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Report on the first Chapter of Japan-Philippine Province by some young brothers (Brs)

April 22, 2009
by: Brs. Jovy Garcia and Michael Hifarva

   The first Chapter of the newly erected Japan-Philippine Province that took place in Tomobe, Japan and in Manila, Philippines from April 13-17, 2009 was very meaningful for everyone present at the chapter. From the General Government, Fr. Javier who convoked the chapter and Fr. McNally were very supportive. Fr. Javier was not only present but like the shepherd in attending his flock. Special guests were Fr. Petrie of East Coast, Fr. Antun of Indonesia as the CAP Coordinator, Fr. Pankras as the superior of PIC-Philippines, and Sr. Aurora of the Sister’s community in Asia. The members of the newly erected province present at the chapter with active voice were eighteen brothers in Japan and four in the Philippines. Everyone was grateful to Fr. Wayne Berndt, OFM cap., for facilitating the chapter and Srs. Hiroto and Hayashi for the translation from Japanese to English and vice-versa. The overall success of the chapter would not be possible without the particular members who opted to take charge of the difficult works to put up the necessary materials like electronics and many others. This made the chapter possible through video conference between Japan and Philippines. Thank you very much to all!
   The first day started with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. After the mass, Fr. Javier as the president of the chapter gave his opening message that focuses on several points. He emphasized the great value of communion and organization as well as the reality of challenges to be worked on in order to find more inspiration. He also reminded everyone that as the first day of the chapter started on Easter Monday, it was on this day that the Good Father died. Another thing, he also agreed and encouraged as many members proposed, that English is the language of reference for communion. The effort for translating the important documents into local languages is very much encouraged.
   Before the erection of this new province, Japan was the Vice-Province of US-East Coast. For many years Japan supported the formation in the Philippines. As a local community, Philippines was under the direction of the General Government for many years. As newly erected province, this development includes that Japan is no longer a Vice-Province and Philippines is no longer dependent on the general government. This new Japan-Philippine province is the second province of the Congregation here in Asia. All the members are in great joy to have the leadership team after the election, Fr. John Yamada as the Provincial, Fr. Andrew Healey as Councilor and Vicar, Fr. Michiaki Chihara and Fr. Noel Flaviano as councilors. This gift of vocation in this continent shows to us that the SS.CC mission is vastly working and responding to the needs of the Church in Japan and in Philippines. We continue to hope and pray to share this gift not only here but to the neighboring countries.
   We as members of Japan-Philippine Province have been excitingly waiting for the time that the new province will be officially erected. We see it for a better future where Japan and the Philippines are united to pursue the mission of the whole congregation here in Asia. It is not only a matter of a name as the ‘new province’ but it gives us all a life giving wisdom and energetic efforts on how to serve more effectively our own people in need of spiritual nourishment. We believe that by working together more people will be led to pray, more families will be rebuilt, more hungry people will be fed and more prisoners (of any kind) will be freed. We want to bring all to Jesus.
   The new province is composed of members from different part of the world: Indonesia, US, Ireland, Brazil, India, Tonga, Hawaii, Germany, Japan, and the Philippines. We do have ‘hopes’ and ‘fears’, however, ‘fears’ do not impede us to realize the emergence of the new entity in the service of humankind. We commit ourselves not to be paralyzed by our age gap, distance between Japan and Philippines, language barrier, different cultures and visa problem for the foreigners entering into Japan. We sustain our ‘friendship’ by working as one family for a better world here on earth. We hope and desire to establish a productive province, breaking away from one’s own culture by our efforts to respect and understand our differences, allowing new vocations to be part of a life-growing and life-giving community, having an international formation between Japan and Philippines, to entrust everything to God’s providential guidance by our humble service to the people of God as one family with one heart, one soul united in the work in for the kingdom of God. We aim to make a ‘home’ for each brother living and working in Japan and the Philippines.
   Although, the members from the Philippines were not able to travel to Japan, new technology allowed live conference to take place between the two countries. Our brothers in the Philippines were not deprived of any active participation even the election process went very smoothly. Some brothers not actively participating in the chapter were able to be introduced to the community in Japan. The energy of communion between Japan and Philippines echoed throughout the whole week. Thanks to the technology and the participation of everybody.
   Within these five days of chapter, we were all attentively and actively participating and witnessing the birth of a new face in our call to service in Asia. It was a great joy to see and experience how much we support each other during the elections of our ‘servant leaders’; the approval of documents, PARL and STATUTES, was such a fulfilling factor after for so many meetings, passing on of drafts and revisions we have done before it was finalized then approved by the chapter and make it ready for approval from the Generalate.
   It has been a great privilege to participate in the 1st chapter. We are now young, middle age and elderly but together we witness, contemplate, live and proclaim God’s Love to the world.
   The whole event of the chapter once again has proven that the same faith and vocation inspired by the Holy Spirit, hover over everyone in this new province. This assures that in the midst of diversity, interconnectedness is very much possible through the grace of God. The great distance between Japan and Philippines has been bridged by the listening heart of everyone. When everyone is open to God, to himself and willing to listen to others, we are sure that we can build this “province of community”, as Fr. Willie Donegan hopes and our hope for this new province. We only need to find ourselves as brothers in the community committed to everyone and all together let us “dream”, as Fr. Andrew Healey encourages, for the good of this Japan-Philippine Province, our Congregation and the Church here in Asia.