Fr. John Czyzynski writes from the Philippines:
Well, they said the novitiate here in Padagian (the city) Zambuanga del Sur (the province) is nice — that is an understatement. It is unbelievable. so beautiful. And I feel like I am on retreat. Every day we pray (and in part chant) all the hours of the Liturgy of Hours. We also have meditation and the rosary and adoration together. That barely leaves me time for my daily walk and a nap. Just kidding, of course. I am giving a couple of talks to the novices (we have four here) One of them is raising what looks like morning doves that he raises from just after they are hatched.
I thought I would have a chance to visit the families of two of the 44 police officers who were killed by the Muslim Liberation front, but that did not work out. These two men belong to one of the parishes we have here.
My dietary repertoire continues to expand. I have eaten goat meat and fruits I never heard of: marang, durien, star apples, jack fruit. It is amazing to see jack fruit growing. Picture a tree with watermelons hanging from the branches. You got it.
Tuesday I visited our parish at Kumalarang. This is one of the first places where the SCJs settled when we came to the Philippines. (we already have two SCJ priests who came from that parish) At present time two of our men are there: Fr. Showe from India and Fr. Candido a rather newly ordained Filipino priest. We shared a nice meal of mostly seafood because that is the kind of food that is available. What we might consider luxury food in the United States is a staple here because it is so close to the sea.
It is a very poor area materially speaking but rich in so many other ways. Our guys raise livestock of various kinds as sources of food and as sources for income: pigs (I didn’t know this but a pig can have three or four litters in one year and have 8-14 piglets each time), chickens and roosters, fish, rice. I think there was something else but that is all I remember. The Christmas tree was still up on the parish grounds. Really unique and proper to this locale. The tree is made of what is available. The “trunk” is a 45-foot tall bamboo tree. Then palm tree leaves are hung from and extended out from the bamboo trunk so that what you get is what looks like a 45-foot tall tee-pee. This structure is then decorated with various lights and other decorations.
The people in the area are poor so periodically there are what Fr. Showe says are called “free marriages.:” Our guys welcome folks who cannot afford a wedding celebration to have their wedding at the parish. There are a number of couples and their guests there for the occasion. Our guys cover the cost of a very nice meal for them after the wedding ceremony. People of the parish support this generous celebration. A favorite dish for this occasion would be a huge roasted pig or maybe two of them.
I experienced my first power failure here on Tuesday. We have a generator that can supply power for everything but the refrigerator. That requires too much “juice.”
On Wednesday Fr. Suanto ( the director of novices) took me to see the cathedral in Padagian, the see that governs our places here in the province of Zambuanga del Sur. The cathedral is wide open never closed. There is a chapel for perpetual adoration. After seeing the cathedral we went to a mall so I could do some shopping.
I washed a load of laundry and I had to learn the system. There are two tubs next to each other. One is for washing and rinsing and the other for a spin cycle. You put your clothes in the tub for washing and fill it with water from a hose nearby and add detergent. After letting the machine wash the clothes for about 15 minutes, you remove the clothes and put them in the spin cycle tub. While that is going on you empty the tub where you washed the clothes and then refill it with water for rinsing. You do that a couple times. After the clothes have been rinsed thoroughly you soak them in a pail with fabric softener added to the water for 15-20 minutes. Then you spin cycle the clothes and hang them on the lines to dry. The drying area is covered so you don’t have to worry about rain.
In the evening we went to our parish in Dumalinao just down the hill from the novitiate. We gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ordination of Fr. Marshall (one of the priests at our parish in Dumalinao).
Friday being the first friday we had a day of recollection here at the novitiate. I was asked to give a conference to the community and be the presider and homilist at the Mass. It is actually a morning of recollection preceded by the Holy Hour the evening before. In the afternoon work period Fr. Rico, the superior, and the novices, harvested coconuts. I was thinking that was a sharp contrast to the work being done at our house of formation in Chicago. I imagine that instead Br. Duane and the guys were shoveling the sidewalks and parking lot. Different worlds.