Come to Bethlehem and See!
You’re right! With Sr. Julie Saguibo, sfic, our Provincial Superior on the lead, we were in Bethlehem last Saturday, January 10, 2015 for the annual Greccio Event which was carefully planned by the Inter Franciscan Ministers’ Conference of the Philippines, IFMCP. Was this in JERUSALEM? No! It was held this time at the beautiful convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Infant Jesus, FMIJ a convent which is nestled comfortably in one of the rolling hills in Tagaytay City. You won’t get lost.
The Main Entrance of the Chapel
On this day, take note that the leaves of the coconut trees around the convent were swaying and dancing with Brother Wind. It was a cold and chilly day but not gloomy despite the absence of Brother Sun. Sr. Lou and Estee were enjoying their “paseo” without being dampened by the chill.
Brother Wind indeed asserted his presence but the participants clad in jackets, sweaters and bonnets enjoyed strolling on the pathways circumventing the convent and the chapel area. Of course Franciscans would always feel at home with any kind of weather! Sr. Jane Frances Pablo, Sr. Malou Razon and Sr. Ofie Tabing obviously were also enjoying the clean verdant garden and the fresh air.
The Magnificently Etched Stained Glass on the Wall of the Altar
THE NATIVITY SCENE
The Infant Jesus was laid at the foot of the altar table in a solemn morning prayer where one of the FMIJ Sisters beautifully sang the narration of Jesus’s birth in full accompanied with the interpretative dance rendered by the Brothers and Sisters.
The morning prayer ended with the unique tableau of the arrival of the three “Queens” instead of the three Kings. Then the Baby Jesus was lifted high by the Blessed Mother in an act of blessing for the entire Congregation as each of the participants put themselves in the presence of God.
Srs. Marie Teresa Espiritu,sfic; Grace de Guzman, sfic; Luz Espiritu,sfic; and Susan Esmile, sfic with all the SLA seated behind braced themselves for the next part of the program.
Then Sr. Mercy, FMIJ (Sr. MERCY) and Rev. Jose Eduardo, OFM Cap, (Fr. COMPASSION), the EMCEES for the affair immediately set the tone to start the program of the day.
Sr. Alma, FMIJ, the Superior of the Community was then called to give her hearty welcome for the Congregation.
The SFIC Novices kept their cheery mood as the program began.
The Most Rev. Joseph Nacua, OFM Cap, D.D.,
Bishop of Ilagan was the Guest Speaker.
Salient points of his Message:
1. The historical background of Greccio focused on:
The manger, the hay, and all the animals brought there transformed Greccio into a new Bethlehem. The holy man Francis stood by this manger; his reflections just centered on the poor Babe in Bethlehem.
2. When we think of Greccio, we are reminded of many things in life as Franciscans. Greccio had become a new Bethlehem, one of the many manifestations of God’s love.
3. Bethlehem means: House of Bread. Jesus is the man for our hunger and our thirst.
4. The Incarnation points out that Jesus related to the sinful human being. If God would not act on our world today, it would make no difference at all whether we believe in Him or not. Christ makes us see things as He himself saw them. Jesus became man. We believe this when we pray our Creed. Mercy and Compassion became real in the Incarnation; God dignified human history. The Incarnation is not a historical event. It is on-going. It gives us a new way of living our life. It is not just a memory. It gives meaning to our Eucharist.
5. From Exodus:
· God made man and said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” He gave him a woman. They were naked but not ashamed. Later, sin came in.
· Food (good to eat); Desire (gives power); Attractive (it’s beautiful).
It is not good to be alone, thus we need community/fraternity.
Although Adam and Eve were naked, they were not ashamed.
This points out to TRANSPARENCY.
6. Mercy and Compassion
Bethlehem is the concrete form of the mercy and compassion of God. “I have heard the cry of my people”. He has spoken to us through his Son. Our redemption is the reality of God’s coming as man. Isaiah said, “ Can a woman forget her child?” The quality of our relationships speaks of our faith and spirituality.
Compassion means sympathy, to have eyes to see others as Jesus did.
7. Evangelization is reminding people of what God does to us. It is our duty to be grounded in the words of God. To remember is to enter in our history.
At this point in time, the Congregation was divided into small groups for the sharing. The good Bishop gave the following points for further reflection and sharing:
· Seven Corporal Works of Mercy – Connect them to the Incarnation.
· Response to this Year of Consecrated Life
i.e. Is our poverty joyful?
Is our money spent more for buildings or for people?
· Ecological Concerns
· Involvement in women and children’s issues.
GROUP SHARINGS and REPORTS : The SFICs joined the different groups.
Sr. Leoncia Manongdo, sfic
Sr. Ofelia Tabing, sfic
Sr. Jane Frances Pablo, sfic and Fr. Cielo, ofm
Sr. Ofelia Tabing, sfic and Sr. Christine May, sfic
Sr. Agneta Lauzon, sfic
Sr. Marie Faustine Mendoza, sfic
Sister Julie Saguibo, SFIC Prov. Sup. and Sr. Luz Huertas, sfic
Sisters Analiza Cabrera, sfic, Luz Espiritu, sfic, & Teresita Alo, sfic
Sr. Sheryll Bueno, SFIC Novice was one of the vibrant Reporters. She did her job well!
Ms. Reina Mendoza, SFIC POSTULANT from the South Province did well in her Introductory Reading for the Bishop’s Message, the historical account of GRECCIO. She also rendered a spectacular report. Good job!
Sr. Lucia Gumiran, sfic, Sr. Susan Esmile, sfic & Sr. Lou Panganiban, sfic
Sisters Lou Panganiban, Susan Esmile and Lucia Gumiran were in the first group with some Secular Franciscans and other Franciscan Sisters and OFM Formands. With Sr. Lucy as the Reporter, the following practical points surfaced:
1. Real happiness does not come only from material things. The dumagats in Isabela are very happy people in spite of their poverty.
2. In buying properties for the community, discernment is important considering the life style of the poor people and our poverty as Franciscans.