Fr. John Czyzynski writes from the Philippine Region where he has been assisting with the formation program for the past few weeks:
On Wednesday afternoon/early evening Fr. Jan took me to our mission church at Dansolihon about a 45 minute ride from the formation house where I am staying. It is 400 meters above sea level [about 1,300 feet] so it is cooler up there. My heart goes out to these guys. Three of our men are there: Jan from Poland, Johannes from Indonesia and Pjoe (pronounced as it is written) from the Philippines. Their rooms are tiny shoeboxes about 10 by 15 feet. The toilet is primitive. There is a commode in the room and a bucket with water to flush the toilet. They do have TV but no internet access.
In this tough situation their spirit is inspiring. They showed me a statue of Jesu Nazareno. Jesus is portrayed as a man whose skin has been darkened by exposure to the sun. I was surprised to hear that there is a strong devotion among men to Jesus portrayed in this way. He is a worker like them and they connect with Him.
After our visit there we went to a residence we run for young people (ages 12-19). They call them “scholars”. They live at our residence and have a chance to go to school and study. If they were with their families they would be working in the field and even if they went to school, they would never have a chance to study at home. One of the girls (14 years of age) was taken from our residence by her parents because they had received a cow (or the value of a cow) from a man who wanted to marry her. The legal marrying age is 16. The parents wanted the money. It worked out all right and the girl was able to come back to the residence.
The “scholars” sleep on plywood on the floor. The wood is covered with mats of some kind. It is harsh but better than they would have at home.
I felt that I was being treated like the Pope. When Fr. Jan and I arrived, young girls came out and placed orchid wreaths around our necks. They asked questions and sang for us and when we were leaving they were waving and shouting “We love you.” Very touching and humbling.
Today I had my last class with the seven postulants. They are a great group: bright, inquisitive and fun. Besides the sessions with the formation directors and classes with the postulants, and presiding at some Masses, I am busy hearing confessions, helping with English pronunciation and discussing questions/topics on theology and religious life.
Friday was a day of mourning for the 44 Filipino police officers who were killed by members of the Muslim Liberation Front. When I go to the novitiate on Sunday one of the guys is going to take me to the families of two of the men who were killed. Their families belong to our parish near the novitiate.
Saturday evening I had Mass at a residence we run for young girls who have been sexually abused. [Kasanag Daughters Foundation] They range in age from 9-19, but they look so young. Your heart goes out to them. They really enjoyed the visit and sang for all of us and they sang wonderfully.
When I got back to the formation house they were holding a birthday celebration for everyone who had a birthday in January. They celebrate all the birthdays of the month on the last Saturday of the month. They start the celebration with a prayer and then the singing of the national anthems of Vietnam and the Philippines. After that the guys put on skits. One of the formation directors and I were asked to be judges of the performances.
Well tomorrow I am off to the novitiate.
Wonderful work and reporting John. I really enjoy hearing about SCJ life indifferent parts of the world.