20 December 2018
Christmas Message of the Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro and Apostolic Administrator of Butuan
As we approach the coming of Christ, re-born in our hearts, during this Christmas season, we look back with gratitude at some highlights of the calendar year about to end. For the Church in the Philippines, this was the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.
The archdiocese was blessed with three ordinations to the priesthood – Fr. Kim Rei Cabingas in Bobontugan, Fr. Mark Joshua Zaportiza in Salay, and Fr. Robert Pajo in Bugo. We also had two ordinations to the diaconate – Rev. Rodjie Sumanpan and Rev. Warren Tagupa. Earlier, we rejoiced at the episcopal ordinations of two of our formators of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary – Bishop Raul Dael for Tandag Diocese and Bishop Cerilo Alan Casicas for Marbel Diocese. Bishop Dael was our Vicar for Clergy in the archdiocese. On August 7, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Papal Nuncio, visited us and gave an inspiring message to the clergy and religious of the archdiocese.
As a prelude to the start of the Year of the Youth, our youth ministry held an Archdiocesan Youth Day in Initao on October 26-29. Nearly 1,200 youth participants from our 68 parishes and sub-parishes joined the four-day activity which highlighted formation talks and various cultural presentations that anticipated this year's theme of "Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered."
Throughout Mindanao, this year 2018 has been a period of hopeful expectation for lasting peace with the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, even as rehabilitation efforts continue for the dislocated residents of Marawi. Twelve Mindanao bishops met in dialogue with twelve Muslim religious leaders in Cagayan de Oro on April 12 to support the pending bill for the BOL in Congress. On the following day, some bishops visited with Bishop Edwin de la Pena his destroyed cathedral and residence on Ground Zero in Marawi. At present, we have one priest from the archdiocese, Fr. Erdman Pandero, volunteering to say Sunday Masses at Mindanao State University and to continue partially the chaplaincy work for the Catholic community in Marawi.
On November 27, the Bishops-Ulama Conference held their 45th dialogue meeting in Davao City to review the provisions of the BOL and to support the ongoing peace process at the grassroots level. On the following two days, the bishops met with the heads of Catholic universities,colleges, seminaries and affiliated peace centers in Mindanao. We agreed to meet regularly to address proactively the two peace processes in Mindanao – with the Muslim community and with the CPP/NDFP/NPA. Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of Ateneo de Davao University, accepted the designation of ADDU as the secretariat for this network of Catholic religious leaders. As a co-chair of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), I have also been actively involved in moving for the resumption of peace talks between the government and NDFP panels.
As a result of our Appreciative Inquiry workshops over the past two years, the archdiocese has focused on three priorities: the professionalization of our Catechetical Ministry, the strengthening of our Basic Ecclesial Communities at the kapilya level; and the introduction of the Gasa Balik sa Dios (Gift Returned to God) pledging program to replace the Arancel system. We reviewed these priorities at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly held on December 3-4. Ministry heads and pilot parishes shared their best practices which were then discussed further at the parish and vicariate levels. The various recommendations are now being collated as action plans for the coming year.
For the ad extra ministries, our Social Action Center celebrated its 50th anniversary early this year. The commemoration culminated with an Appreciation Ceremony on Dec. 18 with more than a hundred partners among government agencies and civil society organizations. This principle of collaboration with other organizations has become a key factor in the widespread reach of many of our social action ministries -- e.g., among migrant workers, indigenous people, prisoners, small farmers in sustainable agriculture, women with special needs, orphans, undernourished children, mentally sick, drug users, and homeless families affected by Typhoon Sendong and other calamities.
Our All-Natural Family Planning program marked its 12th anniversary last June and has extended its services to four neighboring dioceses. About a dozen other dioceses have sent trainees to the two trainors' training seminars conducted by our NFP team in Cagayan de Oro this year. The All-NFP Network launched a new book for millennials, entitled, "Yes, I Do! Dynamics of Planning Your Family Naturally," last July at the start of the CBCP plenary assembly.
Since October 2017, I have been appointed Apostolic Administrator of Butuan Diocese which includes the two Agusan provinces. I first listened to the reports of the parish priests coming together in eleven vicariate meetings. After this, we conducted a series of Appreciative Inquiry seminar-workshops for the clergy to articulate their common values and expectations. Foremost among these expectations was the proposal for standardization of living allowances along with social security covering hospitalization and retirement needs. After a seven-month period of using a uniform format for financial reporting, the clergy themselves were unanimous in adopting the Standardization scheme, starting in September of this year. I am thankful for the warm reception extended to me by the clergy, religious and lay co-workers in Butuan – which, I remind them, was a daughter, and now a sister diocese of Cagayan de Oro.
These then have been some of the challenges of the current year. May the Christmas blessings of Light, Love and Life stay with you and all of us throughout the coming year.
In the Holy Family in Bethlehem,
+ Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro