December 1,2019 marked the last day of the Asian Australian Encounter. It was 4 enriching days of learning, praying, and connecting with the Verbum Dei Catholic Missionary Family. The day opened with a talk given by Bro. Daniel Drum which centered on catching people through the net of preaching.
He said that all of us are missionaries because we all are baptized. He shared about his experience of being a shy person and how a missionary and the community helped him to overcome it and as a result, now he wants to do the same to others. He said that our mission can save lives.
The event ended with the Holy Eucharist which was organized by the Vietnam Community. It was presided by Fr. James Mctavish concelebrated by Iwao Ikegami, Fr. Bong Guinoo and Fr. Daniele Sollazzo. In his homily, Fr. James discussed about Advent which he said is important because it is a preparation for the birth of Jesus. He said also that this will be a great time to check what's inside our hearts.
Before the mass ended, the Awarding of the Song Writing contest was held headed by Sr. Adriana. Haro. She invited the participants to check the Verbum Dei Website and share its content in their local communitues.
Now, the 2019 Verbum De Asian Australian Encounter is already over but the mission continues. May the good things that the participants learned remain in their hearts. May all of us push a little bit from the shore and be able to catch many fish!
The atmosphere became feverish as the Verbum Dei community prepared and practiced for their individual cultural presentations after dinnertime…
To start off the cultural festival of all the participating countries, namely, Australia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan, an animation/drama was presented by a few selected members of the various countries using the theme verse of the Encounter from Luke 5:3, “To push out a little distance from the shore.”
Australia was the first country to showcase their cultural heritage and to share some trivia information. They say it is the 6th largest country in the world. Tasmania, an island state south of the Australian mainland has the cleanest air in the world! Despite Australia being a well-developed country, it has the slowest Internet connection.
It boasts of having exotic animals, like koalas, kangaroos, and more sheep compared to its human population. The group also presented a skit on “How to become an Australian.”
The Philippines presented a very innovative traditional courtship dance from Cebu province. The audience were delighted to see how a Filipina woman is wooed by Filipino males. Some trivia information were presented as well, like, Filipinos love Basketball; they have a local transportation vehicle called “jeepneys” which bring them everywhere where there are passable roads, etc.
Verbum Dei in Hiroshima, Japan is a relatively new community, having been started only in February 2019. Fr. Iwao Ikegami and Kyoko Hashimoto collaborated to present a simple but very touching presentation on Japanese spirituality combining the Japanese calligraphy, national flower of Japan – Sakura (cherry blossom), the theme of the Encounter in a skit form… Fr. Iwao was introduced to the Verbum Dei community when he was still in the university and trying to find his purpose and the meaning of his life. When he found Jesus, despite living in a country composed of either, Shintos or Buddhists, he finally found his true calling, i.e., to be a missionary for Christ through the Verbum Dei community.
Singapore is known as the Lion City, where “Singa” means lion. However, there are no lions in Singapore! Amazing! Do you know that Singaporeans have the fastest walking speed on Earth? They walk as fast as bumblebees fly! Wow!
They say, Singaporeans speak Singlish, which simply means Singaporean-English… They presented a skit and a song which depicted about friendship and camaraderie among people.
The Vietnamese are healthy eaters. They prefer fresh herbs, vegetables and seafoods. They avoid greasy foods, which is a good way to slim down! They have a vitality drink, called Rouo ran, a snake wine for strength and vitality. The most common means of transport is by motorbikes and there are approximately 45 million of these in Vietnam. According to them, there are certain gifts which need to be avoided to give, like, handkerchiefs, anything black, yellow flowers, etc.
The group presented a song/dance presentation with a song titled, “Anh em ta ve.”
Finally, Taiwan, they say, has the fastest elevators in the world, located at Taipei 101 Tower. They have a unique garbage collection system, using singing garbage trucks which plays “Fur Elise” to prompt people to bring out their garbage. Amazing! Taiwanese have a favorite snack food made of smelly tofu which they say, “is hard on the nose but easy on the tongue!” Smelly tofu, anyone? Moreover, Taiwan has a free access to Wifi everywhere! This is great!
The group presented a skit which depicted a day’s adventure in Taiwan.
To cap the night of merriment and fun moments with one another, the Filipino community of VD Manila and Pasig presented a beautiful dance number called “Sinulog,” a dance which gives honor and praise to the Child Jesus!. Viva Pit Senor! (A plead to ask God for favor).
Participants dedicated their Saturday afternoon to deepen in the many ways in which we can pay our nets for a catch in the world of today through different workshops. Here is a glimpse of this fun and enriching activity:
Workshop 1 - "In Your Word"
This workshop was organized by the Taiwan Community headed by Sr. Evelyn Ong. She successful connected doing missions in Chinese Calligraphy. The art requires firmness and flexibility which missions must also have. It is important to know the culture of the people you are dealing with and not only your ways in order for them to relate to you.
The participants were asked to choose a word written in a piece of bond paper that consisted of virtues and positive words like patience, kindness, humility, friendship etc. The facilitators gave the participants a peace of paper to practice and after a while when they were given another piece of colored paper to write the word as the final output.
The worship attendees definitely had a great time. Indeed God speaks to us in different ways. He is always there for us. Like Chinese Calligraphy he's firm at the same time flexible in understanding our own weaknesses with him we can make our lives a masterpiece.
Workshop 2 - "We are Family"
The community of Cebu guided us through this workshop in whoch we explored the Verbuma Dei Family as a reality that gathers people from all walks of life journeying in the same Verbum Dei Charism. Aida Calpela facilitated the workshop which helped us to refresh our VD identity, what binds us, our mission. The participants expressed precisely that what attracted them to VD are the basic elements of our charism, the encounter with Christ in his word. This was confirmed by disciples of different countries in the small group sharings.
Disciples from Ceb shared their testimony of how they live their belongingness to Verbum Dei in their different realities: as a teacher, as a doctor, as a student and as a father. Belonging to VD and living a life of prayer makes them stand out and make a difference in the context where they are.
Workshop 3 - "Pay your Nets for a Catch on Social Media"
Workshop 3 invited the participants to throw our nets in the digital continent. The workshop was facilitated by Sheila Cabarrubias, Jay-anne Desabelle, and Adriana Haro, all of them from Verbum Dei Cebu.
They started by telling us that Jesus’ invitation to go to the ends of the Earth means now to enter in the digital continent. We got to meet the characteristics of the digital citizens from different generations and what they are searching online: themselves, their people and their place in the world. We learned that the Church sees social media positively and is making many efforts in reaching out to the people of today.
Jay-anne shared with us the different projects that Verbum Dei is doing here in the Philippines, which inspired us to think on our own context. We were invited to think on the profile of the digital citizen in our cities and try to think on initiatives to reach out to them though digital platform. The workshop certainly opened our desire to enter in the digital world with courage and creativity to reach out to our brothers and sisters so that Jesus may catch them as they surf the digital world.
Workshop 4 - Pay out your nets for a catch of people
The workshop discussed about one’s Vocation. They say that we all have a vocation, whether it is being single, married, religious, pursuing a career, or taking care of someone who is incapacitated or with a permanent disability, everything is a calling!
But, what is vocation? It comes from the Latin noun, “vocare”, meaning, “to call”. It could be a particular occupation, business or profession. Or, it could be a divine call to God’s service or a call to Christian life.
The question which could be drawn is: What if your job/occupation, or being married, having a family, staying single is both a vocation and a call from God and is a way to serve Him? Can we say no to the call? How do we know what to do with our gifts, talents and passions?
They say, “vocation happens when you take what you love to the world’s needs...” Our life has a purpose but, it doesn’t just belong to us. It belongs to others as well and we all belong to God. Just like what Jesus said, “Come follow me,” with your talents, riches, struggles, etc.
Today marks the 3rd day of our 2019 Asian Australian Encounter. The day opened with the animation song written by Fr. James Mctavish entitled Push A Little Bit from the Shore. The community of Quezon City leaded the participants with the actions.
After that, Angellyn Enriquez who’s currently having her Formation Course gave the talk “Push Your Boat on a Deep Water.” She shares about her experience of having Jesus in her boat. She talks about the importance of prayer in everyone’s life because in prayer we don't only talk to God but also God speaks to us. Prayer is concrete because it touches our reality.
Dr. Resti Bautista gave an inspiring testimony about his journey in knowing Jesus and how he's there with him and his family in their journey. He shared that in times of darkness Jesus is our lamp that lights our way. He shared also that all of us can be Christ's healing hands. He stressed also the importance of knowing God and the rest will follow.
The morning ended with the Holy Eucharist organized by the Australian Community. It was presided by Fr. Danielle concelebrated by Fr. Iwao Ikegami, Fr. James Mctavish and Fr. Bong Guinoo. In his homily Fr. Danielle shared about how God transforms our lives and like St. Andrew, whose feast day is today, he invited the community to respond in the call of Jesus and to be happy in loving and serving him.
Here are some photos of our morning activities:
AAE Day 1 - Ending the day with Mama Mary and Jesus
What a beautiful way to end our first day of the Asian Australian Encounter with Mama Mary by praying the Rosary and venerating Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
The Rosary was lead by the Taiwan group praying for communities of Australia, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan and was done in different languages.
As the day was about to end, it got more intense as Jesus didn’t allow it to end without him.
As we prepared for the adoration of the Holy Eucharist, Theresa De Silva a disciple from Singapore, happily shared her experience on how Jesus got into her empty boat one day and pushed her a little further from the shore. She was just a simple Singaporian back then who keeps on chasing what a normal Singaporian chase after in life. Little by little she got to know who Jesus was and it started to become more uncomfortable when Jesus started to touch her boat when He opened her eyes to see the realities of Singapore. She was pushed away from her comfort zone not because she was ready but because Jesus knows that she will still be okay after she is being pushed a little further.
Finally, we ended the day in God’s embrace as we adore Jesus in Holy Eucharist. Little as He is, He lovingly told us to fear not, push our boat a little and lower our down our nets for a catch.
Here are some pictures of the experience:
It was a joyful and exciting afternoon knowing the various Verbum Dei communities of the Asian and Australian continents.
Maureen Tan, a disciple from Singapore, shared her many experiences interacting and sharing the Word of God through the people she has encountered. Through the various activities of inviting people from all sorts of background to join them in their ministry of spreading the Word of God, she has learned to be more patient and understanding of the people around her.
Despite initial struggles in forming and establishing the communities, her group have been able to build a retreat house, among others, because of the generosity of the people they have met.
Verbum Dei-Vietnam as presented by Minh Ngo from Ho Chi Minh City had a long history of processing before it was finally approved in 2018, specifically in Saigon through the assistance Fr. Felipe and Fr. David. In January 2019, the first VD missionaries arrived in Vietnam, namely, Fr. David and Bro. Darwin. Both initially struggled with their new environment, the culture, food and language. They had to learn everything from scratch, so to speak.
Thanks be to God, the VD Vietnam community have been benefited by the generosity and prayers of the people around them.
Daniel Drum, a VD missionary introduced the VD community in Australia. It was in December 1980 that the first missionaries arrived to establish the new VD community in Sydney. Thereafter, the community grew and the initial vocations came in. A second house was founded in 2001 in Brisbane. In 2018, the first married couple was bonded and the Married Couples branch became officially present in Australia and they also became officially ecclesial.
Currently, VD Australia conducts and offers a number of apostolates and church services meant to serve God’s people through the help of the currently assigned missionaries in the country.
In May 1997, the first VD community in Taiwan was established. The missionaries’ initial effort to introduce Jesus to the Chinese people met with much resistance. This was because the Chinese were deeply influenced by folk religion and this has affected the work of evangelization.
Despite a lot of set backs, failures, etc. in bringing Jesus closer to the people, the missionaries were deeply resolved to continue with the mission. They organized a number of activities, apostolates and projects to entice the people to join them.
Finally, the missionaries’ hard work bore fruit. They now have vocations, more disciples and an active and committed VD missionary family.
The youngest of the VD missionary community is the one in Hiroshima, Japan, established only in 2019. As the community continues to grow and develop, everyone is hopeful that the community will prosper and have more vocations soon and continue to do the work of evangelization.
I sat beside Nanay Isabel Baguio at lunch today (November 29/2nd day of our Encounter).
As we sat together to enjoy a Thai inspired meal, I learned that Nanay Isabel has been a Verbum Dei disciple for 18 years now. Wow! Truly a faithful servant of God.
She is still working as a Junior High School teacher at Cebu Institute of Technology University, teaching Cookery (Home Economics) and Values Education for the past 34 years now.
When asked how she remained faithful to being a VD disciple, she mentioned, it is because of God’s faithfulness, even though she could be unfaithful at times. She strongly believes that God has been with her in her journey through thick or thin. Had it not for God’s faithfulness, she and her husband could have separated a long time ago due to relationship problems.
And although they have not been blessed with children of their own, her being a teacher and a disciple has made her a mother and guide to many more children and youth in her lifetime.
Thank you Mila Abigan from VD Tagaytay for sharing this interview with us!
Friday morning in Betania Retreat House. We were blessed very early by the arrival of the delegates from Australia and Singapore, who graciously participated in the dancing of animation songs together with the participants from Verbum Dei Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, and Philippines. They were all then formally and warmly welcomed by Sr. Jem of the Betania Retreat House Tagaytay City.
Shortly after, Sr. Amy of VD Manila-Pasig gladly recalled the series of previous encounters the community had in the past making the current Asian-Australian Encounter 2019 the fifth and a beautiful addition to the Verbum Dei Family History.
Sr. Amy started the little push from the shore by giving the first talk centered on Lk 5:1-3. She reminded the crowd that the response to the mission is not done individually but is continuously shared and is communitarian by nature. She then invited everyone to be open in welcoming each different culture and way of living by appreciating each other’s presence.
After the short break, Christel from VD Manila-Pasig then shared her testimony of life by sharing the lives of the two people who first pushed their boats a little further which in turn inspired her to do the same – her mother and her patient Manuel. She concluded her talk by inviting the delegates to learn how to push their own boats further not only for themselves but for the lives of the people around them.
The morning was capped by the celebration of the Holy Eucharist led by the participants from Taiwan and Japan; and was officiated by Fr. Iwao Ikegami, concelebrated by Fr. Bong Guinoo, Fr. James McTavish and Fr. Daniele Sollazzo.
Fr. Iwao’s homily stressed about how following Christ entails unending patience, including humility – that we are most humble in knowing when to turn to Jesus.
We continue to pray for Mary’s accompaniment in this journey.
"I am Sr. Evelyn Wong, Verbum Dei Missionary assigned in Taipei, Taiwan. I am Malaysian born and now I'm doing mission work in Taiwan. I brought with me 5 persons from the VDTaiwan community – one couple, 2 youth and 2 of them VD missionaries.
Being in VD community since 2001, has brought me to many places of the world and allowed me to see not only places, but have experienced many different cultures, bringing people closer to Jesus in many ways.
As I continue to journey with the VD community, I pray that we may we be given by the Holy Spirit the fruit of joy to remain faithful servants of God."
On behalf of your Verbum Dei community, we wish you joy and peace, Sr. Evelyn in your missionary journey!
It finally started! The Verbum Dei Asian Australian Encounter with the theme “Push out A Little From the Shore” (Luke 5:3) started yesterday Thursday, November 28. The participants were welcomed by the kind people of the Betania Retreat House.
The encounter opened with the Holy Eucharist officiated by Fr. Bong Guinoo, concelebrated by Fr. Iwao Ikegami and Fr. James McTavish.
Fr. Bong shared in his homily the importance of being one as a family in mission not only here in the Philippines but in other parts of the world. He invited the people to “Push Out a Little From the Shore” in our following of the Lord.
Before the end of the day there was a formal welcome of the different communities here and abroad. There was a skit, videos from the President of Verbum Dei, Fr. Rodrigo Carrizo; and from the head of the male branch, Fr. Ismael Barros. Sr. Antonieta Vargas, the General Superior of the Female Branch. addressed to us her message personally, as she is currently visiting the female communities in Asia. The program ended with a prayer of thanks giving leaded by Fr. James McTavish and Sister Rachel Lumain, the hosts of the encounter.
It was a great day for the participants. It's sure that a lot of surprises await us as the encounter unfolds and the other delegations arrive.
Here are some photos of our first day: