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Marist Calendar

26 April

Saints Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes and Martyrs
1862: The first Marist Brothers arrived in Ireland

Marist Calendar - April

Marist Bulletin - Number 68

 

Brother
12.05.2003

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“THE
YOUNG SEE THE BROTHERS AS BEING VERY CLOSE TO THE POOR AND WILLING TO HELP THEM
AT ANY TIME”


Bro.Lluís Serra

Brother
Ted Fernandez, 55 years old, was born in Cotabato City, Mindanao in the
Philippines. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Bachelor of Science
degree in Education, and a Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling. Ted has
served his Province as a teacher, campus minister, master of novices, director
of aspirants, vocation director, and Provincial, and was a delegate to the 20th
General Chapter.



Your
family name sounds very Spanish to me. Do you speak Tagalog?


    We were under Spain for 400 years and given Spanish names
when our ancestors were converted.  I
speak Tagalog as a national language. At home I speak a different dialect (language),
Cebuano. I also speak Ilonggo (Marbel’s dialect) and a little of Tausog (Jolo’s
dialect).

    There are many dialects in the Philippines. I speak only 4 of
the major ones. We use English in our schools. I learned some Spanish in school,
but unfortunately this is no longer a part of the curriculum.



Metaphorically,
the Philippines is Asia’s Catholic country, but in Asia itself, the Catholic
population is 3% at most. If you agree that the Catholic Church needs to become
more of a presence in your part of the world, please explain why.


    The Philippines is almost 85% Catholic, about 92% Christian,
and the rest Muslim and Animist (tribal people). The Philippines is the only
country in Asia where the evangelization of a colonizer – in this case Spain -
was successful. The Spaniards suffered a setback in evangelization in southern
Mindanao, which remained a staunchly Muslim area.

    The Catholic Church is very active in the Philippines and
religious life is somewhat flourishing. Because of poverty, vocations seem to be
rising. That is why it is important to look at the motivation of the candidates
applying.

    At present the Filipino clergy and religious are now going to
other parts of Asia for evangelization. Some are in Africa and Latin America.
The pope has challenged us to become the missionaries of Asia and be the beacon
of Catholicism on this Continent.


    This is a big challenge for us because when we look at Asia,
we are looking at almost two-thirds of the world’s population, and the
Continent has a great number of young people.

    Christ is an attractive figure for Asians. It is the
bureaucracy and the way Western Catholics practice their faith that doesn’t
appeal much to people on the mainland. They are looking for “genuine witnesses”.
That is the method of evangelization that is demanded of us.


I
notice that our Filipino Brothers have a great sense of humor and smile easily.
Assuming this is an accurate observation, tell me what their secret is.


    Filipinos are very easy to please. We are patient and
gracious to visitors, especially foreigners. We live in a part of the world
subject to earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and invasions by powerful
countries. We have suffered a lot. We simply cannot wallow in miseries. We have
to continue living and giving life. That is why we are prone to laughter and
smiles. You might say it’s a mechanism we use to keep ourselves fully alive
and dynamic.


    Besides, our system of education is social-oriented. People
are more important than work. That is why we are more prone to please people
than doing hard tasks. We seem to take life in an easy-going way.


By nature, Filipinos love to sing and dance. Our cities are filled with karaoke
or videoke bars, and our Filipino singers are dominant in nightclub
entertainment throughout Asia.



How
did our Marist mission get started in the Philippines?


    The American Province started the mission in 1948, soon
after the World War II. Four American Brothers came to Cotabato upon the
invitation of the Oblate Fathers. They were asked to open schools in areas
devastated by war, in places where the government had not yet established
schools. The Catholic school system has grown greatly since then, and the
Brothers have set the pace in providing quality and affordable education in this
part of Mindanao. In a span of 10 years, 5 major schools were established on the
Island.


    It is good to note that Brothers from Canada started the
Marist mission in the United States. So our Marist lineage emanated from France
to Canada to the U.S. and finally to us.


 


You
run seven schools in addition to Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal
City. What do the Marist Brothers contribute to the field of education in your
country?


    Many things. To mention a few, we have made our schools a
conduit, an NGO, to help develop the poorer local communities. The government
and non-government agencies have helped us in this by contributing monetary aid
to help build schools, offer scholarships to our cultural communities, and
provide livelihood programs for this. It is amazing that our faculty, staff, and
graduate students are helping us in this endeavor.

    Another contribution is the expertise and leadership we
provide in different educational associations to help poor Catholic schools and
provide ways and means to upgrade the quality of their teachers through on-going
education and summer programs.


    We have also established an efficient organization to help
poor students go through college. The “grant-in-aid program” gives poor
students the opportunity to offer services in the school and at the same time
pay for their tuition through work. Most of these students end up being
successful because they have a good background working in offices and looking
after the physical plant. Good students are assured employment after graduation.


We also extend help to dioceses by offering our schools as centers of education
for seminarians, and we are active in pastoral planning and commissions.

    The Brothers also minister to street children, giving
livelihood seminars and training leaders in the Basic Ecclesial Communities of
the diocese.
  



Tell
me a little about Notre Dame of Marbel University.


   
NDMU
is an example of what I have mentioned above. What is outstanding at NDMU is the
presence of competent and dedicated lay people who actually run the school. This
is an example of lay partnership at work in a most efficient way.

    NDMU is one of the few universities in the Philippines to
have been awarded “recognition for excellence” in community services and
teachers’ education. It is also the science-teaching center in Mindanao. The
quality of computer education has boosted the school and earned it support from
big computer companies.

    Most of its graduates commit to serve the local communities
and are dedicated to helping the school through providing scholarships and
maintaining active alumni associations.

    The
school has more than 300 grant-in-aid students. They have regular formation and
are trained to have work ethics that serve the school in an exceptional way. A
committed layperson is directing these students.





You’re
sharing your mission with lay people in very constructive ways. Please tell us
some of the projects that you’re working on together.


   
The
CMMF (Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family) is an active organization for
the lay faculty and staff in most of our schools. They have regular meetings and
recollections to develop Marist spirit.

   The Association of Marist Benefactors helps our candidates in
formation.

    Lay vocation promoters commit themselves to help in our
recruitment. Most of them are faculty members.

    We welcome committed lay people as members of our Province
pastoral commission: community life, initial formation, on-going formation,
finance, ministry to the poor, vocation, pastoral implementation, education, and
non-school ministry. They offer their service free.


    Our schools are ably run by lay people working as
vice-presidents, deans, department heads, campus ministers, directors of
programs, and even business officers.


    Our Board of Trustees have lay people as members.


    We have the Lay Volunteers Program, designed by our lay
Marists. We have had volunteers for helping street children, running non-school
ministry activities, and providing formation for lay Marists.





What
fascinates young people in the Philippines about Christ and about Marcellin,
leading some of them to choose our Marist life?


    What appeals most to them is Champagnat’s saying, “to
educate young people, we must love them.”

    The poverty of Christ and Champagnat is what they can easily
identify with.

    The virtues of simplicity, humility and generosity appeal to
them.


    Compassion is very much appreciated. We simply cannot refuse
a student from taking exams because he or she cannot pay her tuition. Our list
of “promissories” is generally long. But these are the type of people who
would pay if their crops were bountiful.

    The young do not see us living luxuriously. They see the
Brothers as being very close to the poor and willing to help them at any time.

 


What
challenges are the Brothers in the Philippines facing in their efforts to be
faithful to the calls of our most recent General Chapter?


   
We
tend to be overworked. There is so much to do.

    We are facing the need to project a wholesome image in a
consistent manner and to address our prayer life in community on a more regular
basis.

    We need to become more aware of how, when and where to take a
break from work.





What
does the future hold for our presence in the Philippines?


   
The
future is definitely bright for us. We have the support and admiration of people
and agencies willing to help us. Our schools are agents for development, peace,
and quality education.


    We need to be models and examples of reconciliation in these
times of division, troubles, senseless wars and killings. We have to be men of
peace. We simply cannot tolerate war of any kind.


    Our Marist education is definitely a shining light in this
part of the Philippines. So many bishops have asked for our presence and
expertise. We’re constantly hoping and asking the Lord to bless us with an
increase in “quality” vocations…
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