Third Decade (1996-2006): Attempts towards Filipino Inculturation and Contextualization of the Charism and Mission

By the start third decade of the Rogationist presence in the Philippines (1997), there were already 24 Filipino Rogationist priests, majority of whom completed licentiate specializations in Rome. The number of autochthonous members would continue to rise in as much as local vocations continued to come. Inversely, the presence of Italian missionaries would constantly diminish. Consequently, tasks and responsibilities in the field of formation, parishes and socio-educational apostolate would be taken over by Filipino counterparts. This transition would translate to an inculturated and contextualized reading and living of the charism of the Rogate in local circumstances. For example, the Philosophical formation of aspirants and postulants were offered in-house both in Paranaque and Cebu. This allowed custom-made programs that respond to the demands of the charism and of the times, particularly the integration of study and apostolate. As for the young Religious confreres, the “bukluran” approach greatly shaped a formation oriented to be in solidarity with the poor. The emphasis on the immersion in the urban slum reality in Pasay City was a contextualized interpretation of Saint Hannibal’s option to live with the poor in Avignone Quarters. This sensitivity would later develop to a commitment to the defense, promotion and empowerment of the urban poor. Furthermore, this would pave way to start of a new type of community, the so-called “inserted community” of the St. Hannibal Empowerment Center (SHEC), where Rogationists confreres reside with the poor. Such attempts to inculturate the charism and apostolate would turn out to be a valid contribution of the Rogationists in the Philippines to the whole Congregation.
The celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Rogationist presence in the Philippines (2001) highlighted the urge for the inculturation of the charism and mission. This event was the key to initiatives and endeavors that would reshape the Congregation not only in the Philippines but in the world. Returning back to the roots in Bataan and reflecting on the generous action of God in this part of the world, the Rogationists in the Philippines discerned the direction for the future. There were basically two: the option for the poor and the sharing of the charism to neighboring Asian countries.

By this time, the decentralization of the Congregation had already seeped in the system. While in the past, initiatives would normally come from the top, this time the commitments that the 25th Anniversary celebration inspired were initiated at the level of the Philippine circumscription. In other words, they were the response of the confreres in the Philippines to the challenges posed by the signs of the times in the Asian part of the world. The thrust towards the “mission” in favor of the poor and evangelization both within the Philippines and outside the Philippines took its inspiration from Saint Hannibal. An ulterior motive for the missions in Asia emanated from what Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) considered as the special role of the Philippines to narrate the story of the love of God to the Asian content.

In the following years, such vision took a concrete shape. In 2002, upon the invitation of Bishop Cabrera of the Diocese of Alaminos, the Rogationists accepted a poor rural parish in a far-flung barrio in Zarragoza, Bolinao, Pangasinan. In 2003, the Missionary Stations in Korea and Vietnam were established. In 2004, the Missionary Stations in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia followed. In the same year, the so-called “inserted community” of the SHEC was established in the slums of Pasay. In 2005, Bishop Socrates Villegas of the Diocese of Balanga entrusted to the Rogationists the poor rural parish of Parang, Bataan which was the very parish that was supposed to be entrusted to the Rogationists with Fr. Diego Buscio as its first parish priest. Such was a dream come true to most of the confreres in the Philippines. Saint Francis Xavier Parish of Parang is laden with so many memories and symbolisms. It is the birthplace of the Rogationists in the Philippines and the place of selfless dedication of the first Rogationists missionaries in this country. Taking over that parish meant setting foot on the tracks of the Rogationist pioneers in the Philippines and carrying the torch of the Rogate to the rest of the country and beyond.
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