An end to colonial domination and home rule that provides for self-determination were some of the signposts in the Philippines, as historical events unfolded from late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century. With the end of Spanish colonial regime, the numbers of Dominican, Recollect, Augustinian and Franciscan friars decreased.
By 1904, there were only 246 friars left; of these only a hundred could be sent back to the parishes as the rest were too old or wanted to be in education work.
Three Rector Majors – now known as General Superiors – would play a major role in this drive for adaptation. Frs. Nicholas Mauron, Matthias Raus and Patrick Murray would have a hand in giving birth to and strengthening the Redemptorist communities across the Philippines.
From 71 foundations in 1869, the number “rose to 127 by 1887, and had doubled at the time of Fr. Mauron’s death in 1893”; after that “the increase continued rapidly.” Redemptorist communities throughout the world reached 3,229 in 1901.
Fr. Andrew Boylan, the Irish Provincial in the early 1900s, is credited as the one mainly responsible for the coming of the Redemptorists to the Philippines.
FIRST REDEMPTORIST COMMUNITY
The members of the first Redemptorist community in the Philippines were Fr. Patrick Leo as superior, Frs. John Creagh, Matthew O’Callaghan, William O’Sullivan and Thomas Cassin and Brothers Casimir and Eunan. They arrived in Opon, Cebu on June 30, 1906.
The first Redemptorist missions were in Compostela, Cebu (14-21 April 1907), Guadalupe and San Francisco, Camotes Islands (October 1907). By the end of 1913 and early 1914, they began conducting the first of the new type of mission in the parish of Jetafe, Bohol. Fr. Cassin spent a week there to do a survey, inform the people and plan for the mission proper.
Fr. Patrick M. Lynch took over as the superior of the Opon community. Fr. Lynch was a Redemptorist who preferred being on the go. While serving as superior of Opon, he still found his way to Manila, Borneo, Hongkong, Malaya and even Canton in China.
Malate came at the end of a series of events that began with a mission conducted by Fr. Lynch to English-speaking Catholics in the Cathedral in November 1911. Archbishop Harty was so pleased with it that he asked Fr. Lynch to look into having a foundation in Manila. The following year they both agreed to zero in on Malate. However for some reasons, the site for a Redemptorist house and church has shifted to a place by the Manila Bay known as Baclaran – the place of the fish traps (baclad). By the end of 1931 the house was completed and Fr. Grogan took residence there.
There were 213 missions from 1914 to 1928 and it expanded in its coverage and scope from Camiguin to Cebu, Leyte to Negros Oriental, from rural to urban areas. In 1925 missions were done in Manila (Culi-Culi, Malibay and Novaliches, Rizal).
1. Luzon Missions and Foundation
The missions expanded further to Obando, Bulacan where the first complete Tagalog mission was conducted on 8-17 March 1933. Subsequent missions (lasting from three to four days) were conducted in many parishes in Rizal, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. In 1934 the first mission was conducted in Lipa, at San Juan de Bolbok. From there, the missioners moved towards San Pablo, Taal and Nasugbu. The rest of the year they had missions in Manila and the nearby parishes in Caloocan, Parañaque and Bulacan.
Two years later in 1935, they departed for Zambales, Quezon, Pangasinan and Vigan. It was in that year that the Lipa Fathers did a two-week mission in all the parishes of their diocese which followed the earlier parish retreats requested by the bishop. In mid-1936 the first Lipa Redemptorist community – three priests and a Brother with Fr. Taylor as superior – was set up in Lipa; their first residence was the convent of the Pink Sisters who decided to leave this property in Divino Amor owing to declining numbers. On 14 December 1955, four priests and a Brother, arrived in Legazpi City.
2. Visayas Mission and Foundation
Missions expanded across Cebu (including Bantayan Island), Bohol, Leyte, and Negros Oriental including Dumaguete City. On 23 January 1928, the Iloilo foundation was established with Fr. Ray Cleere as first superior. Fr. Byrne’s other priority was to set up a foundation in Cebu City. Construction for the monastery immediately began in 1928 with Fr. Byrne supervising the planning and actual work on the new building which would be very much appreciated for its fine lines and spaces suited to the tropics. On 2 August 1929, the monastery was blessed. The first community of three priests arrived in Tacloban in January 1948. On December 1950, three priests went to Bacolod to set up the foundation led by Fr. John Scanlan as superior. Another group proceeded to establish another foundation in Dumaguete for the Cebuano-speaking communities of Negros on 13 June 1958.
3. Mindanao Mission and Foundation
The Redemptorists returned to Camiguin Island and reached Cagayan de Oro in 1924. From 1922 to 1927, they had a total of 32 missions. The construction of the first Redemptorist plant in Mindanao, the Mount St. Mary’s in Davao City began in June 1958; it was ready to welcome the community of four priests and two Brothers on 8 May 1959.The next logical location for a third foundation in Mindanao was the northeast and Butuan City was the choice for a site. The convent and church there was inaugurated on 15 April 1973.
ESSENCE AND METHODOLOGY OF THE EARLY MISSIONS
The missionaries’ Alphonsian zeal and motivating spirit fueled by their prayer life at home and in the field gave their focus on the poor and the spiritually neglected. They learned the local language to facilitate communication with ordinary folks. The Brothers assisted in making sure that the monastery provided the space for reinvigoration of the body and soul.
The methods employed were the required preparation so that the people were encouraged to join the activities, soliciting the support of the local clergy and the local civic authorities, pre-mission, follow-up and house-to-house visitation. The other material culture that would be attached to the identity of the Redemptorists is their retreat houses especially those of Lipa, Iloilo, Bacolod and the Holy Family Retreat House in Cebu. Actually, most of the monasteries have also served as retreat centers in the 1960s like those in Davao, Bacolod, Legaspi and Iligan.
Vatican II’s impact on the Redemptorist apostolate was swift. Despite feelings of hesitation, anxiety, ambivalence and outright resistance from the others, there were a few of the confreres who intuitively sensed the need to explore new ways of doing the popular missions. On 11 March 1965, a big general mission was conducted in Cebu with 40 mission sites under seven centers. Each of these seven centers had simultaneously two priests and it lasted for a whole week. This activity was conducted in line with the fourth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines. The following year on 14-15 April 1966, the Permanent Committee on Missions convened a mission council held in Busay which began the series of meetings and consultations which would drastically change the content and method of popular missions.
At this stage Fr. David “George” Tither challenged his confreres to give a mission in the entire fourth district of Manila and in the process he was able to secure the approval of the archbishop and the support of the parish priests. The mission was conducted simultaneously in the parishes of Paco, Pandacan, Peñafrancia, San Andres, Sta. Ana and Pius X. The mission was called Kilusang Ilaw and ran from 4 January to 29 March 1969.
Just as martial rule was just beginning, the Chapter proposals of the VP-Cebu took into consideration the worsening situation in which the poor and those most in need of the Church’s care lacked the basic necessities of human growth as well as deprived of their human rights. Thus all the apostolates were to embrace the Mission to proclaim by word and action the gospel of justice so that the poor’s aspirations can be fully realized in Christ who was the source of liberation.
The agreements made in the Chapter of 1972 led to the Gingoog mission in October 1973 which concretized the Chapter’s recommendation. For two weeks, fourteen missioners from Cebu, Iligan, Dumaguete and Davao came together in the parish convent of Gingoog (part of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and administered by the Columbans) discussed the content and method of the mission, revised these, conducted the mission and did an evaluation.
Vatican II, liberation theology, the student uprisings in the late l960s and early l970s, the social action apostolate of the Church, community organizing and the impact of the declaration of martial law figured in the discussions. A new type of popular mission arose: content (influenced by Vatican II and the developments in the Philippine Church of the martial law years), with CO organizing as component of the BCC program, conducted by both Redemptorists and lay cooperators and which lasted for a full year. The content was no longer limited to those in ready-made sermons which followed a standard format in the pre-Vatican II mission which accounted for the joke that the C.Ss.Rs. were only good for the Carefully Selected Sermons Repeated. This and other reasons led a few intuitive confreres to think of exploring a new way of being a community of missioners. Thus was born the idea of a Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Community (RIMC), who with their lay cooperators would be known as RIMT.
BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES (BEC)
One of the major impact of Vatican II was the articulation of the role of the laity. The setting up of Basic Christian Communities was only thinkable and viable because of the engagement of the laity. With their formation that came after Vatican II, the laity were empowered to volunteer in pastoral work. Eventually, as church programs expanded and became more varied, the inadequacy of available clerical and religious personnel demanded reinforcement from the lay.
In April 1977, all the Lay Workers Assembly (LWA) gathered all the lay cooperators at the HFRH for their first meeting the purpose of which was “to deepen their faith commitment, to clarify their objectives and give them an opportunity to know one another”. LWA eventually was renamed the Redemptorists Lay Cooperators Assembly or RELCA. From 1975 to 1998, a total of 177 lay people joined as lay cooperators on a full-time basis in both mission teams and other apostolic units.
In 1985, the Justice and Peace Commission, the Community Development Center, the Baclaran Church Team and the Formation Mission Team promoted more lay participation. The Vice-Provincial Chapter of the following year dealt with the agenda of lay staff mainly endorsing their training and support.
In 1976, Fr. Ireneo Amantillo was ordained a bishop and assigned as Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Cronin in Cagayan de Oro. Bishop Amantillo was the first Filipino Redemptorist to be named a bishop. Close to three years later, on 6 September 1978, he was installed Bishop of Tandag. In the early l980s, another bright spot arose and this was the election of the first Filipino Vice-Provincial, Fr. Abdon Josol in VP-Cebu and later, Fr. Vinteres for VP-Manila. Thus began the turning over of responsibility to Filipinos.
The confrere with a high-profile involvement during the martial law years was Fr. Rudy Romano who took on a top position in the most organized legal movement at that time, the BAYAN. He paid a heavy price for his option; he was picked up by armed men on 22 July 1985 and turned into a desaparecido. All these and a few other empowering events took place one after another building up the people’s rage. Eventually, this collective anger, resentment and frustration erupted and they rushed to EDSA beginning on 22 February. Along with candles, rosaries and crosses, the people brought the icon of the MOPH to be witness to the unfolding of People Power. The rest is history not just for the Philippines but for many other parts of the world where a People Power uprising would take place one after another.
PLENARY COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES (PCP II)
The country remained in limbo as the 1980s move on to the 1990s. Just before the end of Pres. Cory Aquino’s term, the CBCP convened the Second Plenary Council which was a most welcome shot in the arm for the Church. Taking place on 22-27 January 1991, attended by lay leaders, religious, clergy and the bishops, it “boldly challenged the Church in the Philippines to be a Community of Disciples, a Church of the Poor, committed to the mission of renewed integral evangelization, toward the building up of a new civilization of life and love in our land”.
Today, the Redemptorists in the Philippines add up to 106 (82 priests, 9 brothers, 15 temporary professed students). There are also eleven foundations (4 in Luzon, 5 in the Visayas and 2 in Mindanao).
The Redemptorists are in partnerships with Religious women groups in terms of their various ministries: Daughters of Charity, MCST Sisters, Mercy Sisters, ICMs, Presentation of Mary Sisters, PDDM, Missionaries of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Missionaries of the Assumption, Religious of the Notre Dame of the Mission, Columban Sisters, Oblates of the Notre Dame, Redemptoristines, Oblates of the Holy Redeemer (OSR), Bon Perpetual Succor (BPS).
The Redemptorist of the Philippines are embarking into new pastoral initiatives such as care for the street children, Indigenous people, Youth Ministry, Prison apostolate, Leprosarium, Urban poor, Interfaith dialogue and mission abroad.