The Province of Saint Ezekiel Moreno celebrated this Wednesday, November 28, the 20th anniversary of its creation in 1998. Last year, Jaazeal Jakosalem from this province reflected on the path and the challenges to which the religious extended by the Philippines, Taiwan , Sierra Leone and Indonesia
Journeying into many challenges
As a Province, we will be facing the many challenges both in the Philippine Church and of the global Church. The growing challenge that our Province will be facing is the emerging ‘internationalization’ of the Church as a whole, not anymore from our biased dependency nor the biased positioning of the “European Church’, but more of a global ‘internationalization’ of our Church. Ten years after our being made a Province, we received the plan to think about “restructuring and revitalization” in our Order, an emerging trend among religious congregations in the 2000’s; fusing, unifying and organizing many provinces collectively into a single entity. In the Order, we were able to fuse provinces from eight to four collective provinces – after two General Chapters. It took us time to discern the gaps of the birthing of ‘restructuring’ of some of our provinces.
Independence and Beyond Identity
Embracing ‘independence’ is embracing our cultural identity inseparable from our religious consecration. From among our forebears, who insisted and earlier failed, of managing our institutional structure as an all-Filipino entity, did not win the battle, but gloriously fought a good fight. It was call of the moment, at the same time, a projection of our being a Province now.
What could have been an experience of embracing our religious consecration beyond culture, failed to be articulated and defined by the influence of culture-centered sense of entitlement. Our being Christian does not have a class distinction, nor our being religious. Our many experiences should make us embrace our culture humbly, and be able to share our own with others; and empower others without limits of their own identity; and make the Church, a church for others – with shared ministry. Not exclusive but inclusive.
Present – Future Challenges
In a not-so-distant future, without the many juridical barriers of our ‘provincial system’ of governance; the Order will practically embrace a functional intra-cultural collective governance. With the experience of our ‘challenged’ communities and provinces in Europe, existing yet challenged by vocation and personnel crises; we are at the treshold of making a singular collective congregation – diffusing provincial barriers; and thereby making the religious participate in co-creative spaces of assignment. Pope Francis was right, when he callenged us about ‘the temptation of survival’, an emerging dangerous sub-culture in religious communities, he said “The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions… It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives. The temptation of survival makes us forget grace…” (Pope Francis, XXI World Day of Consecrated Life, 2017) These are real counter-communitarian sub-cultures embraced institutionally, and even from among those in the leadership. Really emerging around this time, are attempts to deconstruct the existing crisis among religious congregations; from crisis of vocations to managing of resources. Internally, in the Augustinian family we need to be trying to re-think of a mythical yet possible “2nd Great Union” concept of consolidating the richness of our ministries, resources and diverse cultural identities; and in a way positively identifying the ‘multicultural transformation’ (of Pope Francis) of religious life as challenged now and in the near future.
Tracing our beginnings, from within the Augustinian family; next, the founding moment during the Chapter of Toledo in 1588; the arrival of the Augustinian Recollect missionaries in the Philippines in 1606 (and the many succeeding missionary journeys bearing fruits of sacrifices, holiness and martydom among our missionaries); the many attempts of ‘Filipinization’ and until November 28, 1998 – receiving our official establishment as the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno. The Holy Spirit continuosly inspires and accompanies our grace-filled existence, as Pope Francis said: “he never tires of being creative! Now, with the new forms of consecrated life, he is truly creative, with charisms…. It is interesting: he is the Author of Diversity, but at the same time the Creator of Unity. This is the Holy Spirit. And with this diversity of charisms and many other things, he creates the unity of the Body of Christ, and also the unity of consecrated life. And this, too, is a challenge.” (Pope Francis, May 4, 2018)
After 20 years, and counting for the coming 25th year, we anchor our being a Province in our preparation to embrace the many creative challenges of the global church. Possibly, re-thinking our ministries (now active in Sierra Leone, Saipan & Indonesia), divesting from both our securities and insecurities, cleansing our own both personal and institutional, embracing real communion from within and from among our people, and again, being responsive to the challenge and call of the Holy Spirit. And more than ever, we are creators of communion.
Jaazeal Jakosalem – Augustinian Recollect