IN ITS ‘Renewed Province Plan’ for 2021-2023, the Society of Jesus’ Philippine Province, its mission partners, communities and institutions have drafted their collective response to the wrath caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, and the threat of creeping authoritarianism in the country. With alarming events swiftly altering the social, economic and political landscape of the nation, the Philippine Province saw the great need to reevaluate its goals and strategies- refusing to keep silent amidst the numerous injustices taking place.
“By August of 2020, there was much clamor to really try to address these issues. In a span of just three months, our democratic institutions were under threat,” recalled Fr. IJ Chan-Gonzaga, SJ, Head of the Province Commission on Ministries, during his guesting on Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM’s ‘The Jesuit Hour’ last April 13. “We convened and tried to put it into thrusts. We opened it to the meeting of directors and superiors last February, and took in a considerable amount of suggestions. By Easter Sunday, the Province finally promulgated this.”
Examining ones’ ‘fidelity of life’ and returning to the Lord’s call, as articulated in General Congregation 36, reflect the importance of the Renewed Plan’s first thrust of “Fostering Integrity and Accountability in our Communities and Institutions”. “This is fundamental and foundational, as this invites all of us to do an introspection together- Jesuits and lay partners alike. We now reexamine ourselves and ask ‘How have we lived our lives?’,” explained Fr. Chan-Gonzaga. “We’re hoping that by our own introspection, we are able to make a stand in a prophetic voice because people will see that this is not just ‘empty talk’. We are trying our best to work out on what we’re talking about,” continued the Cagayan de Oro Jesuit Community Rector, noting the value of creating centers of dialogue for many Jesuit-school alumni facing moral dilemmas.
The second thrust of “Feeding the Hungry and Creating Sustainable Livelihood”, involves “helping institutions who are already in the process of doing so, like Fr.Manoling Francisco’s Tanging Yaman Foundation or Fr.Ben Nebres with Gawad Kalinga, so that families can eventually stand on their own,” acknowledged Fr.Chan-Gonzaga.
Meanwhile, Fr. Chan-Gonzaga hopes to tap social-action centers and church-based groups to “Summon Youth to Engaged Citizenship”, and create an awareness to “think beyond politics and partisanship, and look at what can be done to help alleviate poverty.”
Citing the huge psychological, emotional and mental toll caused by the pandemic, Fr. Chan-Gonzaga underscored the vital role of partner institutions like EMMAUS Center and Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) in training more people to assist those suffering from depression or anxiety, to “Build Faith-based hope and resiliency”. “We hang on to our faith in a God who loves us beyond death, a God who will embrace all of us, even leaving nothing for himself. Because of the darkness and howling winds, we may feel alone. But when we help and share with one another, alam natin na hindi tayo nag-iisa,” encouraged Fr.Chan-Gonzaga.
In order to “Cultivate personal and Institutional ecological conversion”, Fr.Chan-Gonzaga pointed out how guidelines like the ‘Jesuit Disaster Preparedness Response Protocols’, can implement lasting “ecological lifestyle change and conversion, that all our institutions can follow.”
In light of 2021’s twin celebrations of the fifth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines, as well as St. Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion, the success of the Renewed Province Plan– on this milestone year and beyond– ultimately requires the united effort and inspired action from all partners and supporters of the Jesuit mission.
“Your prayers are most valuable and crucial in this endeavor. We hope that you allow us to earn your trust again. In moments that we Jesuits and our institutions are not as edifying as we are, out of care, give us your feedback,” expressed Fr. Chan-Gonzaga. “Help us be faithful to the mission, to build together. Allow us to do something for the country- and we can be able to do it together.”
— Anthony Perez, JESUIT COMMUNICATIONS