The Legacy of St. Clement Hofbauer: Preaching the Gospel Ever Anew

st-clement-hofbauer

Baclaran shrine is a 24/7 church and because of this it has sometimes been called a shrine with a perpetual mission.  This is not the only shrine in the history of the Redemptorist, however, that was identified with a perpetual mission. There was also a church in the 18th century run by the Redemptorists, which experienced a continuous influx of people day and night because of the lively and invigorating services in the church. This was the St. Benno’s church in Warsaw, Poland. The main Redemptorist behind the vibrant activity of this shrine was a Redemptorist who is now a saint. He is St. Clement Hofbauer whose feast we celebrate today. The shrine joins the whole Redemptorist congregation worldwide in thanking God and celebrating the life and legacy of St. Clement on his feast day today.

St. Clement Hofbauer (1751–1820) is often called the second founder of the Redemptorist congregation for bringing the congregation across the Alps in Northern Europe.[1] He is a  model of missionary dynamism and creativity encapsulated in his most famous quote of “preaching the gospel anew.”

St. Clement was born on December 26, 1751, in Tasswitz, Moravia (present day Czechoslovakia) of a poor family with twelve children.  He worked as an apprentice baker before he became a Redemptorist.

St. Clement lived in one of the most difficult and trying times of Central Europe.  The ideas of Enlightenment had pervaded the whole of Europe and the Church was slowly groping for meaning.  “He had to face Josephism, Illuminism, the French Revolution, the Empire of Napoleon I, Protestantism, Free Thought, but he had German Romanticism as an ally”[2]  Hans Scherman describes the impact of these socio-intellectual currents on theology in Clement’s time:  “Theology was searching for new ways of speaking to the intellectual currents of the age only to have its attempts condemned by Rome.”[3]

At the same time, this social milieu provided a good opportunity for Clement to develop a great ecumenical spirit and the formation of a genuine freedom of conscience.  Within his circle of friends he was responsible for many conversions from Protestantism.[4]   He had a “global” perspective which at that time was European.[5]

The Saint, with a deep knowledge of his times, was able to adapt his pastoral work.  When the government at that time forbade the preaching of missions, Clement endeavored to compensate the people for the loss of the occasional mission by conducting a “Perpetual Mission” in the church of St. Benno’s in Warsaw, Poland.

In the midst of these difficulties, Clement would often say that the “Gospel had to be preached anew.” The keyword in this Clementian expression is “anew”.  Josef Heinzmann, in examining the historical context of these famous words, explains:

The famous student of Hofbauer and preacher at the cathedral, Dr. Emmanuel Veith, reports: “I heard him say these splendid and emphatic words very often, yes almost daily: “The Gospel must be preached anew!” And in fact, people have wondered a great deal about this word anew. Does it mean again, or in a new way? What’s the difference?  Both are included in it.”[6]

St. Clement’s distinct legacy of “Preaching the Gospel anew” suggests two important points.  First the gospel must be repeatedly preached at all times, in all places.  Clement, who was always on fire, cannot accept the reality that the gospel cannot be preached because of external repressive conditions. Clement admonishes us that we should not give up preaching the gospel as it is relevant in all times and places. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9: 16).  Thus, Clement preached the gospel with utmost persistence and zeal in spite of the political turmoil and persecutions in Europe during his time.

Second, each time the gospel is expressed it is preached in a new way.  Preaching the gospel anew speaks of the newness of both the act and content of preaching.  Every act of preaching and its content is ever anew as the gospel is preached in different places, cultures and times.

Clement’s manner of preaching is marked by utter simplicity and connectedness with the language of the people.  “‘Today I’ll preach a sermon so simple that even the most stupid of you and every little child can understand’—he is supposed to have said, according to a police report.”[7]  Clement did not use elaborate theology and pageantry.  Although Clement was not a gifted rhetorician his sermons made an impact on all walks of life—rich or poor, illiterate, intellectuals and academics alike.  “God’s word must be preached in such a way that everyone understands it: the small and the great, the educated and the uneducated.”[8]

Although Clement manifested exemplary apostolic spirit, he was also known to be ascetic.   Clement’s asceticism was, however, “principally the asceticism arising from an apostolic activism.”[9]  Joseph Oppitz sums it up: “Clement was innovative and daring, an existential opportunist.”[10]

The mission system, which was a creative instrument of evangelization crafted by Alphonsus and appropriated by Clement, however, became fossilized in the nineteenth century for many reasons.  Moran laments this fact: “It is one of the great ironies that Alphonsus dedicated his life to preaching the bounty of God’s mercy available in Jesus Christ, while the Redemptorists later came to be renowned as blistering preachers of hell-fire and brimstone.”[11]

In 2009, the General Chapter of the congregation adopted the theme for the sexennium (2009-2015) from the tradition of St. Clement : “To Preach the Gospel Ever Anew (St. Clement): Renewed Hope, Renewed Hearts, Renewed Structures—For Mission.” The General Chapter recognized the crucial imperative of “preaching the gospel anew” amidst the many challenges of today’s global age.

St. Clement lived the gospel amidst insurmountable personal and social conditions.  He was confronted by the problem of speaking about God amidst the many obstacles of his time. Nevertheless, he upheld that “the gospel must be preached ever anew” in the midst of the intellectual challenges of the Enlightenment, the secularist environment of capitalism and the persecution and suppression of religious houses.   He experienced personal doubts, failures and struggles.  But these negative experiences did not deter him; on the contrary, these emboldened him to proclaim the gospel in the milieu in which he lived.

The Redemptorist congregation throughout its history has always thrived when, in the context of insurmountable challenges, they were open to opportunities for the proclamation of God’s abundant redemption.  They reach the lowest point in their history when their evangelizing ministry has become fossilized and the members become passive and retreat to security and complacency.

May the legacy and example of St. Clement continue to inspire and challenge all Redemptorists and missionaries towards constantly living with fresh vitality in mission, witnessing and community life.

 


 

[1] Louis Vereecke, “The Spirituality of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer,” Readings in Redemptorist Spirituality, Vol. 5, ed. Redemptorist General Council (Rome: Redemptorist General Council, 1991), 37.

[2] Vereecke, “The Spirituality of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer,” 39.

[3] Hans Scherman, “Saint Clement Hofbauer,” Readings in Redemptorist Spirituality, Vol. 5, ed. Rededemptorist General Council (Rome: Rededemptorist General Council, 1991), 13.

[4] Vereecke, “The Spirituality of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer,” 43.

[5] Scherman, “Saint Clement Hofbauer,” 21.

[6] Josef Heinzmann, Preaching the Gospel Anew: Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, trans. Bernard McGrade

(Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications, 1998), 67.

[7] Scherman, “Saint Clement Hofbauer,” 20.

[8] Heinzmann, “To Be a Redemptorist Today,” 60.

[9] Joseph Oppitz, Alphonsian History and Spirituality (Rome: Private Re­demptorist Publication, 1978), 82.

[10] Oppitz, Alphonsian History and Spirituality, 82.

[11] Moran, “Alphonsus Liguori,” 248.

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The First Redemptorist Community of Baclaran

This month of February marks the 87th year of the Redemptorist missionaries at Baclaran. When the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran, the land area was a grassland near the shore of Manila Bay. Let us look back into the events of 1932, the year when the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran.

1st comm 1932
First Redemptorist Community in Baclaran, 1932

The Redemptorists had already been in Malate parish since 1912 but found that the work in the Parish made it impossible for them to give Missions, the work for which they were principally founded. As a result of this they handed over the parish of Malate to the Columban Fathers on March 9th, 1929. Eventually they all withdrew to Cebu.

When the Archbishop of Manila Very Rev. Michael O’Doherty generously gave the perpetual use of three hectares of land in Baclaran, to the Redemptorists in 1930, Fr Grogan was chosen to return to Manila and take charge of building a Monastery and Church. He returned to Malate as a guest on Nov 6th, 1930 and was warmly welcomed by the Fathers. He wasted no time in getting to work on the job that had been assigned to him.

This was not easy. The land had no fence and had not even been surveyed. Worse, there was a Public Artesian Well in the middle of the property. All he could do was to start working and leave everything in the hands of his patron saint, Sta. Teresita of the Child Jesus. This apparently worked for by June 1931, he was able to sign a Contract for the building of a Monastery and another for the Church by October 17th, of the same year. Both were to be finished by February of 1932.

The new Community arrived on Feb 15th, 1932. They were Frs. Gallagher, Frean, Cosgrave, Taylor and Bros. Paschal, Adrian and Albert. They had supper in Malate and then proceeded to Baclaran to check out their new home. We read in the Chronicles of the day:

All were delighted with their new home but the romantic was not wanting. They discovered late in the evening that the gas for the stove had not been connected and breakfast next morning, the first meal, was cooked in true camp style by boiling the billy in the open.

The blessing of the Church took place on the 21st, of February. The blessing was done by Very Rev. Michael Doherty, assisted by Fr. Clementine Rodriguez, Parish Priest of Sta Rita, Baclaran, James Hayes S.J., Provincial of the Jesuits and Canon Jose Jovelanos.

Fr. Grogan left for Australia by boat on March 21st. He had finished his work and left to the new Community a home where they could live as Religious and get on with their principal work of learning Tagalog to give Missions to the Filipino People.

On Sunday July 3rd Fr. Taylor preached the first Tagalog sermon in Baclaran Church. On July 18th, Fr Gallagher opened a retreat to the girls of the Good Shepherd Convent in Sta. Ana. This finished on 22nd, and the whole was preached in Tagalog. The next month they hired a translator, Juan Santos to help speed up the Translation of their sermons. Within the first year the community had succeeded in learning sufficient Tagalog to give Missions and had begun to do so.

Fr. John Maguire, CSsR,

The Redemptorists as Regular Confessor of the President

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These days, the relationship between President Duterte and the Catholic church is at an all-time low.  Same is true between the Redemptorists and the President. This has not always been the case, however. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Redemptorist had a very good relationship with the President. This was during the term of President Ramon Magsaysay–popularly called the “Man of the Masses” and “People’s President”.

The late Fr. John Maguire reminisce these good old days:

On January 20th, 1954, Fr. Rector went to Malacañan to conduct the Novena for President Magsaysay’s family and household. A few days later, we read on the Jan 23, 1954 entry of the Baclaran chronicles about the request from Malacañan:

“The Redemptorists were asked by the Head Chaplain to be special confessors to the President’s family and household. The request was from Mrs. Magsaysay. The reply was; “We will go each Saturday afternoon if requested.”

The President used to send his car once a month to Baclaran to fetch one of the Redemptorist Fathers. The Father was then requested to hear the Confession of the first family including the staff of Malacañang. He was then treated to a presumably ‘presidential’ meal, before being returned home.

ramon-magsaysay-on-the-cover-of-time-magazine
Ramon Magsaysay on the cover of Time Magazine, November, 1951

When I first came to the Philippines there was a ‘Prayer for Peace’ recited in the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help every Wednesday during the Benediction. This was only removed when the Novena was revised in 1973 as it was felt that this was already included in the prayers of petition in the Revised Version of the Novena. This prayer had been included in the Novena at the request of President Magsaysay during his term of office.

Fr. John Maguire, CSsR,

Most Rev. Ireneo Amantillo, CSsR, DD. – First Filipino Redemptorist Bishop

The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran mourns the death of Most Rev. Ireneo Amantillo, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Tandag. After his retirement as Bishop, he was assigned for a couple of years at the shrine.  His assignment at the shrine even though was short, was a fruitful and memorable one. Many of the shrine volunteers, staff and his own Redemptorist confreres remember him as humble, friendly and funny.  After long years of service in God’s vineyard, Amantillo succumbed to cancer and died in the hands of the Lord in the morning of October 11, 2018. He was 83.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace!

Amantillo-memoriam

Fr. John Maguire, CSsR: A Man with No Guile

John Maguire

Fr. John Michael Maguire, “Fr. Mags” as we fondly call him, was born on the 19th day of November, 1932 at Leichhardt, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His parents were John Thomas Maguire and Ivy May O’Neill. He was professed a Redemptorist on February 11, 1954.

His sister Anne, told Fr. Frank Pidgeon about how Mags practice his faith during his childhood years:[1] 

“John made his First Communion at the age of 6. From that day on, he was never absent from daily Mass. At that early age, he became an altar boy.”

His sister also narrated to Fr. Pidgeon how Mags decided to join the Redemptorists:

“John came down from Sydney to Wagga Wagga with our parents for my profession as a religious sister. Someone had given him a small booklet entitled ‘Van, beloved of God and man’, which told the story of a young American Redemptorist seminarian who died shortly before his ordination. John read that book while he was with us, and afterwards decided to write to the Redemptorists to learn more about their life and work. A short time later, John found himself in the Redemptorist seminary – he was 18 at the time – studying Latin.”

On March 20, 1960, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop J. O’Collins of the Diocese of Ballarat. A year after his ordination, Fr. Maguire took part in parish mission in New South Wales, Australia until the early months in 1963. In the same year, he was sent to the Philippines. He arrived in Manila on March 3, 1963 at the age of 30.

He spent the best years of his life in the missions and in the shrine ministry in Baclaran. He spent about half of his missionary life in the Philippines in mission and half in the shrine ministry in Baclaran.

The first thing he did upon arriving in the Philippines is to learn Tagalog. He became very fluent in it that he was able to talk in Tagalog very fast. Even in his native English, he doesn’t mince lots of words and could get across his message in simple and few words. More than words he was a man of action. He was a man without pretense, without “airs”; a man who would do you no wrong and who was open to the world.

Besides learning the language, Mags understood the culture and made friends with a lot of people especially from the mission areas. He gave mission mostly in Tagalog provinces especially in Quezon. He also gave missions in Bulacan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Cavite as well as many Squatter areas in Manila, like Tondo, Tramo in Pasay, Pandacan, Paranaque, Muntinglupa, Cubao etc.

He had always a genuine interest in people. He was willing to put himself out to anyone who had any special needs especially for the young. He helped a lot of young people in their education and other needs. In recognition of his work for the youth, the shrine named its newly established youth center as John Maguire Youth Center.

Above all, he had a great love for the Baclaran shrine and the many thousands of ordinary people who flock there each Wednesday and Sunday. The wellspring of his love for the shrine and the devotees is his love for Mary. His Rosary was always beside him. He gave flesh and blood to the instruction of Mary to His apostles—“Do whatever (Jesus) tells you.” In generously offering his time and life in service to God and his people in an uncomplaining way, he took his Mother at her word.

Mags was a prolific writer. He was one of the original writer and editor of the shrine’s newsletter, The Icon. In fact, he was the most sought after writer of The Icon with his humorous section—Shrine Trivia and the interesting bit of historical chronicle—Ala-ala ng Kahapon. He also wrote a book, To Give Missions to the Filipino People Wherever they were Needed, an enlightening short book on the missionary endeavors of the Baclaran community since 1932.

In his later years, he was into painting. He painted about the meaning of all he encountered in his lifetime: his hopes and dreams and faith, the suffering of the people he ministered to, their unanswered prayers of yearning and longing for a more beautiful life.

In the last year of his life, Fr. Mags had suffered from both lung and brain cancer. Didoy Fajarda, the man who took care of him during his six months of illness recalled that two days before he died, Father John told him:

“Lahat ng gagawin ay para sa tao, sa mga kabataan, at mga bata. Huwag humingi ng tulong sa iba, tumulong sa kapwa.” (Whatever you do, you do it for others, the people, the youth, the children. Do not seek help from others. Rather give them your help.”

Here two days before he died, John had laid bare his soul. He had revealed with utter clarity the truth about himself. He had made his own the quintessential message of the Gospel: He was prepared, like Jesus, to give his life for others; “to serve and not to be served.[2]

On October 11, 2007, at around 9:20 in the evening in San Juan de Dios Hospital in Manila, Fr. Mags, a true servant of Jesus and Mary, passed over to eternal peace.

Is it allowed to have beer in heaven? I am sure Mags would love to. But more than enjoying beer in heaven, in the presence of a most loving God, he is enjoying the company of ordinary people who have genuinely served God and others.

Joey Echano, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)


 

[1] Fr. Frank Pidgeon, CSsR.,  “Fr. John Michael Maguire, CSsR.,” The Icon, November, 2007, Baclaran.

[2] Fr. Frank Pidgeon, CSsR.,  “Fr. John Michael Maguire, CSsR.,” The Icon, November, 2007, Baclaran.

Fr. Phil Vinteres: Composer for the Masses

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When I was still young and active on the missions Fr Phil and I were members of the Community of Lipa. Most of our work at the time was in the Province of Quezon and we only returned to Lipa to rest between Missions. On one of those nights during our rest time I said to Fr. Phil I have a few ideas I wrote down today, can you make them fit some tune (I suggested a possible tune) so that we can use it to teach the children more easily. He took the paper and said nothing. Next morning at breakfast he gave me another bit of paper. All the ideas were present but now it was in poetic form and it fitted perfectly the tune of a well-known Kundiman. We sang it for many years on Missions and it is still remembered as Ang Salita ng Diyos.

Fr Phil was a well-known musician and composer of religious and liturgical songs. In the early seventies just a few months after Mass was permitted in the vernacular, he had produced a Tagalog Folk Mass, which was so Filipino, that it was quickly learned by the people, and so popular that it was translated into many Filipino Languages. During the visits of Pope John Paul 11 to the Philippines, Fr Phil’s composition of the Ama Namin was sung during the Pope’s Masses and caught the attention of the Pope. Another much better known priest composer of Liturgical Music is reported to have said, I would be willing to give up all my compositions and be the composer of the Ama Namin of Fr. Phil. He was not as prolific as most composers because he usually found his inspiration in happenings and Liturgical Seasons. Also music was only his hobby. He wrote his songs to teach the people and help them to remember.

Who then was Fr. Teofilo Vinteres or Fr.Phil?

Fr Phil was born in Dagupan in 1932, the 7th, of 8 children. He entered St. Clements College in Iloilo in 1954, after 2 years of college at the UP in Diliman, Quezon City and the UE in Sampaloc, Manila. He was professed as a Redemptorist on July 22nd, 1957, and was sent to Ballarat, in Australia to study Theology. After a few years in 1963, he had to return to the Philippines due to ill health. However, after a short break and one semester teaching Catechism in the Juvenate he was able to return to his studies in Australia and was ordained on Sept 24th 1966. He was ordained by Msg. Hernando Antiporda, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila.

He was appointed Prefect of the college from 1972 to 1975, and was the first Formator to change the locus of a Formation House from a big building separated from the people to a rented house among the ordinary people. This was the inserted community in Libertad St, Mandaluyong. He was Novice Master from 1978-81 and Prefect of Students in 1990.

He was the first Filipino Vice-Provincial of the Manila Vice Province and was elected for three consecutive terms 1981-90. He took a break as Vice Provincial for two terms and then was elected again from 1996 until his death in 2001. Fr Phil had his gall bladder removed in 1998 but this was not the end of his medical problems as he had hoped. He had recurring trouble with his pancreas and in 2000 had an operation to bypass the pancreas. He was diagnosed to have chronic pancreatitis, and suspected cancers. He refused to give up his work and often had to call time-out during meetings when the pain became too great to bear. For the last year of his life he was in and out of hospital. He died in Baclaran on the 5th of November 2001 at 12:07 just after midnight, surrounded by his Community and most of the Formation Community.

He will always be remembered by us who knew him as a wonderful confrere, a person of tremendous gifts, with a great fighting spirit, and a remarkable hobby.

John Maguire, C.Ss.R.

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

Fr. George Tither: God is Rich!

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Fr. David Januarius Tither C.Ss.R. was born on August 20, 1920, at Edendale, Southland, New Zealand. His father, William Tither was from County Kerry, Ireland.   His mother was Frances Snodgrass, the first European child born in Te Anau, at the time a backwater. Though he was officially David Januarius, he was widely known as “George”, a name bestowed on him by his contemporaries in the Redemptorist juvenate.[1]

Fr. George always dreamed of becoming a priest. He was introduced to the Redemptorists by a teaching brother in his parish, who told him that by becoming a missionary he could do more good, and save more souls.

He was professed as a Redemptorist on February 2, 1940, and ordained priest on September 9, 1945.  He was appointed to the Philippines in 1948.  He was to minister there, apart from brief home visits, for the next sixty years.

Because of his beard and chubby frame, people would call him Fidel Castro. But the kids loved to call him Santa Clause. He loved to gather the kids around him and would sit the kids one by one over his legs and let them touch his beard. Then he would teach the kids the song, “Ang mga ibon …” The kids loved him and would always follow him wherever he goes.

He preferred speaking in Tagalog than in his native English, and he was very fluent at it. He was a fast talker just as he was a fast doer.  He is known for great energy and drive. The word “No” seems to be not part of his vocabulary. He had unbounded energy and zeal in mission and vocation.  He was a zealous promoter of vocation having recruited a number of Filipino Redemptorists.  Many of today’s Filipino Redemptorists and even those who have left the Redemptorists have testified that he was a decisive influence in their lives.

He had a knack for connecting with the young especially those who attended his Vocation search-in and “Night with the Lord.” In his correspondence to them, he would always sign his letters with words like utol George (brother George) or ang iyong ka chokaran (your buddy).  Whenever any of his recruits would hesitate to enter the seminary especially because of financial problems, he would always tell them, don’t worry, mayaman ang Diyos (God is rich!). Because of George’s magnanimity in giving his time, assistance and resources to anyone, people saw in George that, indeed, God is rich!

In mission, he was a hard worker and innovator. He especially inspired the explosion of the pioneering Kilusang Ilaw (Light Movement) mission.  In 1968, George challenged his confreres to give a mission in the entire fourth district of Manila and in the process he was able to secure the approval of the archbishop and the support of the parish priests. The mission was conducted simultaneously in the parishes of Paco, Pandacan, Peñafrancia, San Andres, Sta. Ana and Pius X. The mission was called Kilusang Ilaw and ran from 4 January to 29 March 1969.

Apart from being a missionary, he was famous for being a water diviner.  He can pinpoint streams of water underground in lands that were bone-dry using nothing but a Y- or an L-shaped twig. Sometimes he would just use a rod or a pendulum.  Those sceptical of his ability to divine water were silenced when a well drilled in the spot indicated by him provided a copious flow.  His reputation at this mystical craft had apparently spread far and wide that even the Philippines’ biggest landowning families were sending for him to search for water in their vast haciendas and farmlands.  It was far cheaper to get him than consign the job to a group of earth-digging geologists from the state university.

George’s commitment to the confessional was exceptional. Even in advanced old age he devoted many hours each week to this ministry.  One penitent who had known him for years had this to say after sharing with him last year a very personal problem.  “As I looked into George’s tear-filled eyes and listened to his soft, trembling voice, I realized more clearly than I ever did before, that I was truly in the presence of a holy man, hallowed by living, loving, and compassionately walking with the poor and the suffering. “[2]

In 1990, after serving in various capacities at the Redemptorist community in Baclaran, Manila, he was assigned to the community in Legazpi City, and never really left the place, except for a few periods. He was a popular confessor and spiritual director for many of Legazpi’s faithful – clergy, religious and laity alike. He had long suffered the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease before finally succumbing to severe pneumonia.

Fr. Tither was deeply committed to his religious community.  In his final illness, when it was realized that he had only a short time still to live, he was brought back from hospital so that he could end his life among his brethren. As one who was present put it, “After he was wheeled into the living room of the community, George’s face lit up immediately.  He had come home.”[3]  On January 31, 2008 Father David “George” Tither, passed on to eternal life at the age of 87.

His death left many people grateful and inspired to seek the richness of God through the goodness and utmost holiness in their own lives. In 2015, the Chapter the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Manila approved the initial process of investigating the worthiness of his life for canonization purposes.

Joey Echano, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

 


 

[1] Humphrey O’Leary, CSsR, Tribute to George Tither.

[2] Humphrey O’Leary, CSsR, Tribute to George Tither.

[3] Humphrey O’Leary, CSsR, Tribute to George Tither.

Bro. Tony Bernardo, CSsR: Friend of Alcoholics and Drug Addicts

 bro-tony-bernardo

Most Redemptorists, like all ordinary people, have experienced pains and wounds in their lives. These painful and wounded experiences ironically became a resource for ministering to others. A minister is compelled to heal others because the minister himself/herself is “wounded”.  An example of this is the story of Bro. Tony Bernardo C.SS.R.

Brother Tony was born in Velasquez, Tondo and was the youngest of eight children. He graduated from Feati University as a Radio Operator. He tried to become a Brother with the Blessed Sacrament Order but had to leave in 1968 due to bad health. The same happened with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the following year. He joined the Redemptorists in 1972 and once again had difficulties in Formation due to his arthritis and diabetes. His Formation took him to Legaspi, Lipa and Antipolo and in 1975 he entered the Novitiate in Lipa. He was professed temporarily on May 15th 1977 and took Final Vows in 1981.

He was assigned to the Community in Antipolo to care for the needs of the professed students and later went with them when they transferred to 14th Street, New Manila. In 1987 he was given a chance to join the Mission team in Legaspi. He was always successful with the simple people and had a way of reaching their hearts and converting them.

In 1989 he was transferred to Baclaran and joined Alcoholics Anonymous in Makati. This was a turning point in his life. It began with his own need but it was here that he found his true vocation in life. He soon saw the need for a center for simple people who could not feel at home with the Regular AA meetings in Makati and the Army and Navy Club and it was not long until he had permission to hold his own meetings in one of the Consultation rooms in Baclaran. He also had a poster on the front door declaring himself available for those with drinking problems.

It was soon clear that his gift with simple people worked even with Drug Addicts. He studied Clinical Pastoral Education in 1991 and soon after became a regular counselor in Pasay City Jail especially with the addicts. His career as a counselor would not be a long one as God called him home on July 11th 1992 when he died of a massive heart attack. He was just 52 years of age.

John Maguire, CSsR.

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

Father Leo James English, C.Ss.R: THE PRIEST WHO WROTE THE DICTIONARY

joe_english

Father Leo James English, C.Ss.R. is credited with leading the inauguration of the novena in Baclaran in June 23, 1948. He is more known, however, as the compiler and editor of two of the first most widely used bilingual dictionaries in the Philippines namely, the English–Tagalog Dictionary (1965) and the Tagalog–English Dictionary (1986).

Fr. English was an Australian Redemptorist who was born in Melbourne on the 8th, July 1907. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10th, March 1935 and was assigned to the Philippines in 1936 arriving on December 5th. He had been assigned to Lipa City and went there almost immediately. He soon had a working knowledge of the language and joined the Missions in the Lipa Archdiocese. He remained in Lipa until the Japanese occupation, when all the Australian priests and Religious were called to Manila and eventually found themselves in the concentration camp in Los Banos. While interned by the Japanese occupation forces at Los Baňos, Father English started compiling an English-Tagalog dictionary largely in response to a need which he had long felt for a thorough work of this nature.

After the war and a short break in Australia he returned to the Philippines and was stationed in Baclaran until 1950 when he was appointed Superior of the Redemptorist community in Lipa City. During this time he continued to work on the Missions but the dictionary, that he had dreamed of, was never far from his mind. So he continued his work on the dictionary. In the final stages, he secured the assistance of Dr. Jose Villa Panganiban, Director of the Institute of National Language, and Dr. Rufino Alejandro, then Assistant Director of the Institute, as well as many other Filipino friends. It was completed in 1965. When it was published in 1965 he then began the formidable task of producing a  Tagalog -English Dictionary.

The English–Tagalog Dictionary (1965) was published by the Australian Government, and given to the Filipino people as a gift of friendship. In his preface the honorable Paul Hasluck, M.P. Minister of State for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia said:  Australians value very highly their friendly and sympathetic relations with the Philippines.

Fr. English’s dictionary was primarily a fruit of his missionary endeavors in the Philippines. Right at the beginning of his missionary assignment in the Philippines he committed to learning Tagalog. He understood fully well that to become a good missionary, learning the local language is a must. While on mission, he would gather every new Tagalog words. He also shared the words he collected to help his fellow Redemptorist missionaries in learning the language. After many years of going out in the mission and at the same time gathering new Tagalog words, he was able to gather several thousand Tagalog words to put into a dictionary. His efforts was supplemented by a scholarly method. Just like a linguistic anthropologist, he spent time working with language. His work was recognized by the Australian government that it agreed to partly finance it.

Near the end of 1973, he was transferred to Baclaran and from then on spent most of his time working on the second Dictionary. We have to remember that he had no access to a computer in those days and everything had to be typed, corrected and then re-typed. His main assistant was Teresita Castillo who faithfully typed all the manuscripts many times as they were corrected for typographical errors, inaccuracies in translation and accentuation. The second Dictionary was published in 1986.

The dual dictionaries of Fr. English pioneered the launching of many bilingual dictionaries and thesauruses in the Philippines. Fr. English’s dictionaries had been influential in the development and propagation of the Filipino language in the Philippines and abroad.

Until the day he died, he still worked each day looking for ways to improve his knowledge of Tagalog and improving the dictionaries if ever there should be a new revised edition. He died on the 19th, October, 1997 in Baclaran. He was 90 years of age and had spent 60 years in the Philippines. He did many other things during his long life but he will always be remembered as the Priest who wrote the Dictionary.

John Maguire, C.Ss.R.

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

A Shrine Born Out of a Love Story

~22~22

Did you know that when the first Redemptorist missionaries came to Baclaran, Philippines in 1929, they never planned to build a big shrine for Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Little did they imagine that someday, Baclaran would turn into the biggest pilgrim shrine in the world dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

If the Redemptorists did not plan it, who planned it? To answer this question, let us take a trip down memory lane.

The first Redemptorist missionaries who came to the Philippines in 1906 began their mission in Opon, near Cebu. From there, they gave missions to several provinces in the Visayas.

From the Visayas, the Redemptorist advanced to Luzon to expand their missionary work. The Manila Archdiocese entrusted to the Redemptorist the care of the parish of Malate in 1913.  The Redemptorist was reluctant all along to live in Malate as they were keener on giving missions to the barrios of the Southern and Northern Luzon region. Fr. Michael Bailey summarized the sentiments of the early Redemptorist about Malate as “good as a parish apostolate but as a mission to Filipinos it was in many ways as ill-fated as its origins were compromising.” Filipino Sociologist Manuel Victor Sapitula explains that the reticence of the pioneer Redemptorists regarding Malate was because they deemed it “too urban.”  Instead of an urban parish, the majority of the pioneer missionaries preferred a mission base far removed from the exigencies of urban life.

To cut the story short, not long after settling in Malate, the Redemptorists negotiated with the Archdiocese for a transfer. The Archbishop offered them a piece of land in the then rural village of Baclaran. The land was a donation by a devotee of our Blessed Virgin Mary. In Baclaran, the Redemptorist have finally found an ideal location for a mission station, one that they have been longing for, ever since they sat foot in Luzon. The Redemptorist immediately began the process of transfer from Malate to Baclaran in 1929.   

In 1929, Baclaran was an unknown small rural fishing village of Manila, Perhaps during that time, people would have asked: Is there something good that can come out of Baclaran? Ironically, Baclaran as a suburb outside of the city center, poor and rural are the reasons why the Redemptorists settled there.

The Redemptorist built a small convent and church in the middle of grassland. The grassland was near the seacoast where the fisher folks used to anchor their small fishing boats. Before World War II, the waters of Manila Bay used to come up to the refectory of the monastery especially on high tide.  After the war, the water used to lap the shore along Roxas Boulevard. Now the sea is about two kilometers from the front of the Church.

From the very beginning, the early Redemptorists conceived of Baclaran as a mission station where they can hold missions to distant barrios. The Redemptorists settled at Baclaran primarily to give mission. There was never a plan to make Baclaran a parish. The small wooden chapel will only cater to the local community around the convent. This chapel fits the ideal preconception of a rural mission church that the pioneer Redemptorists favored. Built with wooden frames and rather small, the shrine and monastery suited the predominantly fishing village landscape that Baclaran exemplified.

The entry in the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community, dated March 21, 1932—the day Fr. Denis Grogan, the man who built Baclaran Monastery and Church left the Philippines—encapsulated the missionary intent of the Redemptorist when they settled in Baclaran:

“The Redemptorists now had a Monastery where they could live as religious and get on with their main work of learning Tagalog to give Missions to the Filipino People wherever they were needed.”

~13A further expression of this missionary aspiration is Grogan’s dedication of the shrine and its attached convent to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patron saint of mission. This is etched in the foundation stone of the Monastery, which was blessed and laid on Sept 13, 1931:

At the request of Most Rev. Fr. General Murray and with the approval of His Grace, the Monastery and Church are to be dedicated to St Teresa of the Child Jesus, the patroness of the missions. The secondary Patrons shall be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Mother of Perpetual Succor, St Joseph, St. Alphonsus, St. Clement and St. Gerard.

After settling down in Baclaran, the Redemptorists did what they knew best—doing missions!  We read in the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community that they were working regularly in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga and occasionally in Ilocos, Baguio, and Palawan, as well as in Manila and Rizal.

Deeply occupied by missionary work, the early Redemptorists never thought of transforming the small wooden chapel into the big shrine that it is now. At the very beginning, however, there were already writings on the wall that will foreshadow the transformation of this small wooden church into the biggest shrine in the world dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

First of this writings on the wall is the intention of the donor. The donor, a certain pious woman named Anastacia donated the land with the intention that it give honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Fr. Sam Boland narrates,

The land was a pious foundation, as the Archbishop of Manila had described it, and quite an interesting one. It had been the property of a good widow whom Father Gallagher, the source of our information, remembers as Anastacia. In her will, she bequeathed the land to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her relations after her death referred the matter to the Holy See for an interpretation; and the decision was that it was to be regarded as a bequest to the Church to be used for religious purposes. Now at last after the elusive talk of the past few years about Baclaran, “the place of the fishtraps,” Anastacia’s gift to the Blessed Virgin, was entrusted to the Australian Redemptorists.

The second writing on the wall is the providential story of how the altar came to be dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. At the beginning of their ministry in Baclaran, the Redemptorist asked for donations from the people in building and adorning the small wooden chapel. The Ynchausti family came, along with friends and benefactors, with the intention of donating a beautiful high altar to the congregation. They had one condition, however, that the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help ought to occupy the high altar. This would conflict with the intention of the pioneer Redemptorists to have the chapel in honor of St. Thérèse. Who would get the high altar— St. Thérèse or Our Mother of Perpetual Help? Fr. Grogan unfolds to us this drama on an entry dated Feb 1, 1932 in the Chronicles:

“I am preparing the House and Church for the arrival of the Fathers and Brothers from Australia. The new high altar given by Sra. De Ynchausti arrived. It was designed and made by Mr. Maximo Vicente under the guidance of the donor. It became the high altar very providentially. Sta. Teresita being the Patroness should naturally have been there and for the first Mass celebrated in the church she was actually installed but when the donor offered her altar, she expressed the wish that it should be the high altar. I proposed her wish to Father Provincial (Byrne) with a good recommendation and he decided it should be so. The delay in communicating brought us near to the Opening Day and hearing nothing from Australia we gave orders that the plans should be changed and the altar made smaller to suit the aisle, but at that very moment, while the designer was in the house, the mail arrived from Australia and all was changed. Our Lady of Perpetual Succor (Help) was given the High Altar and Sta. Teresita on her right side, with St. Gerard on the left.”  

Later on, the Redemptorists transferred St. Thérèse’s statue to the grounds in front of the convent. As time will tell, this became a more fitting place for St. Thérèse’s statue as the people were able to touch her. This also serves as a reminder that the saint once had a brief reign in the shrine, before it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Filipino historian Trazer Dale Mansueto notes that Ynchausti’s choice of Our Mother of Perpetual Help underscores the growing devotion to the Marian title in the Philippines at the time prior to the explosion of the novena.  This further shows that some awareness about Our Mother of Perpetual Help has already reached Baclaran even before the Redemptorist arrived there.

It took sixteen years before anyone in the Redemptorist community thought of having a Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran. For sixteen years the Redemptorist were busy giving missions from all over the Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon areas. Although in most of these missions, they were introducing the icon and propagating the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, no one thought, however, of introducing the novena at the small chapel of Baclaran.

When the Redemptorist finally did start the novena after hearing of it’s warm acceptance in Ilo-ilo, Lipa and Cebu, all were taken by surprise by the rapid increase of the crowd flocking to the small wooden chapel for the novena. During the first novena, there were only 70 people present.  The following week the number doubled. Before the year ended, the Redemptorists added more novena sessions since the original chapel was good for only 300 people.

1st_novenaThen, it dawned upon the Redemptorists that this chapel is not just meant to be a mission station. This chapel is meant for something extraordinary which the past writings on the wall have foreshadowed. Something special is about to transform this place because of Mary of Baclaran, Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The small wooden chapel would have to give way to a larger church.

By the end of 1949, there were eight crowded sessions of the novena, and many others were following it from the parking area. By this time, the crowd was estimated between 50,000 and 70,000 people.

The rest is history!

But where did the crowd who attended the novena came from? Why did the attendance to the novena multiplied so fast?

The Filipino people fell in love with Our Mother of Perpetual Help or shall we say Our Mother of Perpetual Help fell in love with the Filipino people even before the explosion of the novena in 1948. As the late Fr. John Maguire said,

[O]ne reason for the rapid spread of the Perpetual Novena, after it began in Baclaran in 1948, was the already existing love of the people for the Mother of Perpetual Help, whom they had come to know and love from the Redemptorist Missions.

It was the love story between the Filipino people and Our Mother of Perpetual Help that catapulted the explosion of the novena to cosmic proportions. It was the love story between the Filipino people and Our Mother of Perpetual Help who planned the biggest shrine of the world dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

The Redemptorists helped facilitate this love story to blossom in Baclaran. The Redemptorist missions in the barrios deep into the country introducing Our Mother of Perpetual Help helped prepare the way for the coming of the novena. The Redemptorists were the stewards entrusted with the care of the shrine that is a testament to the love story between the Filipino people and Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

newly constructed church

 

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)