Leaders of religious congregations working in the Philippines vowed to continue to “stand for the truth” amid what they described as “widespread unpredictability” brought about by “systematic disinformation, misinformation, (and) historical distortions.”
“The Church will not and cannot be neutral on moral and ethical issues and concerns,” read a statement released by the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines (CMSP), formerly the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, following its national convention from July 11 to 14.
The religious leaders said that “amid widespread unpredictability, change and ambiguity,” the thread of “enduring community” has kept the organization “on a path reflecting the members’ initiatives to stay focused on our continuing ministry.”
This year’s gathering of representatives of 116 women and 26 men institutes, 13 representatives from the permanent Commission of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, and Mission Partners, resolved “to speak up and do what is right.”
During the meeting, which carried the theme “The CMSP’s Prophetic Challenges Today,” the organization noted the current “dangers from global and local crises in many forms,” such as “climate emergency,” the worsening global poverty and hunger, the pandemic, the war in Russia and Ukraine, the unrest in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, food and energy crises, dislocations caused by environmental degradation, migration and human trafficking, and continuing human rights violations.”
“Sadly, the last Philippine elections continue to be defined by money politics, elite control, and lies and disinformation machinery,” read the CMSP statement, adding that the Church is being challenged by the present time and context to stand for truth.
“In our consecration to God, we pledged to do what is right, ‘acceptable and pleasing to the Lord,’” said the religious leaders.
They said some of their members have been “red-tagged,” a label that they described as “irresponsible.”
“Name-calling will not cow us,” the Church leaders said. “To serve the people of God is never wrong. To be in solidarity with the struggles, dreams and hopes of our people is demanded by our life of consecration to God and his people,” they said.
They called on each other to “forge and weave our strengths for our shared and common love of God, love of neighbor, and love of creation.”
“Let us align and work with truth-tellers, justice and peace and human rights defenders, environmental advocates and civil society organizations. These are our strengths,” they said.
They also urged each other to “go to the margins and peripheries, the new frontiers and spheres of our missionary presence — socio- economic, political, religious and cultural, technological and minister to the vulnerable and the deprived.”
“Let us muster our courage and hold on hope; let us embrace and pursue Pope Francis’ call for ecological justice and conversion in Laudato Si’ and his dream for a common humanity based on fraternal love and social friendship in Fratelli Tutti,” they added.
During the same meeting, the CMSP announced that it has elected Claretian missionary priest Elias Ayuban and Dominican nun Cecilia Espenilla as new chairpersons of the organization.
The new chairpersons took over the posts from their predecessors, Father Cielito Almazan, OFM, and Sister Marilyn Java, RC.
Father Ayuban is provincial superior of the Claretian missionaries in the Philippines while Sister Espenila is the prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in the country. She is also the Promoter for Justice and Peace of the congregation.
Also elected were Father Lino Gregorio Redoblado, OFM, and Sister Mary Epifania Brasil, OP, as co-vice chairpersons.
Father Redoblado is the provincial superior of the Order of Friars Minor in the Philippines while Sister Brasil is the superior general of the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii.
The other members of the CMSP board are:
Father Dante Bendoy, OSA
Father Hector Attard, MSSP
Father Ignacio Bercades Jr., sdP
Father Hirohito Bolo Jr., CICM
Brother Luc Cherest Boudreault, SC
Father Rico Ponce, O.Carm
Father Victorino Cueto, CSsR
Brother Butch Alcudia, FSC
Sister Ma. Bethanie Cervantes Sulleza, RSCJ
Sister Erlinda Hisug, OND
Sister Lerma Victoria Pangantihon, RA
Sister Virgencita Alegado, RSM
Sister Ella Erepol, MMB
Sister Marilena Narvaez, SSS
Mother Teodora Juan, MCST
Sister RosaMary Plaza, MSM
Formed in 1970, the CMSP is a joint forum of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men in the Philippines and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines, founded in 1955 and 1957, respectively.
For many years, the association served as a common voice for men and women religious and an advocate for their individual charisms.
The CMSP is currently composed of 362 religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, secular institutes out of 453 religious and secular institutes in the Philippines.