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Mission Ad Gentes Brothers in Davao

22/10/2008: Philippines

The experience of preparing for mission has a lot of adventure. We understand that in the background of this road there is much contemplative silence and at the same time much action on the part of the Spirit. Silence because one doesn’t know what he is waiting for, but secure because we know that God takes us by the hand. There is much action of the Spirit of God to the extent to which we allow ourselves to be guided by him. The psalm says: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

This experience is challenging because it demands a constant openness to the environment that surrounds us, the people and the culture; at the same time it demands an ongoing listening to the questions of God through his many signs. During this time we try to walk barefoot, that is with our eyes and heart well opened, to experience with certainty what God is going to ask us with each step.

Currently we are heading toward the end of this preparation in Davao. Each one of us, during the course of this time, is getting to know and accept ourselves: with our strengths, limitations and deficiencies. The hour is approaching to put into the scale of discernment what weighs us down and what lightens our burdens in our march toward the goal.

We see for ourselves that the support of those who accompany and help us in the different sessions contributes to doing a critical reading of our personal reality and the reality of the Church in Asia.

This past September 21st we finished our first outside community experience of 10 days. Each one of us was in a different community of Marist Brothers or Sisters. The experiences accumulated during this time are going to clarify our direction. For me personally it is becoming clearer and I am reaffirmed in the road that God has chosen for me. This produces in me a peace that encourages me to continue moving forward with much faith.

What has each one of us felt in the experience with the people? We’ve been positively surprised by their openness and hospitality. This encourages us to continue giving the best of ourselves. Although we have to also take into account that it is not always what satisfies us that God is asking of us. I believe that there will also be moments of uncertainty, of difficulties; yet every mission carried out for Jesus brings with it moments of shadows and obscurities.

I would like to tell you a bit about my personal experience in the Marist community of Cotabato, an important city of the Philippines, in which Catholics and Muslims live together. There also exists a revolutionary group that hopes to win over territory on the island of Mindanao.

The city was in a peaceful moment. The month before there was problems. There I was sharing community with three brothers. They work at a secondary school with an enrollment of approximately 1,300 students in a single group. They begin the school day at 7:30 and continue until the afternoon (continuous schedule). My presence was only to find out how Marist life is there. I had the possibility of speaking with the students, with the teachers and with whomever else I wanted to. Some teachers invited me to sit in on their classes. The students are very respectful, calm and very likeable.

One very unusual thing is that the students who are Muslims have their separate religion teachers. During the time allocated to religion class they leave the Catholic students and have their own class. Also they usually have their own celebrations and prayers. According to a sister – a teacher of the second year – some Muslim students attend religion classes because they like them.

The living together of Catholic and Muslim students is very normal; they are friends. The only exterior difference is that the Muslim girls use a scarf to cover their heads.

After finishing afternoon classes I went to play volleyball with the students and some teachers. It was evident to me that they very much appreciate the brothers and their teachers to whom they feel very close.

On Saturdays, a large group of students go to have physical education almost all day. Some of them remain at the school until very late. Looking at the expressions of some of them it’s because they like it better than at home.

I also had the opportunity of participating with the Muslim students in their own prayer for an hour. In the beginning I was confused as to what I could do with them. At the end I felt happy because I had the opportunity of experiencing this moment with them. But the most interesting was being able to converse with the religious leader who led the prayer. It was a moment of real inter-religious dialog. The leader was very happy to have me joining them.

With this experience I perceive that openness and dialog among different religious is possible. It only needs patience and an open mentality that is free of prejudices.

Br. Doroteo

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