At the launch of Fr. James McTavish’s book Form Apostles are SOW classmates (first row, from left) Judy Tan, Cynthia Rodriguez, Fr. James McTavish, Yvonne Romualdez, Emy Abaya and the author; (standing, from left) Tippi Reyes, Corito de Claro, Chari Veloso, Maribel Dionisio, Chickie Locsin, Joji Songalia, Raffy Rodriguez, Jay Sison, Fr. Vincent Guinoo and Marabel Viernes.
I go to “school” once a week and I enjoy it tremendously! Every Wednesday, I wake up extra early, really excited, I get all dressed up, then drive to class or carpool with my sisters. I abhor being late and am proud to say I have never been since we started our studies in School of the Word (SOW). Our bright and cheerful SOW classroom is located at Christ the King Parish Center in Green Meadows, Pasig City. My classmates are the nicest, warmest bunch of people and our team of teachers are the best!
Our head teacher is Fr. James McTavish, FMVD. He is a Scottish Catholic missionary priest and a member of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. Our very amiable Father James has bright blue eyes, a mischievous smile, was born in Scotland to a close-knit family of five, loves to play soccer and left a twin brother back home. He is a qualified medical doctor who graduated from Cambridge University in England and a surgeon specializing in pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery. As a missionary, he did further studies in moral theology and bioethics in Rome.
So is he a doctor or a teacher? Well, he is also a prolific book writer. To date, he has authored nine books. His most recent book Form Apostles is about the late beloved founder of Verbum Dei, Fr. Jaime Bonet, who felt the call to make Jesus known to all people at the tender age of 14. In preparation for their mission, Father Jaime taught his missionaries to always keep themselves nourished with the word of God. Verbum Dei means “Word of God.”
Father Jaime passed on his baton to the Verbum Dei missionaries in five continents worldwide.
In his initial dialogue with God at age 14, Jaime recalled that though his studies and sports were going very well, he wanted to be happier! So, he said to God, “If you exist, make me happier! I waited for the answer. He gave me such joy! A joy to me unknown, so exhilarating that I could not endure so much beauty, and it was increasing.” At 14, he entered the seminary, and in a personal experience of dialogue with the crucified Christ, he felt the call to make our Lord known to all people, which became the heart of his vocation and the seed of the future foundation of Verbum Dei.
Last month, 10 of us SOW classmates had the privilege of accompanying our teacher, Father James, to PICC. It felt like a school field trip for us and we were excited to listen to his talk and sell the thousand booklets, which he wrote for pediatricians. When we arrived at the convention venue and saw the audience, Father James nervously said, “I wonder if Jesus was this nervous when he had to feed the crowd of 5,000.” He prayed and proceeded to address 6,000 doctors who all listened intently as he shared his stories through a talk called “Wounded Healers Offering Their Lives for a Cause.” His booklets were sold out.
One of the stories Father James shared was his own personal experience as a doctor.
“I studied medicine and qualified as a doctor at 24. At one moment in my life, I was doing my specialty training in Sydney, Australia. I got called to see a young man who was badly wounded. He was 26. He cut his wrist because he wanted to take his own life. I remember seeing this young man and I wondered. He had money, lived in a beautiful city, in a land of milk and honey where everything was provided yet he had no desire to live.
“We operated on him from midnight till 8 a.m. It was a difficult operation. I went to see him after and still he looked so sad. I told him, ‘The worst is over! You will still be able to use your hand.’ He looked so unhappy. He said, ‘You fixed my hand but you didn’t fix my life’.”
Baffled, Father James brought this incident to prayer in adoration. “I really spoke to Jesus, man to man, about this boy who was still so unhappy.”
“The gospel that day was about the fullness of life…And during that moment of adoration, I felt Jesus looking straight at me. It’s not enough just to treat the external wounds. As a plastic surgeon, I had enjoyed my career so much, trying to reconstruct various wounds but Jesus, the Good Doctor, asked me to reconstruct his people. Now, I would like to ask you a question. How is Jesus asking you to give your own life in the world of today?”
Our Blessed Mother was a big influence in the life of the young doctor. While studying, he prayed for her intercession. He even promised that if she were to grant his specific request, he would commit to serve as a volunteer in Lourdes. He did pass with flying colors. But he forgot all about his promise to her. One day, he saw a sign that said doctors were needed in Lourdes. This time, he remembered and promptly obeyed her.
A month later, he received an invitation to attend School of the Word run by Verbum Dei, Australia. Five months later after attending a retreat, he experienced a deep yearning to become a missionary priest. So, he joined the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. Here in the Philippines, where he has been assigned for the past 15 years, he continues to inspire many people to become good disciples of Jesus.
The fruit of our studies in School of the Word is a life-changing joy like no other. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Thanks to Father James and his team of Verbum Dei missionary priests, Fr. Felipe Vas Pardal, Fr. Vic Caritos, Fr. Iwao Ikegami and Fr. Vincent Guinoo who are good shepherds to our flock of sheep. We always leave the classroom feeling energized. They taught us that when we pray, we talk to God. And whenever we read His word, that is when God speaks to us. We are happily learning to pray with the word of God, to listen to Him and go into deep loving dialogs with Him.
School of the Word classes are ongoing from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. If you wish to enroll, tuition is free. Let’s SOW together every Wednesday.
(Would love to hear from you at email@example.com. If you wish to purchase a copy of Form Apostles, call Shayne at 890-6303 or 0922-8986749. All proceeds will go to the funding of Verbum Dei missionaries worldwide.)
This article was originally posted in The Philippine Star - May 13, 2018 by Michelle Dayrit-Soliven
The Verbum Dei community first came to Musuan in Mindanao in 2006 when some misioneros visited and later in 2008 (19th of January) a group of Verbum Dei disciples from Cagayan de Oro conducted the first School of the Word (SOW) at San Isidro Labrador Parish, Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon.
Since that time, a group of VD-CDO disciples has been faithfully and regularly coming over to Musuan once a month to facilitate the SOW. From the 23rd of April 2017, SOW has been regularly done every Sunday (except the fifth). Verbum Dei local members are giving the guidelines for the three Sundays, while VD-CDO are giving once a month still.
Sharing some experience of SOWers:
“The fruit that I have received from the SOW is faithfulness. This community encourages and teaches me how to pray, to give heart every time I pray.”
- Teddy Refugio, a student and a member of VD-Musuan
“After I met the Verbum Dei community, the Lord has really molded me to be a better person. The SOW showed me how important it is to always persevere in prayer. It also taught me how to be patient and humble, and I learned to go beyond my comfort zone. I am very thankful that God introduced me to this community. I give thanks also to the people God uses as his instruments to guide me and encourage me to continue attending the community.
- Ann Refugio, a student and a member of VD-Musuan
”Does discernment happen only once a lifetime?” I once asked. When I heard an answer “No, it is a lifetime” I was slightly confused. I asked that question years before knowing the Verbum Dei community. A Verbum Dei priest once added to our invitation for SOW-Musuan the question “Have you heard God talking to you?” That sounded more interesting to me. As I journey with the Verbum Dei community through the regular SOW each week, I’ve learned to pray with the word of God. I’ve heard God speaking to me and I’ve learned to discern. And this listening to God is needed every day of our life – it is lifelong! The Verbum Dei community is a gift, a great gift!”
- Gina B. Barbosa, a working mother and a member of VD-Musuan
With thanks to the WordNews team
By: Reycelle Anthony B. Bagares
The Verbum Dei Missionary Family in Cagayan de Oro had a day of prayer last Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Calabrian Retreat House in Barangay Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City. The theme was, “The Community - a means of perseverance”. This month’s day of prayer was particularly special because it was graced by Alfonso “Poncho” Martinez, Formator of the Married Couple Branch, who gave the guidelines and the formations, and the mass was celebrated by James McTavish, FMVD (Ecclesial Zone Responsible, Philippines).
Poncho during his morning guidelines, his words crisp and in his distinctly Mexican-English accent said, “Community is a gift. The community is where we can see and experience Christ’s life-love in the people that we meet. We can guarantee the existence of God through how God is working in other people’s lives.”
Citing the Gospel reading in Luke 24, 28-35, the Road to Emmaus, he continued, “The community will allow you to see Christ – it draws itself near and walks with you, wanting to know how you are. Through the community God is telling us that I am here. I want to know how I can help.”
The activity ended with a mass presided by James who traveled back from Musuan in Bukidnon with Jess Baja, where they had a School of the Word with some of the disciples there. Of course, the day ended with everyone in attendance standing in place for the picture taking. Adios y muchas gracias Poncho y James!
With thanks to the WordNews team
Spiritual Exercises in the Philippines
The Lord always surprises us! And this time has not been an exception. Go around the world! And it has taken us to the Philippines. He wanted us to meet our brothers and sisters in that beautiful country; to those who are sharing the charism with us, and those who are also making their journey in our married couples branch. We participated by preaching in the annual spiritual exercises for missionary couples in formation and with temporary bonds along with Poncho (missionary married couple) and James.
To arrive in the Philippines and to meet our brothers and sisters was a source of thanksgiving. We felt like the Holy Spirit had everything ready for us. We found people with open hearts to welcome us, even without knowing each other. We felt like a family, from the very first moment that El El and Ann embraced and welcomed us. And that feeling remained throughout our entire stay there. We had several meetings with couples in the two days before the beginning of the exercises and we can only thank God for the gift of each one of them.
The theme of the Exercises was "Rooted and grounded in Christ, steadfast in the faith" from Colossians 2:7. The experience to which we were invited was the contemplation of Jesus - to be able to build all our life in him, because our being a missionary married couple has to be rooted in Christ. And so the week went by, and it was a delight the feeling that Jesus lends us his life to make ours a reflection of the kingdom for us and those who he entrust us. With that joy the exercises ended in an environment of fraternal love, because whoever is rooted in his life cannot feel anything other than his love for each couple, and every vocation in Christ.
Our certainty is that the Lord has given us the knowledge, without doubt, that we are part of a Universal Church, in a universal fraternity and that the married couples branch is called to keep the dream of God alive within this charism that he gave us through Jaime. We all need each other to grow and become strong. Regardless of the place of residence, we are all one, because the one who unites us is not limited by borders or languages because his love is universal.
Marisol and Antonio, Verbum Dei missionary married couple sharing their experience after helping give one week of Spiritual exercises to married couples of the branch from April 23-29, 2018 in Cebu, Philippines.
With thanks to the WordNews team
”Rooted and built up in Him, and established in your faith.”
(cf. Colossians 2:7)
This was the theme in the annual Spiritual Exercises of the Verbum Dei Missionary Married Couples Branch in the Philippines last April 23 to 29, 2018 in Saint Francis Seraph Retreat House in Talisay, Cebu.
This 7 day silent retreat was facilitated by the 3 branches of the Fraternity, namely Alfonso Martinez - couples branch, Fr. James McTavish - male branch, and Sisters Malou and Mico - female branch. Also present were the missionary married couple from Spain, Antonio and Marisol. The participants included the four missionary couples with temporal bonds based in CDO and the nine missionary couples in the formation course, six of whom are based in Cebu, one in Cagayan de Oro and two are based in Australia.
It was a very fruitful opportunity to be reunited as one branch and to be re-rooted and re-built in Christ once again after a year’s journey and more to come.
With thanks to Bimbo Abrio and the WordNews team
Following Jesus, the Good Shepherd
Last April 21-22, 2018 some young men of Luzon gathered to attend an overnight vigil for Good Shepherd Sunday and to Pray for Vocations. It was held at the house of the Verbum Dei Misioneros in Pansol, Quezon City. The event was organized by Fr. Iwao Ikegami and Fr. Bong Guinoo.
The vigil was composed of a song forum, testimonies - about how to be like Jesus in the work place, how to be Jesus in the community and live a spiritual life and how to be Jesus in the married life. There was also a moment of adoration and confession.
The vigil stressed the importance of having Jesus in people’s lives and to make the attendees realize that entering missionary life is a good option and that there is happiness in serving the Lord as the book of Sirach reminds us: “Who has ever followed the Lord and been disappointed?” (Sirach 2:10)
The Catholic Church and the world of today needs vocations, as Fr. Iwao reminded us in the send-off mass. He quoted from Matthew 9:35 saying “ The harvest is large but the laborers are few.”
So let us continue to pray for vocations. Let us also pray for all the new bearers of the Gospel - that they will continue to serve as the light of the world.
From the WordNews Team
In line with the celebration of the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro held an overnight Vocation Jamboree on April 21-22, 2018 in San Jose de Mindanao Seminary, with the theme “Renewed-Servant Leaders for the New Evangelization.” Delegations from various congregations and parishes within the Archdiocese came to grace the event with enthusiasm and life.
Purpose filled activities were lined up to give a meaningful experience to the participants. A highlight was the inspirational talk of Bishop-elect Raul Dael, on “What is Vocation in General”, followed by the breakout sessions to three groups with simultaneous discussion on the specific vocation of Married Life, Single-Blessedness, and the Religious/Priestly Life. The event started with a Pilgrim walk with a Holy Rosary and other activities included Adoration, Confession/Counseling, Vocation Fair with Booth Expo, Praise Festival and culminated with an early morning Eucharistic Celebration.
The VDMFa-CDO sent twenty seven youth delegates who actively participated in the event. An even greater blessing was the opportunity to be invited as resource speakers to discuss the different vocations. With zeal for the mission, Regner-Mae Paguia talked about Married Life in the context of being missionary married couple, Marivic Umaran shared of her chosen Single-Blessed Life, and James McTavish on his journey to the call of the Priestly Vocation. The occasion not only gave VDMFa a gracious introduction to the bigger community of Cagayan de Oro, but also the privilege to impart its Charism to the hearts of the people in attendance.
Let us pray we can all be faithful to our vocation!
See some photos of the event below:
From the WordNews team
Last April 13-14, we had a camping encounter for the young people of Malaybalay, Bukidnon held at the Cinchona Forest Reserve, in Lantapan. Eleven young people and four lay members of the Verbum Dei Missionary Family (Dee Ann, Aila, Rey, Jay-anne) formed the group for a two-days-one-night encounter.
The place itself, full of pine trees and 16°C at night, helped us greatly to encounter God who speaks loudly in the Word and in nature. With the theme “Only Love is the Answer,” the talks Your Life is for Love and To be Christ invited all of us to know God as who he truly is—LOVE. This activity was a foretaste of the Verbum Dei spirituality and charism for the people of Malaybalay which we will offer to them.
Below are photos of some of the moments we had and also the experience of some of the participants.
Read the official newsletter from our family in Luzon - 27th issue.
Read the article in embedded PDF form below.
Easter is an important moment to walk with Jesus and live his passion, death and resurrection. Around the Philippines the Verbum Dei community held various activities. Easter encounters were in Tagaytay, Bohol and Cagayan de Oro while a disciples' retreat was held in Cebu. These encounters and retreats were attended by members of the local communities as well as various new people.
A National Disciples Retreat was held in Tolo-tolo, Consolacion, Cebu starting March 28 to April 1. It was attended by around 100 lay members from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The theme was “I shall draw all people to myself” (see John 12:32). The fruit of the 4 days of silent prayer in the NDR was a renewal in the relationship of each one with Jesus, as well as a stronger desire to help the risen Lord draw all people to himself.
High up at the Holy Name University Mission and Spirituality House in Banat-i Hills was held the Easter Encounter starting Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. There were around 56 participants. The theme of the encounter was "Why? ...Because of You."
Cagayan de Oro City:
The theme for this year's Easter Encounter was "What are you looking for?...Come and see!" cf. Jn 1:38-39. This year's encounter was stay-in because for the last 2 years participants were to stay out at end of every nights' activities. The encounter was held in the Calabrian Children's Foundation house with over 100 participants consisting of Couples, Singles, Teens, Youth and Kids. The kids had their own program during the EE while the rest were separated or regrouped during sharing. Committees were composed mainly of the Couples Branch and the LCM since the disciples are on their SE in Cebu. It was a bit challenging working with few manpower but we were also privilege to have the presence of the 3 branches through the participation of missionaries from other branches working together: Percy, who accompanied the teens, Charisma with the kids and Filipe with the liturgy. We are glad to witness people, both young and old, able to recognize that a deeper relationship with God is what they are really looking for. Most of the fruit of the new participants were on the importance of prayer and everyday encounter with the risen Lord.
“It is the Lord.” This was the theme of the Easter Semi-Silent Retreat in Tagaytay. We were 54 persons of different walks of life. For most of the participants this was their first contact with the Verbum Dei Spirituality. The Lord granted us a wonderful experience of his Love, which made us pass from death to life, with the desire to live it out in our daily lives. We count on your prayers for our perseverance
Let us ask for the grace as an evangelizing community to be faithful to the mandate of the risen Lord “go into the whole world and share the gospel to all.”
Were you one of the participants in any of these events?
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Read the news from the different events, activities and happenings on the different communities here in the Philippines.