Prot. No. 0114/16
25 November 2016

 

TO ALL THE BROTHERS OF THE PROVINCE OF ST. EZEKIEL MORENO

 

On November 28, we, as a Province, will turn 18.


       How amazingly God’s grace is working in us all these years! And how deeply we have trusted in the Lord of history, in Jesus who pours forth his Spirit in our hearts1 so that, despite the vagaries of time, place, and culture, we are able to live and work in the Augustinian climate of “anima una et cor unum in Deum.”2


 

 Growing vitality

“In the beginning we were few, but we were [made] impassioned by Jesus Christ. We… were filled with the zeal to evangelize.”3 The Report of the then newly created Province had shown that “as of December 1998” the number of religious was 128.4 Fast forward to the present: as of November 24, 2016, the number rises to 172. Which means, with an increase of 44 within these periods, at least two religious, on average, are added to the family each year.

 

We are cognizant, however, that there is more to reckon with than what these figures project. The oft-repeated preference for quality over quantity particularly in the religious realm brings this snippet of wisdom to the fore: “what is required of [us] is not success, but commitment to faithfulness.”5

 

With a median age of 46, the Province is the youngest in the Order. While it indicates vitality in the youthfulness of the members, it spurs us on to rather draw strength from our daily encounter with the Author of our consecrated life. Such personal encounter, if we delve further into Pope Benedict XVI’s Deus caritas est 1, “refers to Jesus as a person, and not only the teachings drawn from the example of his life or the historical consequences of his work.”6 This transformative encounter which finds its “culmen et fons”7 in the Eucharist is the very reason why we remain relevant in the parishes/chaplaincies, mission areas, and schools. This is the selfsame reason why we get involved in social and ecological concerns, history and cultural heritage, communications media, resource mobilization, among others.

 

This encounter is the lynchpin to our growing vitality as a Province. Never should we ever miss this life-giving opportunity for which, as Augustinian Recollects deployed in the Philippines, Taiwan, Sierra Leone, Saipan (CNMI), Panama, Italy, Spain, and the USA, we strive to shape up according to our primary objective of this triennium: to become “missionary disciples and prophetic witnesses of the Joy of the Gospel among the poor.”8

 

Together we have dared to expand the terrain of our pastoral ministry, either as part of our interprovincial collaboration or as response to the Life and Mission Project (LAMP) of the Province. This was among the lofty aspirations determined by the previous provincial chapters, for instance: “to become ‘a leaven of communion at the service of the universal Church’”,9 and “to emulate [the] life and example” of St. Ezekiel Moreno, a model evangelizer, religious and pastor.10 These will definitely continue to be our program of life “in season and out of season”11  since we are “permanently in a state of Mission”.12 And right now, we have pending invitations from different overseas and local dioceses to collaborate with them. But we have to take as a criterion of apostolic action not only where the Church needs us, but also where the Church sends us. We beg, then, for divine enlightenment in our collective discernment and decision-making in this regard.



Turning Points

 

The 55th General Chapter convened on October 2-26, 2016 in Rome marked a major turning point in the life of the Order in general, and of our Province in particular. The repercussions of the approved Life and Mission Project of the Order which includes the juridical restructuring of the eight provinces into four usher in a higher level of awareness about our own vocation, identity, and mission. And this occurs in time for our 18th founding anniversary few days from now!

 

One small detail that I would like to mention has something to do with a milestone 395 years ago: the first General Chapter of the Recoletos as a Congregation on November 1621 in Madrid. In that historic Chapter, the 28 convents in Spain and in the Philippines were divided into four provinces, namely: Castille (St. Augustine), Aragon (Our Lady of the Pillar), Andalucia (Bld. Thomas of Villanova), and the Philippines (St. Nicholas of Tolentine).

 

Based on this, allow me to note some curious items for juxtaposition: In 1621, “four” provinces were created and that the Philippines, the fourth one, remained as a separate province. After almost “four” centuries, the number of provinces doubled. But this year, 2016, these eight provinces underwent the needed restructuring process; they were reduced to “four” provinces in which the fourth one, where the Philippines belongs, remained intact. This latter scenario which “burns with the inspiring fire of the Holy Spirit”13 spawned greater responsibilities and tasks for our Province to accomplish in the next sexennium. Probably the twist to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote is true: “The prize of a job well done is another job to be done.”14

 

On this eighteenth year of the Province, the turning points are aplenty. We just need to review the LAMP of the Order, especially those sections that treat the various aspects of our religious life as a community or as individual religious.



The Spirit leads


 

Adelante! There is no better alternative than to move forward. Pope Francis, in his address to us, Capitulars of the 55th General Chapter, on November 20, 2016, at the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, said:

                    

“The grateful memory of [Christ’s] love in the past impels us to live in the present with passion and greater courage. Thus we can ask him to command whatever he wishes, for to ask this implies freedom of spirit and availability. […] Neither failures nor other evils matter, because it is he who stands at the centre, it is he who guides us.”15

 

We must not be afraid, then, to march on and, in compliance with the demands of the proper authorities, even explore uncharted waters. The Holy Spirit will lead us. He will take charge all throughout our journey for another 18 years and beyond. Ours must be an active trust and docility in His never-failing guidance in all our plans and endeavors.

 

If we leaf through the pages of our OAR Constitutions and history books, we will see how the Holy Spirit works every step of the way. Our OAR Constitutions begin with “The Holy Spirit provides…,”16 noting that every gift comes from this “Lord, the Giver of life.”17 And was it by coincidence that, on February 22, 1606, in the last phase of their voyage, from Mexico to the Philippines, the pioneering Recollect missionaries boarded the galleon named Espíritu Santo?

 

A week after we shall have celebrated the “debut”, so to speak, of the Province, we shall proceed with yet another bigger celebration—the 428th anniversary of the Order on December 5. Again, this will be another occasion to refresh ourselves about how in 1588 the Capitulars of the Chapter of Toledo (Spain) were “aware of this divine inspiration and unwilling to oppose the work of the Holy Spirit.”18

 

Just like our forefathers, let us also be led by the same Spirit as we respond with joy and promptness to the calls and challenges of our time. To cite some of these:

  •        The universal Church calls us “to promote a culture of mercy”19 and “to unleash the creativity of mercy” so that it may be “an eloquent expression of the fruitfulness of the love of Christ”20;
  •        The LAMP of the Order (2016-22) asks of us to be “creators of communion” by “being disciples of the one Lord, builders of community, lovers of interiority, searchers of the Truth, servants of the Church, and prophets of the Kingdom21;
  •        The Philippine Church, through the CBCP, urges us to focus on 2017 as the Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities. This jibes very well with who we are as Recollects;
  •        The LAMP of our Province (2015-18) prods us to implement and to assess what has been implemented so far, but always in accordance with the criteria of the Order.22


Let us celebrate


 

With highest praise and gratitude to God, let us celebrate the 18th birthday of our Province. May I enjoin every community to make its own version of thanksgiving for this wonderful gift. The brothers may gather for a renewal input, celebrate a votive mass in honor of St. Ezekiel Moreno, and share lunch or dinner together.

 

Finally, let me own the words of Pope Francis during our audience with him: “Dear brothers, I invite you to hold fast to the dream of Saint Augustine to live as brothers with ‘one soul and one heart’ (Rule 1, 2) with a renewed spirit that reflects the ideal of the first Christians and becomes a prophetic sign of communion in our world so that we may rid ourselves of divisions, conflicts and exclusion, and allow harmony and dialogue to reign.”23

 

Through the intercession of Nuestra Señora de la Salud24 and our patron, St. Ezekiel Moreno, may God bless each of us, our collaborators, our ministries, our activities and projects.

 

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary!


 

In St. Ezekiel Moreno,
                                                                                                                                                                                                            

(Signed) Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR
Prior Provincial                           



(Signed) Fray Jose Ernil F. Almayo, OAR
Provincial Secretary

 

 

ENDNOTES

______________

1 Cf. Rom 5:5

2 Rule 1, 2

3 Eliás Royón, Discurso inaugural de la Asamblea de CONFER 2012, 17, quoted in: Document 7 of the Process of Revitalization and Restructuring of the Order, Rome, 2012, 9.

4 Cf. Keeping the fire ablaze. Directory of Religious and Communities. Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno, 2008, 29.

5 Vita consecrata, 63

6 Document 4 of the Process of Revitalization and Restructuring of the Order, Rome, 2012, 13.

7 Sacrosanctum concilium, 10

8 Primary Objective of the Province for the Triennium 2015-18.

9 Message, First Provincial Chapter, November 8-21, 1999, 1.

10 Cf. John Paul II Homily, Canonization of St. Ezekiel Moreno, October 11, 1992; Message, Third Provincial Chapter, February 13-25, 2006, 4.

11 2 Tim 4:2

12 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida Document, 29 June 2007, 201; Quoted in Evangelii Gaudium, 25.

13 Cf. Fray Miguel Miro, Prot. N. 211/2016, dated November 1, 2016; ibid., Prot. N. 1-6/14.5, dated December 5, 2014.

14 Actually the above quote is equivalent to Jonas Edward Salk’s “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” The quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson goes: “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.”   

15 Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/october/

documents/papa-francesco_20161020_agostiniani-recolletti.html. Accessed on 11/22/16.

16 Const. 1

17 Cf. The Nicene Creed

18 Const. 4

19 Misericordia et misera, 20

20 Misericordia et misera, 17

21 Message of the 55th General Chapter.

22 Cf. Fray Miguel Miró, Prot. N. 1-6/14.3, dated June 8, 2014.

23 Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.

24 The image was brought to the Philippines by the 7th batch of Recollect missionaries who arrived in 1634. 

Alfonso Gallegos was born during hard times.  The Great Depression of the 1930’s was worldwide. It was made more excruciating in the United States of America when the dry spell, the longest in modern American history, struck the Great Plains, affecting mainly the Midwest and the Southwest, the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. These areas became known as the Dust Bowl.

The lack of economic stability and the fear of starvation led people to flee their homelands in search of better opportunities. Thousands fled to California, which itself was reeling from high unemployment and low wages. This economic situation led to social unrest, worsened by the government’s default on spending that adversely affected all public services including education.

It was then during this time in a place not far from California, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that the baby boy Alfonso was born.  It was February 20, 1931.  At the age of 7, the little boy and his family took the lead of the many others and moved to Watts, Los Angeles, California hoping for the better.  Watts was a home to a growing community of Mexicans and Mexican American migrants. It was among them that Alfonso grew up until he left his home in 1950 to enter in the seminary of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in Kansas City. He was ordained priest in 1958.

Four years after his priestly ordination, he was assigned as pastor in his home parish in Watts. Here he dedicated his primary attention to the out-of-school youth who were prone to drugs and criminal activities. But the young Father Alfonso did not judge them, must less evaded them. Rather he spent time with them and encouraged and even helped them to go back to school and obtain university degree. This move brought about a change of life to many who heeded his encouragement. His pastoral care improved the environment of the area. Church attendance increased, crime rates dropped and people felt safe to go around. He infused hope into the community.

Aware of the growing population of the Hispanic migrants in California, in 1979 the California Bishops Conference named Alfonso Gallegos as the first Director of the Hispanic Affairs, California Catholic Conference. Its main objective was to organize and implement programs for the benefit of the Spanish-speaking migrants coming to the United States. In these Hispanic Affairs, Gallegos kept up with legislation and issues affecting the Hispanic community and provided this information to the Bishops. His appointment in 1981 as Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento was a recognition of the new demographics and a response to the need for ecclesiastical leadership for this rapidly growing Hispanic population. Gallegos was the first Mexican-American Bishop to serve the Church in Sacramento since 1861.

He visited and stayed with the migrants in the labour camps, spoke out for them before the government legislators and assured them of the welcoming embrace of the Church. He would spend various nights during the week with the youth in the parks, befriended gang members by talking to them, encouraging them to leave behind drugs and criminal activities and strive for a better future. He blessed the cars of the “low riders” and rode with them. He championed the right of the unborn children. Everyone had a place in his agenda, the poor, the sick, the aged and those in prisons regardless of their creed, colour and culture. He was a Bishop always on the move, spending most of his time with his flock. As one witness during the diocesan process testified, “Bishop Gallegos was always trying to be there for every one, that at times, he would forget to take care of himself”.

Now a day, the world needs shepherds whose life is configured to Christ; shepherds who do not ask for what they stand to gain but what they can give to others; shepherds who do not seek to win people for themselves but to lose themselves for others. People want to see a joyful zeal in the ministers of Christ, ministers who carry out their task with enthusiasm, thus, giving credible witness to the Gospel message. Bishop Gallegos´ life is a response to these noble aspirations. Although throughout his life he had to bear the serious effects of his myopic eye problem, never for an instance did he lose his optimism. His wide smile was a constant mark of his personality. “What a beautiful day!” was his usual expression. He was not a scholar nor considered an intellectual but his preaching touched people’s hearts because God had first touched his own. He chose as motto for his episcopal coat of arms “Love one another”.

          Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Bishop Gallegos said, “I would like to be remembered as having helped the young people how to appreciate who they are and to value the life God has given them. I would also like to be remembered as having appreciated people and all that they have to offer in making the world a better place to live in” (The Sacramento Bee Magazine, January 18, 1987).

A vehicular accident in the evening of October 6, 1991 claimed the life of this Hispanic Bishop at the age of 60. Earlier during the day, he joined a march against abortion, visited a young AIDS patient and finally administered the sacrament of confirmation to 71 candidates. His funeral claims the record attendance of grieving people in the diocese of Sacramento up to now.

A year after his death, a street connecting the State Capitol Building and the Cathedral of Sacramento was named “Bishop Gallegos Square”. It serves as bridge to bring the teaching of Jesus to the lawmakers, reminding them that one of their important and sacred duties is to help the migrants find a better place for themselves and for their families. His bronze statue stands in this same place. On March 27, 2010, his mortal remains were transferred to a new tomb in Our Lady of Guadalupe National Shrine.

Considering his saintly life and his intercessory prayers before the Lord, the diocesan process for his Cause of beatification and canonization was opened on December 4, 2005 at the Cathedral of Sacramento. After interviewing 130 witnesses and gathering the pertinent available documents, the process was concluded on November 5, 2006. The Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Vatican approved the validity of the diocesan process on July 4, 2008. The Positio on his life, virtues and fame of sanctity was submitted to the same Congregation on June 27, 2014. The Theologians approved his heroic virtues on March 17, 2016. The Congress of the Cardinals and Bishops gave their affirmative votes on July 5, 2016. Finally, on July 8, 2016, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation of the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree attesting to his sanctity of life and the heroic practice of virtues.

With a miracle attributed to his intercession he can be declared blessed and with one more he will be due for canonization.  For now we rejoice and content ourselves with the assurance of his sanctity as the Church recognizes the Bishop of the Barrio as Venerable Alfonso Gallegos.

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