Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines
on Mission Year
In our last meeting we decided to set aside the present year of 1959 as Mission Year in the Philippines. We wish now to communicate this decision to our beloved Clergy and Faithful, to state briefly the reasons for it, and to invite all to join us in achieving the aims and objectives of this observance.
The word “mission” comes from the Latin word “to send”; a missionary is therefore one who is sent. Who sends him, to whom is he sent, and why? It is Christ Himself who sends forth the missionary. He sends him to all those whom He wishes to make believers in His Divine Revelation and members of His Mystical Body, which is the Church. He does this because He wishes to save all mankind, and the divinely appointed means of salvation are to be found in the one true Church which He founded.
From this we can easily gather how noble is the vocation of the missionary and how necessary is the work of the missions. It is through missions, through the sending forth of missionaries, that the Church takes root in pagan lands. By their efforts, and often by their death, Christ is made known to hearts ready to receive Him. Gradually, a Christian people is formed, and in the course of time, from the bossom of this Christian people, God calls forth priests to serve His altar, religious men and women to follow Him in the perfection of His life and ministry. A native clergy and hierarchy take over the care of the community from the missionaries who had founded it, and with the Church thus securely established in the region, it now sends forth missionaries of its own to bring the good news of salvation to other people. Thus the Church of Christ grows and expands over the whole earth, until that fullness of time when His prophecy is fulfilled, and there shall be but one Fold and one Shepherd.
This Catholic Philippines, of which we are so justly proud, was once a mission territory. Missionaries from Spain converted our forefathers to the true faith, and for many years, at the cost of incessant labor and heroic sacrifice, schooled them in that faith. Then missionaries from other lands came to help us organize and maintain all the varied works — the seminaries, schools, hospitals, orphanages, center of Catholic Action — which go to make up a mature and self-perpetuating Christian community. Today, in the greater part of our national territory, the Church can truly be said to be securely established.
We are therefore ready — indeed, we have been ready for some time — to undertake mission work of our own; to send out our own Filipino missionaries; to perform for others that same service that we ourselves have received in such generous measure from the Universal Church. It is to call attention to this fact that we dedicate 1959 as Mission Year.
Let us give some thought to the nature and extent of the missionary enterprise to which we Filipinos are called. What are our opportunities? If we look about us, we will see that there are parts of our own country which are still mission territory. It is in these missions that most of the priests and religious from other lands who have made the Philippines their adopted country are laboring. In some of them Filipino priests and religious are already taking part of the burden. We ought to increase this participation.
These missions are in general quite poor. The missionaries directing them often have to forego the conveniences and even the necessities of life. They have been for many years dependent on the generosity of European and American Catholics. We Filipino Catholics ought to make it a point of honor to take a greater share, and ever increasing share, in their financial support. We know that we can depend on the generosity of the faithful in this matter.
Beyond our shores lie the new nations of Southeast Asia, with their teeming populations ready for the word and grace of God, if someone will only bring it to them in a spirit of humility and peace. We speak with a full realization of our own shortcomings; but still we say, who can do this better than Filipinos? We are blood of their blood, bone of their bone; our languages and cultures are closely related. We can come to them not as strangers but as brothers.
Here too missionaries from the older Catholic lands of Europe and America have anticipated us. It is high time that Filipinos should go forth to share their labors, their sufferings and their achievements. This becomes all the more necessary since, because of recent political developments, Westerners are no longer welcome in certain regions, whereas Asians like ourselves will not be regarded with suspicion. And if we cannot send as many priests and religious as we would like, because of our own needs, nevertheless we should help all we can, both financially and by our prayers.
In this connection, we wish to say a word of commendation, gratitude and encouragement to those religious orders and congregations whose provinces in the Philippines are already sending their Filipino members to foreign missions. God will surely reward them, and not the least part of this reward will be the increase of their own vocations in proportion to their generosity to the work of the missions. This has been the common experience of religious communities throughout the world, that the more members they send abroad as missionaries, the greater the number and the better the quality of the candidates that apply to them for admission.
See, then, what a splendid field of missionary enterprise, both at home and abroad, opens out before us. And we are all partners in this enterprise; not the clergy alone, but clergy and laity together, each contributing its share to the common effort.
From all, but especially from the children of our schools, and from the sick and the aged who cannot engage much in active work, we ask prayers. Pray, pray constantly for the missions; offer up your daily acts of self-denial and mortification that the work of the missions may prosper.
From those whom God has blessed with a sufficiency or an abundance of this world’s goods, we ask financial assistance for the missions. You are accustomed to give many times during the year to worthy charitable or civic causes; be convinced that you can give to no cause more worthy, more pleasing in God’s sight, than that of spreading the light of His faith and the warmth of His love.
From you, fathers and mothers, we ask generosity in placing no obstacles in the way of your beloved children if God should deign to give them that noblest of vocations, a vocation to the missions. Far from hindering them, you should encourage them in this path; and rest assured that the sharp sorrow of separation will give way to the indescribable happiness of advancing in so intimate and personal a manner the cause of God.
From our beloved brothers in the priesthood, and our sons and daughters in the religious life, we ask a lively interest in every phase of mission work, and a readiness at all times to answer the mission call themselves if this should be given them.
Let the observance of this Mission Year make us all mission-minded, and let it be said of the Filipino nation in after years that they gave freely what they freely received, and that they took their full share in the work of bringing the joy and peace, the justice and mercy of Christ to the peoples of Asia.
Given this 17th day of May, Pentecost Sunday, in the year of Our Lord, 1959.
For the Philippine Hierarchy:
(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON, D.D.
Coadjutor Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
President, CWO Administrative Council
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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