As the 6th Philippine OCDS Congress was ending last April 24, 2016 two persons asked me what my impression of the Congress was. My immediate reply was that it was enriching and spiritualizing. Upon further reflection I want to add a third quality of the Congress as far as it impacted on me. It was also centrifugally undulating. The last two words may be unfamiliar to many. I will make them clear later.
First, it was an enriching experience for me. It was the first time that I participated in the Congress election as a voter. I was able to feel the solemnity of the occasion. I learned so many things because we were given a copy (soft one in our USB) of the reports of the Councilors. These reports give us a well informed picture of the OCDS in the whole Philippines. As far as I can remember it was only during this Congress that we were given such reports.
And these reports were very well done. The pictures were very beautiful. The data were precise. The explanations were clear.
Secondly, the 6th OCDS was spiritualizing. The word "spiritualize" has been used derogatively to indicate a flight from the mundane affairs of life. Maybe I should have used the words "spiritually invigorating". But the first and basic meaning of "spiritualizing" in the dictionary is "making spiritual". And that is what I mean. This Congress made us spiritual or more spiritual. From the beginning to the end the role of the Holy Spirit was prominent. And the Holy Spirit spiritualized us, made us more like him, a spirit.
At the opening of the Congress before Neng Bendero of the Tacurong Community said the opening prayer she announced that I would lead in the singing after her prayer. She gave this assignment to me a month before the Congress. The first song I picked up for the opening hymn was "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty". Then I changed my mind. I thought to myself that the song has to do with the Holy Spirit. So I picked up another song, "Come, Gracious Spirit". But on second thought I said that the song was not familiar to most of us. So, I picked up the old song, "Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest". But lo and behold, when I intoned this song before the participants, another song was sung by them, "Come, Holy Spirit, We Need You", the standard opening song in a charismatic movement meeting. And I was happy. The Holy Spirit indeed took over. And he continued to guide and enable us during the Congress. Thus he spiritualized us, made us to be like him as spirit.
The third quality of this Congress was that it was centrifugally undulating. These words merely mean that the Congress created ripples undulating from the center (Philippines) to the farthest places of the world. When I use these words I am only repeating what our Provincial Delegate Fr. Benedict Piangco said when he gave the new officers of the Philippine OCDS Congress their charge during the last Mass we had. He said that he expected their work to spread not only in Asia but throughout the world. This statement is prophetic. We did it already through the Manuals of Formation. These Manuals have gone to all parts of the world. We will be creating ripples again of revival in our OCDS way of life through the work of our new Council Officers (who are not really new since all of them were in the Council in the last triennium, but they are newly mandated).
Indeed our 6th Philippine OCDS Congress for me was enriching, spiritualizing and centrifugally undulating.
For a narration of what happened during this Congress go here http://bit.ly/1qjOd0q
I wish to share with you here what happened in the 6th Philippine Congress of the Order of Discalced Carmelites Seculars (OCDS). Many of my OCDS friends were not there. Here they can read and imagine what happened during that Congress which was held from April 21 Thursday to April 24 Sunday 2016 at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality, Tagaytay City, Philippines.
For non-OCDS there may be terms here which are unfamiliar to you. You may ask me about them in the Comments section of this post or you may ask someone who you know is also an OCDS.
First Day, April 21 Thursday 2016
The 6th Philippine OCDS Congress started with picture taking at 3:30 in the afternoon of April 21 Thursday 2016 at the St. Teresa's Hall of the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality, Tagaytay City, Philippines. This was followed by prayer led by Neng Bendero, President of the Tacurong OCDS Community, and a hymn to the Holy Spirit intoned by Joe Bulao of the Cotabato OCDS Community. The National Anthem was then sung and there was an orientation of the venue by a Carmelite Missionary Sister.
At 4:10 Fr. Benedick Piangco, OCD, declared the Congress open. He also introduced the OCD priests and Brother present. He commented that his assignment as our Provincial Delegate was "really a challenging, interesting ministry" and that he was undertaking it "with great joy".
Then each Regional Councilor introduced the delegates from her region. First to introduce was Weng of Mindanao, followed by Pam of the Visayas, Jo of South Luzon B, Rose of South Luzon A and NCR, Annette of North Luzon. All in all 45 communities across the nation were represented by official and fraternal delegates.
After the introduction of the participants our President Meg Ramos gave her welcome address and orientation to the Congress. She said that there were three important agenda for this Congress: 1) the approval of the ongoing formation program; 2) discussion on the revisions in our Provincial Statutes; 3) our election of officers in the Provincial Council.
At 4:53 we had our merienda, followed by Silent Prayer at 5:20. At 5:45 we had our Evening Prayer, followed by Mass at 6:02. Then we had supper, after which we Mindanaoans practiced for our cultural presentation and for the Liturgy of the Hours which we were to lead the next day. After this we retired while the official delegates from the South Luzon B and North Luzon registered with our OCDS Comelec.
Second Day, April 22 Friday 2016
The second day started with Morning Prayer at 6:00 followed by Mass and breakfast.
Our assembly started at 8:41 in the same St. Teresa Hall with Pam of the Visayas Region facilitating. She said an opening prayer, then asked for prayer for our sister Thelma Antonio who was confined in the hospital for serious illness, then she introduced the Rev. Fr. Joey Mabborang, OCD, who gave the Provincial Superior's Message in the name of our Provincial Fr. Reynaldo V. Sotelo OCD.
Fr. Joey started his talk with a recollection of an incident when he was invited by a bishop to give a retreat to his priests. In his absence the message was left with the security guard who informed him later that he was to give a retreat on the topics circumcision and sanitation. Surprised he consulted the bishop by phone who corrected the topics as circumspection and sanctification.
Fr. Joey told us to try to circumspect, to look around us and to ask questions. As a Carmelite how do I see myself now? Will St. Teresa be happy with us? Have I become a holier person? After 8 or 20 years what kind of presence have I made around me? What kind of visual aid do I project?
Then he reminded us that we are not elitist, we are for others. Let us get rid of the all-knowing attitude in our formation. A good sense of humor is part of our life. If Christ is in us, then we have joy. Our contribution to the Church is contemplative, mystical prayer. Today in the Church and in the world there is a poverty of contemplation, of mysticism. We have exchanged this for a celebrity status. But the people who will change the world are mystics. The language of God is silence. So we listen to him in silence. Then people will experience the love of God. We are all pilgrims. We are on pilgrimage. This is the meaning of our national shrine, reminding us of our pilgrim status.
Fr. Joey ended with this exhortation: Let us embrace the future with hope; we have so much to learn; we are a living college of Christ.
At 9:49 we had a break. Some ate their morning merienda.
At 10:25 our national secretary Joy Tapan gave her report. She said that in 2013 our OCDS Province has 1,844 members. 987 of these were active, 303 were inactive and 553 were formands. She asked the question why is it that one third of the total membership is inactive.
In 2015 our membership became 1,890. 966 of these were active, 351 were inactive and 573 were formands. She discovered that there were formands who were overstaying in their levels. Some did not move even for 10 years. There were aspirants in the 70s and 80s of age. There are formands in councils. She also noted that Mindanao is a very promising region, with the most number of formands.
Joy's report was followed by President Meg Ramos' report at 10:40. She started with the results of her visitations to the various communities. She said she was not able to visit Cebu, Zamboanga, Jolo, and Iloilo. She visited some communities through their clusters as in Davao where she met the members of the Tacurong and Cotabato communities.
Meg asked the question, Where do we want to go? Where do we want to take the OCDS? We are now 45 communities with a new Community in Formation (CiF) which is the community in Nagcarlan.
She said that there were six areas which she would like to focus on: 1) leadership because everything depends on leadership; 2) formation; 3) mission which is kabanalang tumutugon; 4) communication and documentation; 5) finance; 6) monitoring and evaluation. She then discussed each of these areas.
On leadership she noted that there are communities where the formands and the definitives eat separately.
On formation she related that when a formand comes out of the novitiate she/he is either formed or deformed.
On mission some OCDS are still order driven, not self-driven. They only do their mission if they are told to do it.
On communication and documentation there are data that are not verified.
On finance, the principle of ingat yaman is to be followed because it is the money of the whole community.
On monitoring and evaluation we need to be discerning. Extension in the novitiate is only for 1 year. Extension in the TP is only for 2 years.
These are Meg's recommendations.
1. Visit more communities
2. Chat with the communities
3. Update the communities
4. Propose to the Fr. Provincial what is best for us
5. Abide with the decisions
6. Carry out the decisions
She ended with an optimistic note: The OCDS in the Philippines has a bright future.
Next to report at 11:19 was our National Director of Formation, Emma Choa. Emma noted that the copy of the book Program of Formation is not given to formands, only the support manuals. There were also some who looked at formation as an academic activity.
Then she related her visitations to the various communities. She also informed us of the Commission on Formation made up of the Councilors and others who are experts in the relevant fields. She then narrated to us how the ongoing formation program was formed.
Emma reported on the survey that was made about the use of the ongoing formation program. Some disliked it and others did not give feedback. She ended with the exhortation that the Commission on Formation need to visit the communities.
At 11:45 the regional reports began to be given with the Councilor Weng of Mindanao starting it. She said that Mindanao has 3 clusters of communities, 7 communities are canonically established, the others are communities in formation. She then enumerated the strengths and weaknesses of our formation program in Mindanao. Many of the communities have not yet undergone the desert experience type of retreat. She also gave her recommendations which are in the report she flashed on the screen. Weng ended her report at 12:04 which was the time for lunch.
After lunch Annette Tinio of North Luzon region gave her report beginning at 1:39. She said that North Luzon has 12 communities, 5 clusters and 2 of those communities are canonically established. Her region has 107 formands. Then she went on with the report following the format of the 6 areas to be focused on: formation, leadership, mission, finance, communication and documentation, monitoring and evaluation.
At 2:07 Pam Henares gave the report for the Visayas Region. Here there were 3 communities. Pam noted that they were short of formands. Again the 6 areas were reported on.
At 2:18 Jo Mendoza reported on South Luzon B. This region, according to Jo, has 3 clusters, 65 formators and 400 members. She also went through the areas to be reported on. She noted that the region still lacked formators. She advocated basic literacy in computer use to facilitate communication.
Next to report was Rose Rivera of the National Capital Region and South Luzon A. Again she also went through the 6 areas. She noted that new vocations are slow in coming, but that witnessing to others will attract vocations. She recommended vocation promotion on a regular program.
At 3:00 Resy Palacpac our national treasurer gave her report. She gave the balance forwarded, the collections, the disbursements and the balance. The figures are in the report she submitted to the Council which we were given copies of.
At 3:14 Provincial Delegate Fr. Benedick commented on the reports made. He also went through the 6 areas of concern.
He said that to fill up for a spiritual assistant in case this is lacking there is an alternate or the Provincial Councilor. He noted the lack of formators. There seems to be a refusal to become formators. He noticed that there are still communities not using the manuals.
On leadership he said that if we reject to be leaders then we have no trust in the Holy Spirit.
On finance there is a need for transparency.
On vocation promotion, Fr. Dhyck asked, Where are your family members? Why do they not join you? He suggested to have a youth group. He also recommended to have ceremonials by community, not by cluster. According to him there is a need for a primer on spiritual assistant. Also there is a need to have a uniform size for the scapulars.
At 4:17 we had our afternoon snacks.
At 5:07 we had the orientation to the signing of the approval for the Ongoing Formation Program. Emma gave the partition of the program in case it is too long for a community. For each part the IV and V portion have to be done. So I and II can be done first, then later III a and b, then finally III c.
At 6:25 we had the signing of approval of the Ongoing Formation Program by the delegates by region.
At 7:00 we had supper and the registration of the official delegates from the regions which did not register yesterday continued.
Third Day, April 23 Saturday 2016
We started the day with Morning Prayer at 6, followed by Mass. Breakfast was at 7:10.
At 8:25 in the session hall Rose Rivera started the continuation of the Congress with a prayer. She facilitated the discussions for the day.
At 8:30 Meg reviewed with us our Provincial Statutes. She picked out parts which might have some need of revisions. We participated in the discussions, but this time there were appointed 2 speakers for each region. If a member wanted to say something he/she channelled this through the speakers. All the suggested revisions were noted down. A particular revision which was of interest to most was the change of 60 to 65 years as the upper limit of age when entering our Order.
Before merienda break at 10:00 Fr. Dhyck announced that the ideal number for a retreat is 10 retreatants only. In this way the spiritual assistant can have a one-to-one talk with the retreatants.
After merienda the discussion on the Provincial Statutes resumed at 10:31.
Lunch followed at 12:00. The said discussion resumed at 1:36 in the afternoon. It ended at 2:56 with Fr. Dhyck announcing that a draft of the revised Provincial Statutes will be sent to all the communities. Then all members will be invited to approve these statutes, not just the delegates.
At 3:00 Nikki Montemayor, the Comelec Chair, told the participants to leave the hall because her staff will re-arrange the chairs for the election. So we had our merienda.
At 3:52 the election of the Philippine OCDS Provincial Council began with the official delegates in the session hall and the fraternal delegates in the chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and prayer.
AT 4:04 the roll call of the official delegates was made. At 4:36 the canvassing of votes were made. The results were that
Imelda "Meg" Ramos was voted President.
Rowena "Weng" Baula was elected Councilor for Mindanao.
Pamela "Pam" Henares was elected Councilor for Visayas.
Rose Rivera was elected Councilor for South Luzon A and NCR (with no dissenting vote).
Josephine "Jo" Mendoza was elected Councilor for South Luzon B.
Teresita "Tess" Tayag was elected Councilor for North Luzon.
At 5:33 the Council appointed Emma Choa as Director of Formation and Annette Tinio as Treasurer.
At 6:03 Fr. Dhyck spoke about the renovation of the National Shrine. He suggested that the OCDS will help in the statues of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. An estimated 200,000 pesos will be spent for both statues. Contributions for this project will be sent to the Regional Coordinator. This is our gift to the Church.
At 7:00 we had supper followed by socials of a cultural night. Each region presented their contribution to this cultural night. We enjoyed this evening.
Fourth Day, April 24 Sunday 2016
The day started with silent prayer at the session hall, followed by Morning Prayer. At 7:00 we had breakfast.
At 8:12 we began our regional meeting. Our Regional Councilor for Mindanao, Weng, presided over our region’s meeting. Rose from Davao was appointed secretary for this meeting. The minutes for this meeting are with her. I was assigned to compose the Resolution forming a new cluster in Mindanao. This is sent in another file.
After this meeting we had Mass. During the Mass the new officers of the OCDS Council in the Philippines were given their charge by the celebrant Provincial Delegate Fr. Benedick Piangco OCD. Lunch followed and then we started to move away from the venue of our Congress.
For my impressions and reflections on the 6th Philippine OCDS Congress go here http://bit.ly/1YrggGR