Camillians from the Philippines and from other parts of the globe gathered to participate in this year’s Camillian Renewal Course, a weeklong event where Camillians experienced the spirit of synodality by engaging in dialogue not only with fellow priests and brothers, but also with lay speakers who are experts in their fields. The renewal course was held at St. Camillus Center for Humanization in Health in Quezon City on October 2-7, 2023.
Journeying through the theme “Consecrated Life in the Synodal Church,” this year’s program renewed the Camillians back to the joy of the Gospel–rediscovering the beauty of religious life, community life, evangelical counsels as well as new trends and updates about the church, ministry, vocation promotion and evangelization, among others.
The first day of the Camillian Renewal Course (Manila) 2023 was dedicated to the continuous spiritual nourishment and enrichment of the Religious. A recollection was conducted in two sessions: morning and afternoon. In the morning, Rev. Fr. Eric Anthony S. Escandor, SJ, director of Arvisu House (the Jesuit pre-Novitiate) and the vocation director of Jesuit Philippine Province, shared his reflection on “Prayer and Discernment.”
In the afternoon session, Rev. Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, OP, professor in the Faculty of Sacred Theology at the University of Santo Tomas, shared his reflection on this year’s theme “Consecrated Life in the Synodal Church.” Part of his reflection focused on communion, an important ingredient in synodality, reiterating that community is not only a group of individuals living in a common place but their common endeavor to achieve common meaning, common good and common conscience.
The day started with the regular morning prayer. Before the morning session began, the provincial superior of the Philippine Province, Fr. Evan Paul Villanueva, MI, formally welcomed everyone with his opening remarks. Then Fr. Angel Crisostomo, MI, head of the Renewal Course Committee gave an overview of the whole Camillian Renewal Course (Manila) 2023. The morning session’s highlight was supposed to be the talk of Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD, about “Mission Today and the Conversions it Requires.” However, Fr. Pernia was not able to come due to some personal circumstances but he was able to provide a written copy of his presentation that was read by three Camillian Religious. A short sharing/discussion among the participants took place, guided by the questions provided by Fr. Pernia.
In the afternoon, Msgr. Perdo Quitorio III, head of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Media Office, presented his topic on “Evangelization in Social Media.” An open forum followed after the presentation.
Fr. Michael Woothichai Boonbunlu, MI, was the presider for the day’s Mass and Fr. John Paul Alvarado, MI, the homilist.
The day’s topic focused on the Church. Rev. Fr. Danilo Flores, J.U.D., gave a talk on the updates of Book Six of the Code of Canon Law. He referred the updates as the Franciscan Reform of the Code because it was introduced by Pope Francis. Fr. Flores highlighted the discipline and pastoral approach on zero tolerance of the abuse against minors, the imposition of penal sanctions as the last resort, and the possible sanctions to be imposed to the local ordinary or bishop who will fail to act on such complaint. Further, he explained the challenges on the implementation of the said reform since the Church lacks human resources who are experts on Criminal Law which is necessary in the adjudication of the complaints.
Prof. Pablito Baybado, Ph.D., reported on the “Result of the National Consolidation of the Synodal Consultation.” He highlighted the process of consolidation which allowed participation of each community, parish, diocese and archdiocese. The entire process made apparent the Church’s emphasis on listening from the experiences of the different Christian communities in the country and draw out theological reflections considering the diversity of cultures, languages, challenges and resources. He emphasized that the consolidation avoided the process of making it a research paper; instead, it allowed the expression of the different local churches the way they were prompted by the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Joseph Lukuba, MI, was the presider for the day’s Mass and Fr. Manny Tamayo, MI, the homilist.
The day started with a morning prayer led by Sch. Carl Masip, MI, attended by the Religious and seminarians. The session began at 9:00am with the topic on “Establishing a Vocation Culture and Vocation Ministry” delivered by Fr. Jayson B. David, SDB, and Ms. Celine Acosta. Fr. Jayson B. David, SDB, is the current vocation director of the Salesians of Don Dosco in the Philippine Province and a former officer of the Directors of Vocation in the Philippines–Episcopal Commission on Vocation. He emphasized the need to establish a “culture of vocations” in communities rather than just promoting vocations. It is in the community where different vocations are joyfully nourished that vocation to religious life can arise. He also laid down some ways in how to promote vocations: through social media, internet, face-to-face talks, seminars, etc., which can be a model in promoting Camillian vocations. Ms. Celine Acosta, a youth volunteer of the Salesians, testified on how these activities nurtured vocations in the youth that she herself has decided to enter the convent. After the talk, questions, suggestions and clarifications were discussed that truly made the morning session fruitful.
In the afternoon, Rev. Fr. Pedro Tramontin, MI, the superior general of the Order of the Ministers of the Infirm, who was in Peru at that time, delivered virtually a compelling presentation on the directions of the Camillian Mission worldwide. He shared insights from his visits to various provinces and delegations and announced his upcoming visit to the Philippines next year. The essence of his message emphasized drawing inspiration from the spirituality and charism of St. Camillus, the founder of the Camillian Order, encouraging all Religious to remain dedicated to their mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God, especially in serving the sick.
Following Fr. Tramontin’s discourse, the congregation proceeded to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, which was presided over by Fr. Miroslaw Szwajnoch, MI, the provincial superior of the Camillian Polish Province.
The participants were treated to a thought-provoking session led by Dr. Maria Theresa Gustilo-Villasor, Ph.D., RPsy, Rpm. Her engaging discourse on “A Hero’s Journey in the Psychospiritual Quest” left a lasting impact on the attending priests and brothers. Drawing parallels between the challenges faced in one’s personal journey and that of God, who embarked on a similar heroic path to be with humanity, the talk inspired deep reflection. Participants were encouraged to introspect on their own life journeys and discern the spiritual significance embedded in their personal narratives, fostering a renewed sense of purpose and connection to their faith.
The day concluded with an exploration to the historic city of Manila, providing a welcome break from the intense intellectual discussions of the renewal course. The evening unfolded at Barbara’s, where the participants indulged in a delightful dinner featuring delicious Filipino cuisine. The ambiance was further enhanced by captivating cultural shows, creating a vibrant atmosphere for camaraderie and celebration. The day’s events not only enriched the participants intellectually but also provided a memorable and enjoyable experience that fostered a sense of community among the priests and brothers.
Two significant events occurred during the last day of the renewal course. In the morning, the Camillians had a concelebrated Mass for the Sick, followed by the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. This solemn event was presided over by Fr. Tex Rico Buntol, MI and the homily was delivered by Fr. Anthony Ongcal, MI, both of whom are assigned as hospital chaplains in Cagayan De Oro, Philippines. The Mass for the Sick serves not only to comfort the afflicted and the suffering but also to remind the Camillian Religious that they have a mission that is never-ending–a mission requiring more compassion and love, urging them to be bearers of God’s healing hands for the sick.
In the afternoon, the Camillian Religious embarked on a spiritual journey to The Antipolo Cathedral, International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, to participate in their First Saturday devotion and procession. This event was attended by one of their adopted parishes in the Philippines, the Nuestra Señora dela Annunciata Parish in Bosoboso, Antipolo. This symbolic gathering echoes their communal purpose. With the guidance and inspiration of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, their consecrated life is nothing but a continuous journey in witnessing the love of God for others.
These culminating activities, the Mass for the Sick and the procession with devotion to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, served as the pinnacle of the Camillians’ renewal course. The Mass for the Sick, a solemn gathering of faith and compassion, reflects their commitment to spiritual healing and support within the community. Following this, the procession and devotion to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage symbolize their collective journey, seeking guidance and protection under the Blessed Mother. Together, these encapsulated the essence of the Camillian Renewal Course (Manila) 2023, fostering unity, spiritual rejuvenation, and a shared devotion to the higher purpose that binds their community.