Message of the Provincial
Homily on the 30th anniversary
of the Inauguration of the Province
January 15, 2014 – Basilica del Santo Niño – 10:00 AM
Greetings… Viva Pit Señor!
Exactly 30 years ago (1984) on the same 15th of January the inaugural mass on the creation of the newest Province in the Augustinian Order and the only one in Asia (others are only Vicariates or Delegation) took place. That event was truly historical with no less than the Prior General of the Augustinian Order, then, Very Rev. Martin Nolan, OSA, presiding the Eucharist, with the Prior Provincials of the Province of Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines, Fr. Pedro Rubio, OSA, and of the Province of Santo Niño-Philippines, yours truly, as main concelebrants. Other ecclesiastical dignitaries present were His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was then a newly installed Archbishop of Cebu, and other Major Superiors of the Augustinian Order from Rome and from other Provinces who have missionary presence in Asia-Pacific. Certainly, many others were there too to witness that occasion, in particular the members of the new Province, the other members of the Augustinian Family, lay affiliates and associates, benefactors and friends of the Order, and devotees of Santo Niño.
Personally, presiding this mass on the 30th anniversary of the Province, and again as Prior Provincial, is indeed a special privilege from the Lord and I could only express deep within my being my deepest gratitude to Señor Santo Niño.
Perhaps one may ask why January 15 was chosen as the date of the inauguration, when the new Province was approved by the 174th General Chapter in Rome on September 15, 1983 and its official date of creation as indicated in a decree issued by the Prior General was December 25, 1983? The simple answer was in that year 1984 January 15 was the Feast of Santo Niño. What could have been the best date for the Province that carries the name of Santo Niño to choose in celebrating its inauguration except the feast day of its Patron?
So today, my dear brothers and sisters, is indeed a great moment of gratitude to God for the many blessings that were granted to the Province since its creation 30 years ago. The scriptural passages taken from the First Reading, from Book of Sirach, appropriately describe the reasons for our celebration today. Among the blessings received, as stated by the prophet, is God’s fostering of growth of the Province since its conception to birth, from “the womb” of the Mother Province and the Order as such until its birth, and throughout the 30 long years of maturing in its service to God and people. The conception and birth was not without difficulties, from different aspects: psychological and social – a separation from a parent is not always looked at favourably by some, and even considered a wrong move, or at least, a premature one; religious and spiritual – the move could be seen as selfishly motivated and not properly discerned, or even outright disobedience; and moral and juridical – like collective unanimity and unconditional resolve to pursue the goal regardless of its costs, as well as the question of numbers and apt preparation to become a Province. One thing was very clear, however, as seen from the relatively smooth process of its creation – and I believe most of those involved then, both from the Mother Province and from the new one are convinced of this – that truly the coming into existence of a new Province was willed by the Lord. Today, therefore, is indeed a day of thanksgiving to God.
But obviously, anything that come to existence is born for a reason or reasons. And the birth of the Santo Niño Province is not an exception. Citing only a few more significant ones: both the Church and the Augustinian Order were calling for inculturation of our faith and religious way of life to respond more relevantly to the life of the people in different parts of the globe; secondly, there was a call for more participation by relatively young but stable Christian and Catholic communities to the broader task of evangelization by the Church, both in mission ad intra (within the same communities) and ad extra (outside in other parts of the world); and thirdly probably proper to the Augustinians in the Philippines – the time has come that the spiritual descendants of the first religious missionaries who have come to the country should have their own juridical autonomy so that they can pursue, and even expand, the scope of evangelizing works undertaken by their forebears. The laying on of hands over the heads of the local Augustinians had to take place so that the “preaching of the Good News” and the witnessing to the Augustinian way of life would pass on to the responsibility of the latter.
One of the reasons for the celebration of this 30th anniversary of the Province then is for the present members of the Province to become aware of this inherited legacy and spiritual responsibility as followers of St. Augustine living the way of life this Great Father of the Church has indicated, and as dedicated missionaries whose primary task is to help the Church in its task of evangelization, either within the country or outside in other parts of the world. The theme of this event capsulizes the idea of what and how should the members of the Province manifest their identity today: “Filipino Augustinians @ 30: Living in Community, Serving God in freedom under grace.” In other words, Augustinians are called to witness to a life of communion and unity, both within their religious communities and among the people they are working with or serving, and to freely and readily serve the Lord wherever and in whatever form the task of evangelizationm as determined by the Church and the Order, call them.
How to proceed and succeed in this challenge is again outlined to us by the three readings of this liturgical celebration. With the prophet Sirach we pray that God may “grant us joy of heart and abiding peace.” With St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, we reaffirm and renew our faith in the faithfulness of God in calling us to the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ; in other words, in calling us to become the messengers of the Good News to others. And lastly, in the Gospel with St. Matthew, we are reminded to persevere in asking for God’s blessing, to be humble in seeking divine assistance, and always open and discerning towards divine guidance.
To conclude, as we celebrate this year’s Fiesta Señor with the theme, “Santo Niño, the hope of the people”, we, Augustinians, likewise join all in lighting the candle of HOPE in our hearts and minds, in our religious and apostolate-related communities, in our society and people.
Once more, our sincere gratitude to the Lord, and to all those who have participated in this 30th anniversary celebration. Viva Señor Santo Niño! Viva Pit Senyor!