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international house of formation - newsletter ISSUE 3 - DECEMBER 2011


I can only lift up my heart to God and in gratitude say a big ‘THANK YOU!’


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A warm welcome from Manila! This is our third issue of Balita and as I took an extensive look at what happened in the last months I realized that so much things came to pass that I can only lift up my heart to God and in gratitude say a big “THANK YOU!” As you can read in the following pages, amidst the studies, ministries and some well deserved holidays there were also events of great significance in our formation community. It brings a great joy in my heart to see one of our brothers saying “Yes” for life in his commitment to God and mission. And surely this encourages the others to follow. I must say that the challenges of modern society give us enough reasons why to shy away from long term or definitive commitments in life. But we still can stand up and say – “no it can be different!!”

We were encouraged so much when people visited our community and shared part of their journey with us as I hope we also shared with them. One significant occasion was the week encounter that we had to enter deeper in our understanding and the living of the charism as given to us by our founder. This was more then a week of study. It was an encounter with a dear person whom I believe loves us dearly from his place near God. It was also inspiring to go once again through the spirituality of Joseph Depiro and find once again a new rhythm for our hearts to beat with his. Depiro’s fidelity sustains us today. I leave you to go through these pages at your own leisure. This is an opportunity for us to share with you, our friends and dear ones, God’s gifts of life and communion. And above all, thank you for your constant support. Fr Mark Grima mssp

An online newsletter published by the International House of Formation - Manila. Distributed to MSSP members, family and friends around the world. Editor/Design: Br Clinton Farrugia mssp | Email:

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10 issue contents

IHF Diary IHF Experiences Ako si Christian A Philipino Christmas

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Sharing with you what happened in our community throughout this last year. Christmas Carolling

January - February

On January 3, after the Christmas celebrations, we returned back to school for the final part of the semester. Although there was still some way to go for March exams, the professors kept us quite busy with the various readings and papers to hand in before our final exams.

At Mount Carmel Parish

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On February 2, we joined other religious communities in celebrating the feast day of Religious Life. (Presentation of the Lord) Prayer Meeting

On January 17, we bid farewell to Frs Mario Zammit Satariano & Dennis Carabott who came for a short visit of our mission. We had ample time to discuss about the beauty and the challenging reality of our ministy in Australia, and our response as a congregation. On a seperate occasion, Fr Mario took the opportunity to share with us insights from his current studies on our Founder regarding his understanding of poverty and his desire of how we, MSSP are called to live this vow, as expressed through the Original Constitutions our Founder left us.

It is also good to note and affirm all the good work which our ‘neigbouring’ MSSP community, the local formation community is doing. Every Monday, starting last December, they started

organising a prayer meeting for which they invite youths from various universities and other institutions. Together, we stop for a moment of prayer and reflection, (normally on the upcoming Sunday’s gospel) and dine together. Well, it is a good opportunity to get to know each and the youths can get a glance of our lifestyle as religious brothers in formation.

A major phenomenon which the world is facing at present, especially in Asia, is Migration. For this reason, on Sunday, March 6, we invited Fr Graziano Battistella from the Scalabrini Migration Center, to share with us some insights on this regard. After presenting us with the current world situation, he highlighted important themes for reflection, discussing also the Catholic Church’s moral and pastoral response towards migrants.

Eucharistic celebration which included the imposition of the ashes.

We celebrated Ash Wednesday with a

Well, to be sincere, Beto, Nilton and Bernard were eagerly awaiting for the scholastic year to end as on the following week they left for their two-month visit home, after two years! Beto and Nilton left for Peru on the 27th while

Br Beto in Peru

Ministry in Bataan

The end of another scholastic year is near, but before that... final exams! So, in the second part of March our house was in total silence, everyone preparing his final papers and reviewing! On 23-24 March we went for a two-day holiday in Laguna – some days of holidays.

Bernard, who was preparing for his Final Profession, left on the 29th. Clinton and Carlos started a Clinical Pastoral Education unit in different hospitals. You can read more about their experiences in the next article. (Starting page 10) Br Carlos with CPE mates

Ministry in Montalban


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On April 13, we welcomed Leo once again in our community to become the second Philipino brother in formation. For all of us, it was a moment of joy to experience God’s abundant providence with our small family in the Philippines. From the 20th to the 24th, we spent Holy Week in our parish in Bataan. Joining us this year were a good number of youth in vocational discernment. Apart from helping out in the animation of the liturgies, we had other various activities such like a day retreat and a mini seminar given to the parishioners. One of this

year’s new ideas was the Jewish Seder meal which we celebrated after the Maundy Thursday celebration.


On May 8, although far from us, Br Bernard made his perpetual profession in Malta, promising to live a life of chastity, poverty,obedience & missionary service. Br Bernard kissing the cross

Br Leo and community

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Holy Week

Jewish Meal


Starting June, the brothers who were on holidays started resettling back at home. Between 6-11 June, Fr Tony Sciberras, the vice-postulator of our Founder’s beatification process, led us in a week of input and reflection about our Founder’s missionary spirituality. It was a very enriching experience as everyone had the chance to contribute to the ongoing discussion on our own missionary charism and spirituality. June brings with it the start of a new scholastic year - new subjects and new wisdom to grasp!

Monthly Retreat

On June 29, the eve of our Society’s foundation day we held a night prayer vigil whiles on the next day, we celebrated this anniversary with a community mass and dinner. July kicked off with another edition of ‘Ohloq Tbissima’ (8-10 July) which we supported through various live-broadcast links from our parish in Bataan. It is always with great joy that we welcome various MSSP brothers and lay who come to visit us, even for a short while. In July we welcomed Fr Raymond Simon from Pakistan who after some time of holiday, took on a sabbatical course.

Fr Karm Debattista together with Doreen Saliba, an enthusiastic lay leader from CAM Youths, came over for a two-month visit and mission experience with Fr Joe. In August we also welcomed Fr Mario Scerri and Dominic Borg who came over for a short visit on their way to Australia.

Peru’s National Day was celebrated with the peruvian community in Manila on July 28. In July and August we also celebrated Fr Mark’s and Br Clinton’s birthday and had our regular monthly retreats. This year’s retreats focused on our religious consecration. While Fr Karm was amongst us, he also conducted a short seminar on the Enneagram, another tool of self-discovery and growth. On August 20, at the same period of time that the World Youth Day was taking place in Madrid, we participated in the National World Youth Day activFr Karm - Enneagram Seminar

Fr Mario & Br Dominic

Fr Raymond Simon

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In two seperate occasions (Aug & Sept), Br Clinton and Br Mike, renewed their religious profession for another year.

On October 16, Fr Mark left for his home-leave after three years of mission, whilst Bernard went for a ten-day visit to China. The remaining community members, together with the local formation

Community went for a five-day holiday in Bolinao, situated in the northern part of the Philippines. Subsequently, we started our week-long yearly retreat in Baguio. This year’s retreat was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, a spiritual gem which the Founder himself suggested for our spiritual growth. Holidays

Manila WYD Night Vigil

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On September 21, the Maltese members joined the other Maltese who are residing in Manila for their National Independence Day. Throughout the upcoming month, the IHF was quiter than normal as the students were busily finishing their final papers for submission and preparing for their first semester exams.

Br Mike’s Renewal

Br Clinton’s Renewal

ity which took place at the Ateneo de Manila University. It was such a blessing to witness the faith of thousands of youth who gathered and for a whole night celebrated together in a festival of faith. As seminarians, we had the opportunity of journeying personally with some of the youths, in the form of spiritual conversations which were offered to those who wished.

November-December Not just our second scholastic semester kicked off in November, but also a brand new form of community ministry: a youth formation two-hour-program aimed towards a rediscovery of our christian faith, which we call ‘Ako si Christian’. You can read more on page 16. On December 4, we welcomed Father Ivano Burdian, an Australian member who was also one of the founding members of our mission in the Philippines. Christmas season was quite busy this year. We had many activities involving

the IHF, the local formation community (LHF) and the new vocational group that is forming. The LHF organised a round of family visits to our nearby squatters. They had the chance to speak with the families, pray with them and also invite them for a children’s party which we organised on December 19. With the children we had games, songs, gift giving, food and also a nativity photo booth! As a community we organized also a Novena for which we invited our close friends and collaborators. We started with a moment of prayer focused on the

image of Mary at the annunciation. As most of our guests were missionaries, we reflected on Mary’s feelings and her mission. After this, we dined together. For Christmas Vigil Mass we went to the parish of Mount Carmel in Project 6. Following an animated mass, we had our traditional Noche Buena at the IHF - lots of food and music. The oldies went to sleep early while the students continued singing till the wee hours of the morning. For Christmas Lunch we gathered in the LHF. We had the now traditional message of Fr. Lonnie, followed by lunch. Then some of us left for Bataan to assist Fr. Joe with the parish activities. Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)

Children’s Christmas Party

Novena with friends

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The experience that I lived in the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) during last summer was good because it helped me especially in my future ministry. During this time I had the opportunity to know more myself and be in touch with my story. It helped to me to know myself better and understand the root causes of my behavior. The presence of my peers and the supervisor helped me to recognize my wounds especially during my sharing and receiving feedback. During this time I had the opportunity to know the reality of the filipino people especially to listen to the situation of the poor people. CPE was an opportunity to learn about myself and about the people. I thank the Lord and thank my community for this new experience in my life.

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You may all be aware of what the CPE program is all about from the other brothers’ experience. I also thought I knew what it entails, however experiencing it was a different matter!


I knew that it would be a place wherein I would get in touch with people’s realities - until I realised that those people where the ones which challenged me to get more in touch with myself.

I knew that I would learn more how to minister - however I’ve learnt that through my ministry, I realised where I needed to be ministered to. I’m grateful that my formation experience in the Philippines encapsulates also such formative experiences which continue to shape me as a missionary. In the silence of pain & suffering, I experienced not only my fragility, but most importantly I felt God’s care and everlasting love with me and through me.

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My experience in Maryhill School of Theology for these two years permits me to have many insights in my formation in this time. The different subjects I have studied gave me the possibility to know better our Church, Christ, my vocation, and the culture, especially here in the Philippines. Critical Thinking, Ethics and Migration, Justice and Liberation, Intercultural Communication, and Christology are only some of the subjects that allowed me to have lights to face the different challenges that I had in my apostolate, community and school. Also these subjects were good tools for me because I could apply them in my apostolate that I have in our parish in Bataan. Now I am in my third year of my studies and also this is an invitation for me to continue in this period of formation as a religious to work in building the Reign of God as a member of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul.

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After 2 years of studies in Manila, it was time for a break and a visit home! I was on holiday in Malta for two months in April and May. My visit in Malta was indeed a very special one since, apart from reconnecting with family and friends, it was time for me to take my perpetual vows. Shortly after I touched ground I needed to get busy with all the preparations: invitations, choir, food and all the rest. Apart from all the logistical preparations, I also took time to be on retreat for some days and let myself be surrounded by Him who has called me – it was indeed an experience of grace! The 8th of May was a special day for all MSSP in Malta as we thanked the Lord together for his providence and his special love for the Society. I was also blessed to be able to share my time with the formation community in Malta.

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Without doubt, being home after almost 3 years was a marvelous time. I had an opportunity to spend quality of time with those with whom I am close (relatives, community and friends). It was providential to be with them and share so many experiences I lived during this period of my life as a student. The majority of them were so much interested to know a bit about the Philippines, its customs, traditions, and of course how do the Philippine people express and live their Christian faith. The exposure and of course the ministry that I had in our parish (Bataan), accompanying the youth of the Joseph De Piro Formation Center, certainly was a helpful experience at the moment to answer and share some thoughts, ideas and anecdotes which in one or in another way marked my soul and my heart. In this ministry I had the opportunity not just to share the things that I am learning in our school (MST) but also it was a time to open myself to newness and discover the important values and the healthy traditions that Filipino people have. I think the challenge that every society has to face is none other than striving for human development, not just material needs but also the spiritual ones. I believe we, as a Congregation are going through this way. MARAMING SALAMAT PO!!!!

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Ministry forms an important part of our ‘last phase’ of formation. As we prepare ourselves for full time ministry we at IHF engage in various ministries. Some of us minister to the youth within our MSSP parish in Bataan, others within Campus Ministry in Manila or with the very poor in the outskirts of the city. However, somewhere along the line, we felt the need of engaging in ministry as a community. What would it be like to minister together? What could we learn from each other? How would we work as a team? After some time of discernment, which took us from re visiting the vision/mission of

MSSP in the Philippines to concrete possibilities of ministry that we could do, we decided to make use of our contacts with various universities and formulate an outreach program that would reach out to university students. We felt that what we can contribute was giving a joyful, youthful experience of our faith and love for Jesus to youths on campus. We wanted to reach out to the youths who may have grown cold spiritually and to help them ponder about one question - what is it to be a Christian!? In other words, what does it take to be a follower of Jesus? What lies at the centre? Hence we called it ‘Ako Si Christian’, literally meaning ‘I am Christian’.

We felt that what we can contribute was giving a joyful, youthful experience of our faith and love for Jesus to youths on campus.

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It felt natural to propose the program first to PUP university where we feel that we have deeper roots through Fr Lonnie’s ministry as chaplain for the last 10 years. Our first attempt was a test of faith. On the day when everyone and everything was ready, a huge typhoon hit Manila flooding the entire city. The roads became rivers and all business and classes were cancelled. ASC had to be postponed to the following semester. Our second attempt at PUP in November

was a very positive experience. We could finally see the program running and evaluate ourselves and the outcome. A month later we held the same activity on another campus in the centre of Manila called PLM (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Manila) and we have plans of running the activity on other campuses between January and April.

Ako si Christian or ASC is a two-hour activity comprising of animation songs, skits, music, testimonies, faith sharing and prayer. It aims to inspire anew the participants to put Jesus at the centre of their life. balita | 18

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Pasko. Christmas – a feast which is so close to every Filipino heart. No wonder that the Philippines is renowned as the country that celebrates this season for the longest period of time! In fact, when the ‘-ber’ months start, the first Christmas decorations start appearing and the first Christmas carols are heard on radios stations. Certain daily news bulletin on television also start concluding with a countdown of days left for Christmas day! It’s a period of great expectancy. Some people would be expecting relatives (commonly known as OFWs – Overseas Foreign Workers) who



are coming back home after many years while others start saving some money for the upcoming celebrations. Christmas is coming! The Parol. The typical Filipino Christmas decoration is the parol, which is a star. The frame is made up of bamboo sticks and covered with paper or plastic. In the provinces, parols are sometimes made out of rice paper. Through time, the parol continued to adapt itself: different colours, different sizes, some painted and today one also finds some brilliantly made out of capiz (seashells). Every family, even if poor, would have one decorating its house. Needless to say, nowadays other Western decorations such like the Christmas tree and Father Christmas are also popular decorations.

Simbang Gabi. The proper Christmas period kicks off on December 16th - the first day of the Novena - better known as the Simbang Gabi. Throughout the coming nine days, people flock the churches for the early 4am mass! In fact, Simbang Gabi can be literally translated as ‘Night Adoration’. In the silence of the night, people come out of their houses - rich and also poor from squatter areas - all making their way hurriedly to the church. Together they pray and praise God for the gifts they received. After mass, they gather together to sip a salabat, which is a mixture of tea with ginger and eat bibinka, a cake made out of rice flour and coconut. For the Filipinos, these masses are not an obligation but form an instrinsic part of their Christmas celebrations. Carolling. Philipinos love singing, so obviously Christmas carolling forms part of their tradition. In the city and provinces various youths who gather together and go singing from house to house. Their repertoire includes carols such like Jingle Bells or Silent Night, and balita | 21

also other local carols such like Pasko Na Naman. Their singing is accompanied by various instruments such like bamboo instruments and even other creative ones made out of used tin or glass bottles. Certain groups even do this activity as a form of fundraising for a particular activity or project. The host, besides contributing to their cause, normally also offers them food or sweets (to younger children). Noche Buena. On December 24, after the nine days of novena, Philipinos celebrate the Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. Before the midnight mass, Philipinos have a very sweet tradition called the Panunuluyan. Some youths from the parish act out Mary and Joseph’s arrival in Betlehem and their search for a place where Mary can give birth. After the actors knock some doors

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and are forbidden entry, they make their way towards the parish church where they are welcomed by the parishioners. The Christmas Mass, also called Misa de Gallo starts. Right after mass, in the middle of the night the family gathers together around the table of one of their relatives for the Christmas meal. Obviously there are different Filipino delicacies which are served, depending on the family’s social status, however a typical plate is the lechon, a stuffed roasted pig. The family continues living this spirit of joy, by dancing, singing (especially karaoke!) and cheering till the early hours of the morning. Christmas Day. On Christmas day, it’s a custom that the families visit their relatives for gift-giving. The children visit

their grand-parents or their godfathers from whom they would receive their blessing pagmamano (this is done by touching one’s forehead to the elder’s hand). In return, the receiver would hand a gift (pamasko). Tradition says that the children are given new bank notes called aginaldo. The day continues with a lunch, for the families who can afford, accompanied by more singing and dancing! It is in this spirit of tradition mixed with a deep spirituality, that the Philipino people choose to wait for the Messiah and celebrate this Christmas period.

On December 24, after the nine days of novena, they celebrate the Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. Be-

Maligayang Pasko

atManigong Bagong Taon

merry christmas and a happy new year balita | 23


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Balita - 3rd Edition - Dec 2011  

Newsletter from the International House of Formation - Manila