Read the news from events, activities and other updates on the different communities here in the Philippines
Each year, since 2012, the Verbum Dei community has been asked to give a one-day formation on Prostitution and Human trafficking to Exodus, an inter-congregational group of around 75 novices, from various congregations and different countries.
The module was facilitated by James McTavish. He gave an overview of the current problem with around 36-40 million victims of trafficking each year, with the majority of victims forced into prostitution and sex trafficking.
Here is the sharing of Priscilla Su, a Verbum Dei misionera:
“Human trafficking and prostitution are not new issues. Actually, they have been around for some time, it is just that they are “hidden in plain sight.” The formation created an awareness in me of modern slavery that needs to be addressed in this day and age.
It is very easy to say that we know of these issues and that they are out there on the streets, in the lives of people that we see each day. However, how often have we simply walk pass them as if it was just another person living their lives, making a livelihood.
What amazed me was to see the number of “girly” bars that are present in Malate, which is just one of many such areas in Manila. The danger is that we get so used to how things are, desensitized, and we just turn a blind eye to the issue at hand. During the formation, James also shared with us the teachings of the Church, and the prayer intention of Pope Francis in the month of Feb for 2019 and 2020. The need of prayer on this issue is real as we see the alarming number of people including children being trafficked and sold for prostitution each year.
No doubt, there are many organizations and groups that are creatively and tirelessly creating awareness to speak for the voiceless. However, we need to address the root of it all - wherever there is demand, a supply will always be provided regardless of it means. Human trafficking and prostitution business will only continue to grow as a multi-billion-dollar industry.
This is where the gift of the charism is revealed, a charism that God has called us to and placed into our hands to convert the hearts of the people, that through the grace of God, hearts may be transformed to restore the dignity of all involved – namely the 3 “B’s” (Business, Buyer and Bought). As any one of the 3 B’s could be sitting there in one of the pew in Church, either generously donating to the church funds and piously praying yet there is a lot of incoherence in the way that they live their lives, or on the other hand praying and waiting for someone to rescue them out of their situation.
There is an urgent need to address and/or readdress the issue of modern slavery, perhaps one might not feel equipped to speak up in various ways, yet a prayer offered for the victims, for the traffickers and the buyers is already an active step for asking for the grace of God for the conversion of hearts. We can also pray for the religious, and laity who are actively working with the victims to have a compassionate and persevering heart to accompany them in hope of regaining their dignity as precious children of God. To also pray for those who are creating awareness on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution, to have creativity that captures the hearts of the traffickers and buyers to put an end to the demand. We can all do something, if only we would try.”
Here are some photos of the event:
See Pope Francis, Prayer intention for February 2020 see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URe5524MijY
For a Verbum Dei spiritual reflection Spiritual reflection for day against human trafficking see:
For a challenging anti-trafficking advert see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLuqUpu6cY0
Advent... Coming of the King
The celebration of the feast of the birth of our Lord on December 25 calls for a preparation. Filipinos by tradition, prepare for Christmas even months before December which is quite obvious in the decorations put up in malls, streets paraded with all kinds of lights and decorated with some recycled from several Christmases past. Cities and municipalities compete with which draws the most crowd with their extravagant display of Christmas lights and decorations.
People in the offices are busy planning for their parties. Families are also redecorating their homes to enhance the flavor of the season. And who can forget the menu planning that stretches for a week from the eve of Christmas until New Year morning of which Filipinos undoubtedly puts ‘heavy’ plans on. Indeed, a lot of external preparations going around keeping everyone on their toes. Nothing wrong with all these but oftentimes, we are inclined to forget to prepare ourselves interiorly.
Last December 6, after the celebration of the mass, James McTavish, FMVD, gave the local community of Verbum Dei disciples in Cagayan de Oro, a formation on what Advent really is, supported by the theme “Prepare the Way” (Mk 1,3). Those present were encouraged to ask help from the Holy Spirit on how to prepare for Christmas celebration. The attitudes needed more than the external outputs, are to appreciate and practice silence and listening in this moment of preparing and waiting.
“Advent is to pause in front of a Presence who is present today”, one of the numerous spotlights given by James, which resonates in our hearts and minds until now.
With thanks to Rey, Flor and the WordNews team
Youth of the Verbum Dei Missionary Family spent a meaningful day last December 18, 2019 to celebrate the spirit of Christmas at the Pasig Apostolic Center. The day started with formation entitled “Konsensiya mo, Konsensiya ko” given by Fr James McTavish. He talked about the importance of the conscience and how a well formed conscience can positively impact their daily living. This was followed by a small workshop where the youth divided into groups and applied and creatively presented what they learned in challenging case studies.
After recharging with lunch, the youth travelled to a nearby urban poor neighbourhood to spend some time with the children there. The youth sang and danced to Christmas carols, played games together, and shared a simple afternoon snack with the children. There was even a simple sharing by Shahani, a youth from the Pansol community, where she talked about her life and how she experienced blessings even amidst hardships. It was truly a beautiful afternoon of living out the spirit of giving.
With thanks to Abel Paune and the WordNews team
September 22nd of 2019, and the venue for the formation of conscience was jam-packed. This formation made me more curious as to what or how really the conscience works. It made me ask more questions like if I am really hearing the voice of God?
This formation taught us the importance of having a well-formed conscience. In our journey of life, we have heard so many voices, and we might not be able to identify which is the voice of God. Fr. James said it is like playing “Pukpok Palayok”. We are blind folded and hearing too many voices. There are voices that leads us to the wrong way, so that we will not be able to hit our goal which is the clay pot full of candies (palayok) but there are voices that will lead us to our true goal.
A well-formed conscience is able to process all the voices that we hear and identify which is the voice that comes from God. Yes, “process” is the word. We were told that it takes the combined work of our heart and mind to process the voices we hear, because conscience is not only about feelings. It is like seeing a car at a huge discount price, and we feel that we will be very happy if we are able to get the car at a huge discount, but we should also ask questions about that car - we have to do engine checks, check the mileage, durability and other specifications essential on buying a car. The same goes with every decision we will do in our lives - we don’t just rely on the feelings. We also need to think about the pros and cons of our decision. From every voice that we will be hearing, we process it with both our hearts and minds.
Forming our conscience is a life-long process because new issues arise and the world keeps changing. We need to be aware of these changes, the technical aspects also, and the impact of these changes so that we are able to make the right decision, especially today when we don’t know if the news we are reading is fake or not. When we have a well-formed conscience then we will be able to respond righteously.
It was a fruitful formation indeed, a vital formation in our everyday life that will help us in making the right decisions.
With thanks to Jason Delgado and the WordNews team
In the Philippines and other countries worldwide, the celebration of All Souls day (2 Nov) is marked by a visit to the cemetery to remember loved ones and pray for them. In order to deepen on the reality of death, the Verbum Dei missionaries conducted a retreat for this purpose: to reflect on the brevity of this life, and to prepare our hearts and souls for death, which one day will come, and we hope not too soon.
It was held on 30 October 2019 in the Christ the King parish, with 65 participants. In the introduction, the letter of St Ignatius of Antioch was shared to us. Before being fed to the lions, he wrote “The time for my birth is close at hand” which seems at first unusual because he was about to die. However, he is actually reminding us that in death, life is changed, not ended. The first talk centered on a spirituality of death and dying. We were asked “What would you do if you only had 5 days left to live?” and more importantly “what is stopping you doing it?” “Choose now what you would wish to have chosen at life’s end” as St Anthony Mary Claret advised.
A formation was also given on Catholic church teaching on suffering, dying and eternal life. Points shared include why is there sickness and suffering as well as how to manage the care of dying loved ones. We were informed that “discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2278). Such teaching is eminently practical and useful as one tendency is to overtreat out of guilty feelings.
The afternoon dynamic was “fun” and interesting - to design your own tombstone! A rosary was prayed together with concurrent confessions nearby. In this sacrament we really touch our “dust-iness” but we also experience God’s eternal mercy. The day closed with a Eucharist, celebrated by Fr Bong Guinoo, and Fr Ismael Barros, the General responsible of the male missionaries, along with Fr James. In the homily we were reminded that love is eternal, and that we have passed from death to life when we love others (see 1 John 3:14).
By considering our end in this way, we can hope to arrive there without too may regrets because we already lived. As we heard in the movie Braveheart “All men die, but not all men truly live.”
Here are some photos of the event:
Atheism and Belief in God
On Sunday, September 29, 2019, the Verbum Dei-Tagaytay community begun a series of formations entitled “Atheism and Belief in God” facilitated by Sr. Grace Gonzales, FMVD.
It was a whole day formation attended by adult/singles and married individuals from nearby Tagaytay areas and some from Metro Manila. The formation activity covered interesting topics such as:
As one of the attendees, we asked mind-boggling questions which could be on people’s minds, like, What is the meaning and purpose of one’s life?; Where does suffering originate?; What is its purpose? These are questions foremost in our hearts and minds which oftentimes we don’t articulate for fear of being misunderstood or branded as weird.
But, our God provides the answers, because man is a thinking and religious being. The Church document, Gaudium et Spes, #19 gives us a glimpse of the answers and some insights on what atheism is all about, the meaning of human dignity and also man’s capacity to know God.
Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, Ch.1 # 27-29) tells us of man’s desire for God which is written in the human heart; and how God never stops to draw us to Himself. As St. Augustine expressed it, man is restless until he rests in God.
Throughout history, until the present day, men and women have continued to express their quest for God in their religious beliefs and actions in prayer, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, devotions, etc. hence, man can be called a religious being.
However, due to man’s sinfulness and weaknesses, the closeness to God can be broken, forgotten, ignored, and even rejected by man (GS #19). Thus, we have atheists who continue to reject God and deny any claim of His divine existence. We also learned in the formation, the various causes of atheism, like, man’s desire for autonomy, that he can exist without divine or God’s intervention.An advocate of this belief, Rene Descartes, said, “I think, therefore, I am.” which means, man is autonomous and can be left to himself. Another German philosopher, Frederick Nietzche, even said, “God is dead.” This reminded me of the famous Beatles member, John Lennon who composed the song, “Imagine” with the famous line: “Imagine there’s no Heaven…” Lennon was tagged by many as an atheist because of this composition, among others.
Finally, a very touching and relevant video film, entitled, “God’s Not Dead” capped our formation session. It was a film which depicted a learned professor’s life of denying the existence of God because “he was angry with God for taking everything away from him.”
The question put forward by the student who challenged the professor was, “How can he get angry with someone if that someone did not exist?” Towards the end of the film, the professorwho met a tragic car accident, accepted his defeat and asked for forgiveness before he passed away.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
With thanks to Mila Abigan and the WordNews team
How do we approach a person who rejects any and every claim that God or the Divine exists? Since according to Gaudium et Spes, no. 20, "Atheism is not present in people's minds from the beginning", what are the causes of this change of mind and heart? What are its consequences? How do we respond to it? These are some of the thought provoking questions that we were challenged to answer, and situations that we tried to immerse and understand more deeply during the formation on, "Atheism and Belief In God", given by Sister Grace Gonzales, FMVD on October 6, 2019 at the Verbum Dei Apostolate Center Pasig.
The participants actively engaged in the group discussions and sharing. The formation culminated by watching an equally moving and thought-provoking movie entitled, " God Is Not Dead". We could not ask for more; it was truly fun, lively, enlightening and helpful. What a good way to spend a Sunday with the company of kind-hearted missionaries and disciples, constantly learning and enriching our faith.
As Verbum Dei missionaries and disciples, this formation is very relevant and helpful as we take on the challenges of today's modern world; confronted with distorted principles and values, consumed with materialism, modernization, rapid advancement in technology that makes possible human achievement without limits; thereby making God irrelevant, neglected... even forgotten. Looking forward to Part 2 of the Formation.
With thanks to Luisa Frio and the WordNews team
Follow your Conscience – but form it well first
As the book of Sirach announces ““A man's conscience can tell him his situation better than seven watchmen in a lofty tower. Most important of all, pray to God to set your feet in the path of truth” (Sirach 37:14-15). “The care for the formation of the conscience clearly emerges as the fundamental ethical responsibility of every person.” So wrote Fr Sabatino Majorano, CSsR, a Redemptorist moral theologian and expert on Conscience.
Last Sunday, 22 September 2019, saw our very own Verbum Dei missionary priest, James McTavish, give us a wholesome session on the formation of conscience and its challenges. He reminded us of the definition of conscience found in Gaudium et spes, which describes the conscience as “the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There he/she is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his/her depths.” The formation was part of the ACRH (Apostolate Center Retreat House) series of talks. The participants were reminded of the urgency to form the conscience well as “we are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment” (Pope Francis).
Some practical cases of conscience were given including the latest Catholic Church teaching on the death penalty, which was promulgated recently. The Catechism of the Catholic Church now states, “Therefore the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is attentive to the inviolability and dignity of the person, and is committed with determination to its abolition throughout the world” (CCC, no. 2267). If more Catholics were aware of this perhaps there would be less support for all the killings around us.
The final part of the session included a reflection on the means for forming a well-formed conscience - prayer and interiority, exam of conscience, confession, dialog and contrast, Church teaching and our preaching to help enlighten the conscience. The Catechism also underlines that “it is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection” (CCC 1779).
As followers of Christ, we went home conscious that as Fr Jaime Bonet, the Verbum Dei founder taught, “it would be impossible to live, feel, think and love like Jesus without a keen sensitivity and right formation of conscience.”
One participant said “I loved my morning! It was exactly what I needed which I considered such a surprise gift on a Sunday. Formation talks like this are very helpful and may I say necessary because in order to be more effective in our sharing the word, we need to be properly informed.”
With thanks to the WordNews team
Formation on social media at Verbum Dei-Tagaytay Retreat House
It was an empowering day, June 9, 2019 after the Pentecost Sunday Mass at Verbum Dei Chapel in Tagaytay when participants of the on-going VD Youth Leadership Camp gathered together to attend the seminar on "Evangelizing the Digital Natives" conducted by Sr. Adriana Haro, FMVD in collaboration with the VD Missionaries and VD Retreat House-Tagaytay. The group was also joined by some members of the VD-Tagaytay Adult S.O.W. group.
The call to evangelize is not only a call for the religious, but for all people, especially the "digital natives." The young people are now being sent to be witnesses to the "digital continent," now considered as the 6th continent representing the biblical place, called the "ends of the Earth."
But who are the "digital natives?" It was interesting to note that there are different "citizens" in the Digital Continent:
Both known as the "Digital Immigrants"
Hence the Digital Natives are being called to do the work of "inculturation" which is a necessary pathway toward Gospel evangelization of cultures in the Digital World.
This new world can offer a lot of distractions, both good and bad. Every "citizen" in this 6th continent can become addicted to many digital activities which expose them to negative behaviors and problems. That is why, there is truly a need to listen to the voice of the Lord as in Isaiah 6:8 "Whom shall I send?" Can, you, the Digital Native reply: "Here I am, send me!"
Sr. Adriana told us that God has always counted on young people to transform reality. Even our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal said: "The youth is the hope of our motherland."
Finally, how and where do the Digital Natives begin? First, by knowing what they are looking for. It is obvious that they are looking for themselves, for other people and their place in the world. They need to know who they really are and to project this image into the world. Honesty and sincerity in what one posts can be a good start to real reaching out. Occasional breaks from digital connection and from social media can also be a good way of recharging and finding oneself, even others, in the real world!
Holy Spirit, guide us!
With thanks from the WordNews team
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