Father Bruno Vanin died this morning (July 7 2015) in Lecco, Italy. He was suffering from cancer for the past one year. Born in Treviso on November 26,1956 and ordained priest on December 27,1980, he was assigned to the Philippine’s mission in 1981 and worked there since.
Negli ultimi giorni di Rancio nella stanza terminale, con la barba bianca, il volto scheletrico, i desideri che rimpicciolivano, le gambe vacillanti, il tramonto riflesso sulle montagne a nord (San Martino), con la sola serenità e il calmo avvertimento dell’unica stella notturna a lui rimasta, lui, Bruno, con grande dignità si beveva la vita in tutto quello che in Mindanao era stato, che era e sarebbe stato.
Late in May, the Catholic Church beatified the martyred Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Will similar recognition come someday to Mindanao?
That’s where missionaries Tulio Favali and Fausto Tentorio were likewise murdered. The two were members of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Pime). “Why do you wish to be a priest, even though priests are being killed?” someone once asked Favali. His reply: “So that they will have more priests to kill
Established in 1850 in Italy, the Pime is now in 17 countries, including the Philippines. Its roster includes 18 martyrs and one canonized saint.
As in El Salvador, paramilitary operatives of counterinsurgency groups in Mindanao have tarred popular movements for change as “subversive.” Their agents smeared Pime missionaries—whispering about the Communist Party of the Philippines’ praise for Father Tentorio, for example.
Pope Benedict XVI met these smears head on. He asked Giuseppe Pinto, then the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio in Manila, to convey his message to Filipinos. Tentorio was “a good priest, a fervent believer,” the Pope wrote. “For many years, he served the people of the Philippines in a courageous and indefatigable way.”
Benedict’s statement was published in the Vatican’s official daily, L’Osservatore Romano.
Who slammed the replay button?
For years, opponents within the Vatican blocked the cause of Blessed Oscar Romero. “But with the presence of Pope Francis, a sensible Latino who knows Latin America, the process was revived,” then finally pushed through, writes Bernardo Barranco, the president of the Center of Religious Studies, an institute in Mexico City. “It acknowledged a figure of the Church who has been denied for decades.”
Romero was shot while saying Mass by a junta gunman. A “truth commission” later concluded that former army major Roberto d’Aubuisson ordered the killing. He was never tried. Impunity enabled him to establish the conservative Arena party, which governed El Salvador until 2009. He is now in the opposition.
“For a whole generation of Christians in Latin America, Romero’s murder demonstrated the barbarity of military dictatorships,” writes Barranco. Romero morphed from a timid bishop to an outspoken prelate after El Salvador goons gunned down a Jesuit priest who defended the poor.
In the Philippines, it has been four years now since the murder of Tentorio (or “Father Pops”).
Last October, a caravan disembarked in Arakan, North Cotabato. The caravan members heard Mass concelebrated by 15 priests. The theme of the liturgy was Pope Francis’ call: “Go. Do not be afraid. Serve the people.”
They recalled that after arriving in Kidapawan, Father Pops stayed in the village of Kabacan to learn the local languages.
He trekked to far-flung villages to reach the neglected tribals and farmers. And he taught them how “to unite into organizations where they developed a new kind of education that empowered them to struggle for their rights.”
Lawyer Gregorio Andolana documented “some investors racing to exploit the natural resources of Arakan.” He pinpointed the corrupt politicians who feared that the organized farmers and tribals would no longer sell their votes.
These politicians considered priests like Tentorio and Favali as subversive. For some, this was sufficient motive for an extrajudicial killing.
After many appeals to the President, a new special investigating team for unsolved cases is now conducting an in-depth review of Tentorio’s killing. We want to see results, says Fr. Peter Geremia of the Pime.
Filipinos will find the Romero case instructive. After years in which the process was stalled, Pope Francis’ beatification decision was “a surprise and a thrill for everyone,” said Simeon Reyes, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in El Salvador.
“There were always priests who were not in agreement with him,” said Gaspar Romero, the slain bishop’s brother. “But the Vatican has recognized him as a man of faith, a man who spoke for the neediest, defending the poor from injustices, and who was killed for it.”
Romero’s case for sainthood became bogged down in Church politics, recalls Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who guided the beatification cause through the process.
Over the years, Romero’s opponents argued that he was too politically controversial and a follower of “liberation theology,” a movement within the Church focused on fighting injustice and inequality.
“A mountain of paper, unfortunately, weighed down” Romero’s case. Will that be the case in Mindanao?
Pope Francis bypassed senior prelates to pick the second Filipino cardinal from Mindanao, Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato.
The violence that Romero encountered, including the killing of his fellow priests, “radicalized [him] and made him aware that the repression had no limits, that they would attack anyone equally, including the Church,” said Jose Jorge Siman, a friend for many years.
A prayer, wrongly attributed to Romero, says it is also for martyred missionaries Favali and Tentorio:
“The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work….
“Nothing we do is complete, which is saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us… We plant the seeds that one day will grow….
“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that… We may never see the end results… We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
FFPTFI Mid Report RELIEF AND REHABILITATION ASSISTANCE FOR TYPHOON YOLANDA-‐AFFECTED AREAS LA PAZ, SOUTHERN LEYTE
Tomorrow is the Death Anniversary of Father Tullio Favali. This song is for Saint Pedro Calungsod pero applicable rin kay Father and all the martyrs.
WITH LOVE AND FAITH (SONG FOR SAINT PEDRO CALUNGSOD)
To be the Lord’s companion and his friend,
you vowed to turn away from sin.
And with your passion and your piety,
you showed us how to hope and trust in him.
To spread the Lord’s salvation and his truth,
you traveled far to preach your dream.
And with your mighty selfless heart and soul, you showed us how to live and die for him.
With your love and faith you conquered doubt and hate.
Lead us to God’s Word and bring light to the world.
Guide us all as we prepare our hearts and be your company
in mission to create God’s kingdom here on Earth.
To prove the Lord’s compassion and his strength,
you shed your blood to save a kin.
And with your loyalty and sacrifice,
you showed us how to laud and honor him.
God’s kingdom here on earth!
At a certain moment, during suffering, ….. I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something -and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
Brother Giovanni came here in 1968 and was one of the founders of PIME-Philippines. Till 1981 he worked, most of the time, in the squatter’s area of Tondo, Manila. Then in 1981 was assigned to PIME-Italy. He came back to the Philippines in 1987 and, after three years, finally, returned to Italy. Joyful spirit often and suddenly he would have burst out singing popular songs and his filipino friends were filled with such delight as they must have found in freedom that time, under the rule of Martial Law.
Con percorso che segue le vicende di Pietro e del Discepolo Amato nel vangelo di Giovanni, capitoli 13-17, 20-21. Chi e’ l’apostolo di Cristo? La sua identità e come attuare la sua missione.
Giovanni rappresenta il semplice discepolo, quello che vuole bene e si lascia amare da Gesù mentre Pietro, il pastore e ministro della Chiesa nella sua visibilità. Impersonano due ruoli ecclesiali distinti, ma non separabili. Si tratta di due figure dell’evento cristiano. Giovanni l’amore permanente personificato dell’apostolo verso Cristo e Pietro che invece diventa apostolo attraverso un percorso. Fu in Giudea, nel luogo dove si manifestò il Battista che e’ situata la prima chiamata: due discepoli infatti, sentendo Giovanni Battista indicare Gesù come l’Agnello di Dio, gli si avvicinarono e gli chiesero dove abitasse; quindi passarono la giornata con lui. Andrea, il fratello di Simone, era uno dei due discepoli e per primo egli avvertì suo fratello: “Abbiamo trovato il Messia”, e lo condusse da Gesù, il quale, “fissando lo sguardo su di lui, disse: Tu sei Simone, il figlio di Giovanni: ti chiamerai Cefa”, che vuol dire Pietro. Quindi Simone cerca il messia e suo fratello Andrea glielo indica. I veri discepoli sono sempre in attesa, di nuovi sguardi e incontri. Nell’incontro Simone si accorge di essere visto. Gesu’ coglie la sua identità perché conosce tutti. Guarda con l’intenzione di un progetto per questo da un secondo nome a Simone e lo chiama Cefa, Pietro, la roccia. La nuova comunità ha bisogno di stabilità. A noi dice che l’apostolo deve essere un uomo in ricerca, in attesa non ancora arrivato e quando sosta, o e’ raggiunto, si pone domande profonde, nei luoghi della fragilità e nell’ordinario, mostrando uno stile di vita stabile ed evangelico.
Il Vangelo di Giovanni non descrive l’istituzione dell’Eucarestia, ma riferisce di un gesto di Gesù’ normalmente lasciato a degli schiavi: lavare i piedi. Stupefatto, Pietro protesta con energia ma Gesù’ risponde: “Se non ti laverò, non avrai parte con me”. Poi il comandamento nuovo di reciproco aiuto. A noi dice umiltà e servizio.
Ma c’è un’immagine che più di ogni altra che indica chi e’ il discepolo amato, quando nell’ultima cena lo vediamo sdraiato a mangiare – come era consuetudine – quasi poggiandosi sul petto di Gesù’. È questa un’immagine intensa perché sappiamo che quel discepolo (Giovanni) ha un rapporto con Cristo lo stesso modo che il Cristo, secondo il prologo, ha presso il Padre. Al discepolo che Gesù vuole bene – cioè a ciascuno di noi – viene chiesto di farsi amare da Cristo e di rimanere nella sua amicizia.
Durante la cena il ‘discepolo amato’ si confronta con il peccato dell’altro discepolo Giuda. Gesù’ rivela solo a Giovanni chi sarà il traditore. Però anche a Giuda sono lavati i piedi ed egli rimane pienamente inserito in un atto di amore che perdona. Peccato come presa di possesso progressiva. Giuda ultimo atto di un processo consumato nel tempo. Anche Pietro tradirà. A noi dice che il mondo rimane una sfida dove il male può pian piano prendere possesso della nostra vita e quindi occorre la capacità di rivedere la propria storia in modo critico.
E poi incontriamo, il discepolo amato, ai piedi della croce, in una scena drammatica e di portata simbolica, dove è invitato dal Cristo a prendere il suo posto di figlio presso sua Madre. A noi dice un’attenzione possibile, fino all’ultimo respiro, per coloro che ci hanno generato Sulla maternità che da la vita e genera una nuova generazione di uomini (come Eva). Poi sulla croce sangue e acqua. A noi dice essere conquistati dalla croce. Contemplarla. Abitarne il mistero.
Infine la Missione. L’entusiasmo di Pietro che si getta in acqua per raggiungere Gesù risorto; sulla riva. Ma poi tristezza perché gli viene indirettamente ricordato il suo triplo tradimento. Dopo la prova di fiducia la sua autorità e’ confermata perché vuole bene sinceramente: “Signore, tu sai tutto; tu sai che ti voglio bene”. Pietro si sente quindi predire quello che lo attenderà in età avanzata. Dopo di che Gesù disse: “Seguimi” ma l’apostolo vedendo che il discepolo amato seguiva le loro orme, interrogò Gesù sul destino di quel discepolo prediletto. La risposta del Cristo è molto importante: «Se voglio che egli rimanga finché io venga, che importa a te? Tu seguimi». Forse voleva dire a Pietro: A te ho affidato il compito di governare il mio gregge, ma questo gregge non è il tuo. Seguire Cristo appare più importante che gestire una organizzazione ed infatti Pietro diventerà martire ed evangelizzatore. A noi dice di dare molta più importanza allo stile di vita e meno al ruolo che ci viene assegnato. Interessati agli altri compagni di cammino, esserne sinceramente amici anche se il destino di ciascuno può rimanere un segreto che solo Cristo sa amministrare.
* * *
John is the simple disciple, the one who loves and is loved by Jesus and Peter, the pastor and minister of the Church in his visibility. They embody two distinct ecclesial roles, but not separable. John personified the permanent love of an apostle and Peter the follower who became apostle through a journey. It was in Judea, the place where the Baptist appeared where in situated the first call. Two disciples, hearing John the Baptist who points to Jesus as the Lamb of God, went to Jesus and asked him where he lived, so they spent the day with him . Andrew, the brother of Simon, was one of the first disciples and he told his brother: “We have found the Messiah” and brought him to Jesus, who “looked at Simon and said, Thou art Simon, the son of John: You shall be called Cephas “, which means Peter. True disciples are always waiting, new encounters where to be seen by Jesus. Jesus captures his identity because he knows everyone. In Simon He finds also a project for this reason gives a second name to Simon and calls him Cephas, Peter, the rock. The new community needs stability. We can say then that the apostle must be a man in research, not yet arrived and in constant wait to be reached. He poses profound questions in places of weakness and in the ordinary way of life, but showing a stable and evangelical style of living.
The Gospel of John does not describe the institution of the Eucharist, but refers to a gesture of Jesus normally left to the slaves: washing of feet. Stunned, Peter protested vigorously but Jesus answer: “If you I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Then the new commandment of mutual help. We can say then humility and service.
An other image shows who is ‘the beloved disciple, during the Last Supper when we see him lying down to eat – as was customary – almost leaning on Jesus’ breast’. This image is strong because we know that the disciple (John) has a symbolic relationship with Christ the same way that Christ, according to the prologue, has with the Father. The disciple that Jesus loves you – that is each of us – are asked to be loved by Christ and to remain in his friendship.
During dinner, the ‘beloved disciple’ is confronted with the sin of the disciple Judas. Only to John Jesus revealed who is the traitor. But Judas too has his feet washed by Jesus, so he too remains fully inserted in an act of love that forgives. Sin is seen as something taking possession progressive. Judas is in the last act of a process consumed over time. Peter also will betrayed Jesus. We can say then that the world remains a challenge where evil can gradually take possession of our lives and therefore we need the ability to review our history in a critical way.
And then we meet, the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross, in a dramatic and symbolic scene, where he is invited by Christ to take his place as a child of his mother. We can say attention to the last breath, for those who have generated us, an in this case, a motherhood that gives life and creates a new generation of men (as Eve did). Then on the cross, blood and water. We can say then … to be conquered by the cross. Contemplate it. Living its mystery.
Finally, theMission. Peter with enthusiasm throws himself into the water in order to reach the Resurrected Jesus, on the shore. But then sadness because Christ indirectly recalled his triple betrayal. After this test his authority and trust is confirmed because he sincerely loves Christ, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” Peter then hears the prediction of what will happen to him in the future. After this, Jesus said, “Follow me” but the apostle saw that the beloved disciple was following in their footsteps, and asked Jesus about the fate of this beloved disciple. The answer of Christ is very important: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what does it matter to you? Follow me. ” Maybe he wanted to say to Peter, to you I have entrusted the task of governing my flock, but this is not your flock. Following Christ is more important than managing an organization and in fact Peter will become a martyr and an evangelist. We can say then that we must give much more emphasis on lifestyle and less to the role that it has been assigned to us. To be interested in the other companions and travelers, be sincere friends even if the fate of each can remain a secret that only Christ can administer.
by Jeevankumar Juvvala
It is a time of glad tidings of Great Joy for the PIME Seminary in Tagaytay and for PIME in the world at large. Before we could finish savouring the grace-filled moments of the Beatification of Fr. Clemente Vismara, two tides of happiness and joy flowed into the PIME House in Tagaytay. We have celebrated with immense joy and gratitude the Final Promise and the Diaconal Ordination of Bro. Kantharao Gudipudi and Bro. Nelson Meshian. On the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in the presence of Fr. Simone Caelli (Rector), Fr. Urbani (Spiritual Director), PIME confreres, community members, and other guests, Fr. Giovanni Re, the Regional Superior, Philippines, warmly welcomed them into the family of PIME. In his reflection Fr. Re invited the two of them to imitate Sts. Peter and Paul. In his words, “It is a great occasion to look back into your lives and see the grace of God unfolding and the plans of God being fulfilled in you.” And today our joy reached its paramount as we have witnessed their Ordination to the Diaconate at the hands of Rev. Bp. Louis Antonio G. Tagle in the presence of many religious and faithful. Bishop Tagle reminded all who gathered for the celebration of how God continues to love the Church by sending many who are inspired to serve his people. He called upon the two of them to live in the spirit of Diaconia and he also said, “The essence of the ministry of a deacon does not lie in the quantity of tasks that he performs, but in the Spirit of Service in which he lives.” Our celebration was a memorable one with all the people who came and blessed our two young deacons. The new deacons expressed their gratitude to all those who were instrumental in their growth and those who supported them with constant prayers. We thank the Lord who blessed us with these days of grace upon grace and who still leads us to other glad tidings.
(Saturday of the Forth Week of Easter; Acts 13:44-52; – John 14:7-14)
The countdown is over … you are on the launching pad and all systems are ‘go’… you are ready to take off … You have been together for the past four weeks … and it’s time to go … to reach out … Euntes in mundum universum … It is Jesus’ command!
The bonding among you has been so good and enjoyable that it is hard to have to say good-bye, but you also know that people, your brothers and sisters, especially those in the margins, are waiting for you in your old or new assignment.
That’s the reality of the Euntes Mission Center and yes … this is another ‘interruption’ in your life that marks the beginning of a new journey … have been both inspired and challenged and you just know this is the time to GO and REACH OUT!
You came here to be a renewed Church and become a new history as I said to you in my homily on orientation day…In the past four weeks, in what can be called your Mount Sinai experience, you have been challenged and inspired to shift paradigms both in your minds and hearts, you developed a new appreciation of your culture and, discovering your migrant condition and experiencing reconciliation, you are ready to accept yourself as ‘God’s Beloved’. This means that, with greater compassion in your hearts, you want to go and break open the Word of God to all who suffer or are afflicted, crossing over all barriers and boundaries, because they are women, children, migrants, IP, refugees, in prison or in hospitals, all of them marginalized in our globalized world …
In the past four weeks you shared life in the prodigality of many blessings…you gifted one another with your life experiences, you shared your joys and pains, the high and low points in your ministry … you rediscovered the original sense of purpose in your call to share in the Missio Dei while opening yourselves to renewal and transformation.
Let us be grateful for all those times you shared, for those who with words and deeds have opened your eyes, your minds and hearts. Each one of you looking at the other can say (as the Song of Thanksgiving goes): You are ever a part of my life; all the good that you have shared will live on in my heart!
I confess that when I saw the number of Priests and Brothers attending the program I was worried … membership seemed ‘clergy heavy’ as they might ‘lord it over’ … I was wrong; they proved to be true ‘companions’ generously empowering the laity and women Religious. Because of this, the lay people in our midst, both single and married, were such a gift to all of us. All the Sisters, especially the OND Novices, with their zest for life, their vibrancy and strong passion for mission have enhanced the joy and liveliness of our community. Let us be grateful.
I thank all the liturgical groups – all of you – for preparing for us, day after day, Eucharistic celebrations that were creative, simple and meaningful.
In today’s First Reading Paul quotes the OT where God had said that Israel was set aside and chosen for a special mission in the world: “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
However, we know that Israel slowly forgot that their mission was MISSIO DEI and slowly they had totally turned in on hemselves and refused to change.
This can happen to us as Church if we remove ourselves from where suffering humankind is … if we distance ourselves from the sights of God’s visitation…the margins!
We are called to be the new Paul and Barnabas today… actually reaching out to “outsiders”, people in the margins, and proclaiming to them the good news of the love and compassion of the Father.
Today’s Gospel page remind us that our brothers and sisters, especially those in the margins, are still crying out to each one of us repeating what Philip said to Jesus: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” We also hear Jesus’ answer:
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
Jesus says that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. The words Jesus speaks are not his words but the words of the Father. The works he does are the works of the Father.
At the end of our course Towards a Renewed Mission in the Church, can we say that we and our mission work are truly a reflection/ a mirror of the love of God, our Father/ Mother?
We are aware that the insights we have received in choosing our personal prodigality … the Good Samaritan…the Good Shepherd … the Emmaus story … the Washing of the feet … the Visitation … the Adulterous Woman … will actually mark and shape our mission disposition and make a difference.
Like Paul and Barnabas and all the disciples in today’s first reading may your going-out from the Euntes community be always filled with joy and the Holy Spirit … After all as you will sing at Communion time (“Mission”) … The message we’re proclaiming is the reign of God’s Kingdom/ The offer of salvation to all of God’s creation.
God bless you and Happy Mission Journey!
The (PIME) superiors in the Philippines assigned Gigi (Cocquio) to the PIME parish of San Pablo Apostol in Magsaysay Village, a shantytown for about 45,000 shack dwellers on the outskirts of Tondo, Manila bordering on Manila Bay. Magsaysay Village was part of the main squatter area of Tondo, also called Manila‟s hell‘ one of the largest squatter areas in Southeast Asia with over 300,000 inhabitants. The area was separated from Manila by a polluted river. The people living there were from all over the country and had come to the city seeking a better life, but either had no job or had fallen on hard times. Life was very difficult in the squatter village—no running water or electricity, dirt paths instead of streets, and no sewage. Malnourished children were everywhere and a lot of sickness and death. There was much disease and little money for doctors or medicine. Most of the shanties were shoddy wooden shacks with corrugated sheet roofing. Gangs and criminals were mixed among the good, poor people. And, there were the children — everywhere many, many children! (…)
Poverty in the Philippines was extreme. There were large plantations (some owned by Dole and Del Monte) on many of the islands with thousands of acres of land that paid meager wages to the peasant workers. Farmers worked for wealthy landowners and there was little private ownership of land. People from all over the islands flocked to Manila looking for work—but not much work was available. Moreover, most of the newcomers would end up living in a squatter area. Many young girls and boys worked for middle class and wealthy Filipinos as domestic servants–drivers, house cleaners, and laundry women, etc. Their wages were next to nothing. Most Filipinos wanted to go abroad and the lure of the United States was strong. The last years of the 1960s and the first two years of the 1970s witnessed the radicalization of the country’s student population. Students in various colleges and universities held massive rallies and demonstrations to express their frustrations and resentments. The country experienced the emergence of several mass organizations, among them most notably, a reorganized Communist Party and the NPA (New People‘s Army). The Philippines was in a climate of increasing opposition and civil unrest—there was an economic crisis brought on by external and internal forces, a restive and radicalized student population demanding reforms in the educational system, a rising tide of criminality, and a movement for secession in Mindanao (the southernmost and largest Muslim-dominated Island). Amidst a rising wave of lawlessness and the threat of Communist insurgency, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972– Proclamation No. 1081. Marcos, ruling by decree, curtailed press freedoms and other civil liberties. He closed down Congress and media establishments, and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists. Ferdinand Marcos was in power from 1965 until 1986.
In that climate, Magsaysay Village and Tondo came under the surveillance of the military, often undercover, and even attending Masses and religious celebrations. The PIME missionaries were organizing the squatters to speak out for their rights for water, electricity, better wages, and housing that is more decent. Parish leaders were formed and a parish council set-up along with community organizations to not only deepen the spiritual life and their faith but, also to approach the city and the government for their basic human needs (based on the process of conscientization of Paolo Freire‘s Pedagogy of the Oppressed). Marches were organized to the Mayor‘s Office and to Manila city officials. Awakening the poor to realize their oppression and teaching for social justice were not very welcome actions in a dictatorship.
Many people in the squatter area began to be arrested and the work of Gigi and his PIME fellow-priests at San Pablo Apostol Parish came under suspicion. Not only were the priests foreigners (American and Italian) but, in addition to preaching the Gospel, they were training organizers to found community organizations–all in an effort to seek new ways to allow the poor and powerless to lift themselves up.
In a time of martial law, organizing the people was indeed suspect!
One of the songs that the people in the Tondo parish loved to sing, most often in the groups organized by Gigi and his companions, was Ang Bayan Ko (My Country) one of the most popular patriotic songs of the Philippines. The song was written as a protest song during the American occupation of the Philippines (1898 -1946) and was often sung in protest rallies and demonstrations. Due to the song being used against the Marcos dictatorship, during the Martial Law era (1972-1981), the Marcos government banned public performances of the piece; anyone who dared to sing or play it in public was deemed a dissident and could potentially have been incarcerated. In Tondo—small successes were happening—more and more people were coming to the parish, attendance at the Masses and liturgies increased, more children in religious education, more people received the sacraments, and small Christian community groups flourished. Gigi and groups from the parish marched to the mayor‘s office to demand that the city install some public water faucets and spray the area for mosquito control. The result was successful! However, Gigi and PIME in Tondo paid a bitter price—coming to the displeased attention of government officials.
The San Pablo Apostol parish groups began to organize a coalition of all the squatters from the wider Manila area. Many priests and religious sisters from around Manila joined them in order to show Church solidarity and to protect the people from the military.
One evening, after one of these meetings, a group of military and police were outside the San Pablo Apostol parish church and began to arrest some of the participants. Some people fled and others hurried into the PIME priests‘ rectory residence. A group of officers asked to enter the PIME residence to pursue the people, but they were not given permission. (…)
Two days later, Saturday, January 24, 1976 a group of officers accompanied by the Military Chaplain returned. Father Francis Alessi, the PIME Regional Superior, who happened to be visiting, opened the door to find the officers there. Gigi and Alessi were questioned and asked to show their passports. At that moment, the soldiers displayed an order of arrest for both Gigi and Alessi—both priests were accused of violating General Order # 2 –that is, subversive actions of protests and demonstrations against the government.
What occurred next seemed to have happened in a whirlwind, and would return hundreds of times to Gigi‘s mind. He would analyze the events and replay each moment repeatedly. Both priests were arrested immediately, put into separate cars, and taken to the Office of Immigration and Deportation where Commissioner Edmondo Reyes questioned them. They were interrogated about their presence in the Philippines, their missionary work and participation in marches and protests against the government. The Italian embassy was not allowed to intervene on their behalf. About four o‘clock in the afternoon both priests were driven to the airport and read a list of accusations against them:
– to have organized and participated in mass demonstrations against the government with the purpose to subvert the state;
– to have favored the formation of young people to join the NPA revolutionary movement;
– to have enjoined in a clear political action by a house-to-house campaign soliciting signatures for a petition requesting the release of Senator Aquino;
– to have supervised and controlled the printing of materials to incite people against their government;
– to have sent followers to the ecclesiastical provinces of Negros and Isabela to disseminate these seditious materials;
– to have organized a demonstration of workers.
Both Gigi and Francis Alessi were given a light jacket and some money because they had nothing but the shirts on their back when they were arrested. They were instructed to write a short farewell note to their fellow missionaries and a letter of thanks to Msgr. Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila. As soon as they completed the notes, they were taken to the airport and placed on the next flight – an Air France flight to Rome. Two Filipino military guards accompanied them on the trip.
The Philippine Customs never exit stamped their passports. However, Gigi‘s heart would be forever marked by this forced expulsion from the work that he believed in and loved. He began his missionary work to help others, now he was the one who needed to be helped. It was Gigi‘s belief that it is not so important how much one does for another, but how much one grows in a deep and profound way with the other.
The people of Tondo may have never read the whole Bible, but they knew parts by memory and lived it in practice every day of their lives spent in poverty and deprivation. Their life was like an unfolding of the events in Sacred Scripture, as they would have never been able to understand from a study of schoolbooks. Gigi had walked with the people of Tondo on a deep spiritual journey without once having intended to go against neither the institutions of government nor any doctrines.
And, this was now a bitter pill–to be accused of being a Communist. He barely knew what to say! He was thrown out of the country without the possibility to respond and he had to leave behind all those who were close to him on this journey of love and learning.
Many tears began to flow during the flight to Italy. Alessi said, ” Okay Gigi, let‘s cry for a few minutes and, then, think about what we are going to do”. They cried for more than a few minutes‘ and decided to try to escape wherever the plane first touched down before Rome. But that never happened! The plane landed in Rome and, then, the two guards handed them their passports. At the International exit, a PIME superior from Rome met them and asked where their baggage was. They stared at him without saying a word—all they had was what they were wearing!
It was winter in Italy and cold, and their hearts were further chilled by the icy reception they received from a few of the PIME fathers in Rome. Nevertheless, Gigi knew that the story was not yet over—neither his nor that of Tondo, because the sun shines on both good and bad.
The shepherd was stricken but the sheep would not be lost.
For the whole story go to http://www.hoaainaomakaha.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Story-of-a-Pencil.pdf