Settling in with the Philippine community

SCJ Formation House, Cagayan de Oro

SCJ Formation House, Cagayan de Oro

As noted previously, Fr. Tom Cassidy is in the Philippines for the next few weeks, teaching English. The following are recent reflections that he wrote for our province blog:

April 25, 2014: SCJ Formation House, Cagayan de Oro:

It is now 09:00 and later today I will meet with the students so I’ll save talking about them until tomorrow. I’ll try to explain the building complex that will be my home until early June. This is indeed a formation community as there are three levels of formation that take place here before the students move on to the novitiate and then to Manila for their theological studies. Here are the levels:

1. Postulants — these men are preparing to enter the novitiate the program in most provinces lasts for a year.

2. Aspirants — these men are studying philosophy at Xavier University and will move up to postulancy upon completing their philosophical studies.

3. Orientation Year — these men are beginners and are being introduced to religious life, the SCJ way of life, and working to develop their English language skills.

The campus grounds are spacious and include garden areas as the buildings form a square and like so many Mediterranean structures, there are interior courtyards. As this is a tropical climate it is filled with plants and greenery.

There are two sports fields available as well: a small soccer field and a basketball court. Basketball is a popular sport in the Philippines along with badminton. Actually, I may be off on badminton as the Indonesian SCJs who have come to the Philippines brought their passion for badminton with them.

In addition to the three formation programs Cagyagan is also where the regional superior has his office. Fr. Frank Pupkowski, SCJ, is the current superior and will complete his first three-year term next spring. I will have to check if their development office is also on campus. Fr. Frank was responsible for it before becoming regional superior. The US Province Development Office assisted the SCJs in the Philippines to establish a similar program here and it has proved to be rather successful in helping the region to aim toward financial self sufficiency.

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A few of Fr. Tom's students

A few of Fr. Tom’s students

April 26, 2014:  First Day of Class

It is now 08:50 on Saturday morning and it seems rather strange to be listening to the Milwaukee Brewers play the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on Friday night — it’s the bottom of the second as I begin my writing.

I met the students for the first time yesterday in a get-acquainted session. As I indicated previously my task is to work on English pronunciation. In the morning the students have English classes with another teacher.

I met with nine students yesterday and two more will join the group on Monday. When all 11 are present there will be eight Vietnamese and three Filipinos. Each group presents pronunciation issues given their native languages. I suspect all the Vietnamese will have similar issues while that may not be the case with the Filipinos as they come from two different language groups: Cebuano and Tagalog.

They seem like an eager group, but it’s the first day and time will tell how well we work together. I did get one piece of sound advice from Kelly Kornacki, the director of ESL at Sacred Heart School of Theology: use a lot of humor! Having to struggle to learn Italian when I went to Rome in 1991, I think that gives me both empathy for the students and hopefully some ways to help.

I decided to use a book by John Grisham: Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer. The Theodore Boone series is written for children, about the same age as the Harry Potter series. I’ll use a technique that Fr. Bernard Rosinski, SCJ, used last year in having the students record their reading of sections of the book and then going over with them their pronunciation.


April 27, 2014: Mercy Sunday

Sacred Heart Parish

Sacred Heart Parish

About 08:00 Fr. Khoa Nguyen, SCJ, drove me to the Santuario Eucaristico – Sacred Heart Parish about a 10 minute drive from our house into the heart of Cagayan de Oro City. I was asked by Fr. Arthur Guevara, SCJ, to celebrate the 09:00 and 11:00 English Masses. The SCJs were covering the Sunday Masses so the shrine staff could go on retreat for the week.

Actually, almost everyone was out of the house by 09:00 either scheduled to celebrate Mass or for the students to go with one or the other priests to attend Mass. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and a big day of celebration here and around the world as John XXIII and John Paul II were about to be canonized by Pope Francis. Rome is six hours behind our time so the actual event at the Vatican was still in the future when most Filipinos went to Mass.

Sacred Heart Parish/Shrine has seven Sunday Masses (one on Saturday and six on Sunday). Two are in Cebuano and the rest in English. Neither Mass I had could I claim that the church was packed. This is summer and the nearby university is on break as well, and I’m sure that cut down on the number of people attending. There we lots of kids and youth in attendance.

They have two cute customs for the younger children (from 3 to about 10 or 11). At the offertory the kids bring up their envelopes and hand them to the celebrant and these are added to the collection. Then at the end of Mass just before the final blessing over the congregation the kids come up to the celebrant who gives them a special blessing.

After the 11:00 Mass I went to have lunch with family friends of Fr. Guevara. Fish played an important part of our meal as there were at least three kinds on the table. In addition there was a meat dish that they called a stew. It was more like a semi-clear broth in which the meat was cooked rather then what we would think of as stew back in the States. I particularly liked the spinach-like greens that came in a vinegar based dressing along with onions. It is something I hope to eat again.

Finally, one of the three fish dishes served was a fish delicacy, or at least that’s how Fr. Guevara described it: “The Jaw of the Tuna.” I don’t know if they really consider it a delicacy but it tasted good to me and happily did not have bones to contend with, or at least the pieces I procured.

The family might be typical of many educated Filipinos. A sister is a US citizen living in New York and is a doctor of physical therapy. A brother is a nurse and along with his wife, who is also a nurse, they live and work in a suburb of Belfast, Ireland. The father of the clan is now 77 years old lost his wife to a stroke several years ago but continues to visit his children abroad. He told me he goes to the States about every six months. As for mom and dad, they introduced me to their four daughters; the oldest is now in high school.

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