
“It is a grace given to us by God, and we should rightfully give thanks for this,” he added.
This year’s convention, a one-of-a-kind in the whole Philippine Catholic Church, was held in Malaybalay as the diocese celebrates its Golden Jubilee that will culminate in April 2020.