“For through faith, you are children of God in Christ Jesus… There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male nor female for you are all one in Christ.” (Gal. 3:26, 28)
CBCP PASTORAL LETTER ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
God created man in His own image and redeemed him from sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sacred and inviolate, therefore, is his human dignity. Yet, time and again, this dignity has been violated in unspeakable ways. Human trafficking is one such violation that directly assaults such dignity.
What is human trafficking?
It is a form of modern-day slavery, not less dehumanizing and cruel than any old form of slavery. It is the illegal trade in persons, inhuman organs, in human values, as though these were commercial commodities. Through the use of force, deception, violence, and taking advantage of the vulnerability of victims, men and women are exploited physically, sexually, psychologically, morally, spiritually for the material gain of the traffickers. The victims are our brothers and sisters whom we know and do not know.
In today’s “globalized” and “consumeristic” world, the most vulnerable among us are sold as slaves, prostitutes, organ-donors, and pawns in criminal enterprise, armed activities and conflicts. The Holy Father describes human trafficking as an “open wound on the body of contemporary society,” a “scourge upon the body of Christ,” a “crime against humanity,” and a “grave violation of fundamental human rights.”
“It is a disgrace,” says Pope Francis that people are treated as “objects, deceived, raped, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally damaged, ending up thrown away and abandoned.” But it would be a more terrible disgrace if we who hear or read about the fate of victims could only think of ourselves lucky that we have been spared from such fate, but feel no compulsion to share or mitigate the suffering of the victims or wish to curb it. A Christian should be willing to sleep on the floor if his brother has no roof over his head, and forego his meal if his brother has nothing to eat.
Every year about 800,000 children, women and men are trafficked across international borders around the world. Some 30 million people are presently enslaved. About 150,000 of these are said to be Filipinos, most of them children who are physically exploited and sexually abused. Every year, many Filipino men and women who migrate abroad for work end up in conditions of involuntary servitude. Happily, this does not characterize the general condition of the Filipino diaspora, which now counts some ten million Filipinos in various parts of the world. But one Filipino victim of human trafficking alone is one victim too many for us as a Christian nation. We should have zero tolerance for this evil.
In the middle of their sufferings, the victims often find themselves alone and lost, with no one to turn to but their God, our Lord. There is no greater comfort than to seek solace from our Lord. Especially so when no human relief appears to be on sight. But sometimes their sufferings are compounded by the negligence, indifference and downright abuse of those who are otherwise tasked to provide solace and help. The problem has reached such proportions that in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis could not help but lament:
How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen. 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity. (EG, 211).
Seeing how this evil has spread and threatens to scatter the flock, we can only cry with the Good Shepherd, “This cannot go on! It must stop!”
As in the times of old, God wishes us all to be free. Even now, God speaks to us as He did to those who suffered under the lash in Egypt: “I saw the affliction of my people and have heard their cries; set my people free!” (Ex 3:7-8).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord came down to die on the Cross in order to set His people free. Free from the bondage of sin, but free also from the evil one that preys upon every human weakness, every vulnerability of the individual and society. “We have been bought at a great price” (cf. 1 Cor 6:20), Scripture reminds us, and we cannot allow anyone to enslave another whom our Lord, by his death and resurrection, has set free.
It is, therefore, our Christian duty to do everything we can to prevent anyone in our midst from being trafficked, and to make sure that those who have fallen into the traffickers’ trap are set free and are able to come home and resume their normal lives with their families, friends and community. As serious a duty this is of individual Christians, even more serious is it the duty of the State and society. Beyond that, charity and compassion demand that Christians exert every effort to free human traffickers from the motives and attractions of their illicit trade and to draw them back to genuinely good and beneficial pursuits. To drown evil in an abundance of good, and convert the wrongdoer into a source of good is the ultimate triumph we should aim for in this fight.
The worship of creatures and the idolatry of money are the first obstacles the society and the individual must deal with. So long as there are huge profits to be made from human trafficking, this transnational crime will continue to defy national and international laws, and religious and moral strictures and norms. The evil is so pervasive and the perpetrators are so determined that utmost cooperation is needed between Church and State, between the citizens and the instrumentalities of government, to make sure that the will and the forces needed to combat it should never be less strong than those committed to promoting it.
There is no substitute for turning to the Gospel as we respond to this scourge. So let us do it. In this Year of the Laity when we commit ourselves anew to the spirit of evangelization of every heart and home, we must never for a moment forget that we are each our brother’s keepers, and that a part of ourselves is trafficked every time a brother or sister of ours is. But not only should we see ourselves in the face of every victim, we must above all see our Lord in every victim’s face. And because we cannot allow to see our Lord trafficked, neither can we allow the least of our brethren to be so exploited. For our Lord has said, “whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did unto me” (cf Mt 25:40).
Reposing our hopes and our trust anew in our Blessed Mother, Comforter of the Afflicted and Help of Christians, and invoking the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of the victims of human trafficking, we pray that our nation, by which we mean everyone of its citizens, find the grace and the courage to lead in this fight against human trafficking until it is extinguished from our daily lives. We call upon all the faithful to join hands in every possible endeavor at every level of society, from local to national to international, in the pursuit of this objective.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 14, 2014
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan CBCP President
WE HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT! Pastoral Message on the Occasion of the Four Hundredth Year of Dagupan under the Patronage of Saint John the Evangelist
To be read as homily in all the Masses on November 30, 2014, First Sunday of Advent, in all the parish churches, pastoral stations and chapels in Dagupan City
WE HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT!
Pastoral Message on the Occasion of the Four Hundredth Year of Dagupan under the Patronage of Saint John the Evangelist
My dear people of God in the City of Dagupan:
It has been four hundred years since Dagupan was placed under the patronage of Saint John the Evangelist. This year 2014 is a historic jubilee year for Dagupan as much as for the whole archdiocese.
Bagnotan was the old name of Dagupan. It was established as a visita by the Augustinian friars in the year 1590. In 1613, the Augustinians passed on the spiritual care of Bagnotan to the Dominicans who formally accepted it as a domus in the Dominican Chapter of 1614 under the patronage of Saint John the Evangelist.
The Augustinian accounts do not state the patronage of Bagnotan in 1590. The first time San Juan Evangelista de Bagnotan appears is in the Dominican Chapter of 1614. As a domus in 1614, Bagnotan was still dependent on Calasiao. From being a simple domus of the Dominican Fathers in the year 1614, Dagupan, the land of criss-crossing rivers, is now the seat of the Metropolitan See of Lingayen Dagupan.
Washed away by floods and shaken by earthquakes; burned by revolutionaries and razed by war, Dagupan stands like a living proof of the fidelity of the Lord who promised His people “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Through four centuries, Saint John the Evangelist has constantly covered Dagupan with his holy guidance and steadfast intercession. John the Apostle was the younger brother of James another apostle. Their parents were Zebedee and Salome. James and John were fishermen like their father called by the Lord to follow Him while they were mending their nets by the Lake Genesareth.
Call to be Saints
Although Dagupan through the years has become the hub of business and industry in Pangasinan, our city is still known by our Dagupan bangus and our best industry is still fishing. As a fishing community, we are called like Saint John our patron to follow Him, no longer by abandoning our nets but this time by using our nets to become saints.
We can write the Gospel not with pen on paper but through fidelity of life and courageous witnessing in the midst of society. We can be saints from the river and the fish market by keeping in mind that the fruits of our rivers are not ours to devour but to care for and nurture so that future generations may enjoy them even more. We can become saints as we invest in the packaging and marketing of bangus by allowing the tenets of social justice and business ethics to prevail in all our transactions. We can become saints like John the fisherman by keeping our rivers clean and free from pollution as responsible stewards of God’s creation. Saint John is not just a patron who prays for us; he is also a model who can help us become saints.
Saints Among Us
Within the past century, Dagupan has been blessed too with two men of God, former pastors in Dagupan, who are now raised among the beatos of the Catholic Church—Blessed Jose Garcia Diaz and Beato Candido Fernandez Garcia. Both served in Dagupan and were martyred in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War persecution. They ministered in Dagupan as teachers in the Colegio de San Alberto Magno in Calmay which was closed in 1934.
Beato Jose Garcia Diaz and Beato Candido Fernandez Garcia did not use fishing nets to catch fish but they used their golden tongues and sterling lives to win souls for the Lord.
The Lights Keeps Shining
The four hundredth year of Dagupan under the patronage of Saint John the Evangelist beckons us to follow the path of the saints because indeed that is who we are. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9). To the men and women unknown by God and but surely resting in the memory of God, we offer our praise and reverence and love.The people who walked in darkness, Have seen a great light We who lived in the land of gloom A new light has dawned…. We were that people long ago. Flashes of lightning guided us in the dark. Peals of loud thunder always left us in fright. Then we heard another thunder, a different kind of thunder. A voice unfamiliar Yet soothing to the soul… “We are His beloved,” the voice said. “We are His chosen ones,” the voice assured. Then we saw a different lightning, a sudden flash of light that chose to stay with us, a light so unlike the rest. Light has dawned on us. Light has embraced us. Never will His glory ever dim in our land. Our faith is surging forth. Our love is bursting out. Our hope is burning bright. The Light has made us lights. We are ready to share the LIGHT… For generations to come…Unto eternity… LET Him shine in Dagupan unto the whole world. Amen….!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, November 30, 2014
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter… (Lk 22:61)
THE GAZE OF THE CRUCIFIED LORD
Love and Compassion, Forgiveness and Challenge
CBCP Message Opening of the Year of the Poor 2015
When you gaze into the eyes of the Crucified Lord, and he gazes into yours, you encounter the love of the Resurrected Lord. Many prefer not to look. Many recoil at looking into the eyes of a man in deadly pain. Many balk at having to respond to love. But these are not the eyes of a defeated man, condemned for criminal insurrection. They are the eyes of an unlikely King, who in dealing death its death blow, still looks into our eyes with challenge. In his love is his call to the Kingdom of his Father, his Kingdom of justice, compassion, peace and life to the full.
In the sign of this crucified Lord, now resurrected, we your Pastors, invite you to the celebration of the Year of the Poor. Behold Jesus, poor. No image of Jesus, poor, surpasses this one. Jesus hangs from his Cross stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength. He is fully one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcaste. In the Year of the Poor, look into the eyes of the crucified Lord. There is no experience richer.
You who are poor…
In those eyes, you who are poor, feel his suffering-with-you. From his Cross, he walks with you through crowded alleys, stumbles on mud, recoils at the stench of unmoved sewerage. He bows to enter your makeshift home hobbled together from salvaged materials; it is for your family, but you share it perforce with rats and cockroaches, an oven in the hot season, a waterfall when rainy.
On his Cross, he is with you – God with you. He has taken on your nakedness, your vulnerability, your hunger, your illness, your shame. You once thought you could escape the hardship of your rural beginnings. But your suffering only increased. Here, you cannot find the camote to chase the hunger from your belly; you cannot find the herbs to stop your baby’s vomiting and diarrhea; you cannot find money even to keep your single bulb burning. Here, though amidst thousands, neighbors are distant.
You were once grateful for the backbreaking work you finally found; your work continues to break your back, and bend you. But your debts just continue to grow. The clothes and shoes you bought last year to send your children to school are already worn out. In your home you have an altar. Mary is there. The Nazareno is there. So is the Sto. Niño. You pray. But you tremble when you hear the shouts of the demolition crews approaching. You cry out for mercy. You look into the eyes of your crucified King.
Looking into his eyes, you feel his gaze into your soul. You do not understand. Why the love for you, but a poor man? Why the energy from the Cross to convince you: you are loved? Why the persisting message like a mantra in the sign of the Cross: “I have come to bring life, and bring life to the full,” and, “Blessed are you who are poor…. Blessed are you who hunger now… Blessed are you when men hate you…”
Why his silent acceptance of abuse, hatred, rejection, oppression and death in rejection of yours? Why his abiding identification with you, as he calls on his disciples to act in your aid? “Whatever you do for this poor person, that you do for me. … Whatever you do not do for this poor person, that you do not do for me?” Why, on your behalf, to any who follow him, his mandate to works of mercy? “Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Ransom the captive. Bury the dead.” For the answers to these questions… look into his eyes, and search within.
You who are weary…
In the Year of the Poor, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, we your Pastors invite you, as Jesus himself did: come to Jesus. “Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.” Life has not reduced you to penury, but life has not lifted you to wealth. To you also Jesus has said, “I have come to give life, and to give it to the full.”
Thinking of your families, your spouses, your children, the relatives who run to you for help in their unending need, you work long hours, you work overtime, you even take on second and third jobs, just to make ends meet. Often ends don’t meet; demands exhaust you; your taskmasters overstress you; worries distress you.
But you labor on in love. Thinking of the smiles on your children’s faces and the promises you have made your spouse to provide adequately, you work on, hoping your sacrifice will bring the full life that Jesus brings. Whenever you can, whenever you remember, you pray. You ask him to help. You ask his mother for help. He does help. She does come to your aid. You know that. Now, coming to Jesus hanging from his Cross, look into his eyes as he looks into yours with love.
You who are rich…
“I have come to bring life,” he said, “life to the full.” Some of you, sadly, are unmoved by this. You do not believe this. You do not believe Jesus brings anything. You say you do, but you don’t.
For you, the fullness of life is the good life: your doing. It is not gifted, but taken. It is not brought to you as a blessing from above, but seized as a result of pushing and shoving from below. It is not selfless, but selfish. It is fueled by pride, scheming ambition, the exhilaration of power, the taste of blood. For this you work harder than hard, you push yourselves to the limit, you even push beyond the limit. To achieve “the sweet life,” to outdo your ambitions, to over satiate your sycophants, to make them applaud without end, you abuse your bodies, you break the law, you violate your conscience; you ravage Creation. Your social life is your needy ego. You manipulate people, exploit their skills; take advantage of their weaknesses; pay them poorly. What is rightly theirs, you steal; what rightly belongs to society, you conceal. What is there for all, you horde for yourself. For you, there is no common good, only your good!
You build your first house, then your second houses; you provide for your family, then for your second families. You fill your lives with deceit, hypocrisy, and misery, and so glory in your “good life.” You take great satisfaction in that you are not like the rest of the rabble. You have no need for prayer; you have no need for God.
In this Year of the Poor, we your Pastors invite you, step back from the rat race, the pressure, the din. Step back, and look into the eyes of the King.
His gaze penetrates through your eyes to your heart. It is the same gaze of compassion as his gaze into the eyes of the poor. But it is a gaze altered by your own arrogance and cynicism. It is a gaze marked by concern. You may not wish to hear his message, but he says it again for you: “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe when society speaks well of you, for your fathers did the same to false prophets.”
He doesn’t thunder this from loudspeakers, nor embarrass you with this in the media, for you are well-respected and honorable persons. He says it simply in his gaze, knowing fully you can reject it, as you have rejected it before.
But in the Year of the Poor, where so many poor are poor because of your decisions, he also reminds you that over concern with your humungous investments, your corporate takeovers, your capture of political power and your fine reputations to the detriment or negligence of the poor may have serious consequences. “Whatever you have done or not done to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done or not done to me.” For not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, succoring the sick, sheltering the stranger, visiting the imprisoned, the Lord, the Just Judge, may say to you, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire…” for I was poor, and you did not care.
If you have trouble believing this, look into his eyes gazing at you from the Cross.
Behold Jesus poor…
If that gaze, filled will love, brings you to confusion, shame and repentance in this Year of the Poor, then consider its urgent challenge for you:
With God’s grace, turn away from your haughtiness, your pride, your selfishness, your idolatry of money, your all-consuming fascination with power. In love, work to build the Kingdom of God on earth!
In the Philippines, this means, urgently: stop the corruption.
Stop the misuse of the People’s funds. Stop the wanton destruction of the environment. Fight the poverty of the poor. Build vibrant companies that use our resources to create wealth for our people, but distribute that wealth equitably. Build an economy that responds to the unconscionable poverty of the fishermen, the tillers of the soil, the urban laborers. Build an economy that is open to the world, but whose benefits do not exclude the poor. Provide jobs.
Provide education that respects all our people as human beings and children of God, not just cogs in a global production machine. But provide education relevant to the fight against dehumanizing poverty: basic education to all, and higher education to all who desire it. Build a society of dialogue in our diversity, and especially for our poor, build a society of peace. No more war, for the greatest victims of war are the poor!
Behold Jesus, hope of the poor…
If that gaze, filled with love, brings you in poverty to consolation, encouragement and peace, take heart in Jesus’ love. He strengthens you, encourages you, and calls the Christian community to help you progress from destitution to the fullness of life.
But help the community in helping yourselves. Should you have no work, look for work. Should you have work, work well. Cultivate a personal sense of industry, self-respect and social responsibility. As the economy allows, continue to provide well for your family in love: nutritious food, adequate clothing, medical care, good education, wholesome recreation. Strive for conditions of work that are humane and just. Continue to contribute to the welfare of your neighbors, your barangay, your municipality, your city, your nation. Always be helpful. Vote as the common good demands. Together with your spouse, lead your children to the love and respect the Lord through our Catholic communion. Be active in your parish and in your basic ecclesiastical community. Love, as you are loved by God. Share courageously of your faith in love! You are not just receivers of the Gospel. You are its bearers!
Shepherds looking into the eyes of the Good Shepherd…
Finally, in the year of the poor, we your pastors, and with us, all priests and religious, look with you into the eyes of the crucified Lord. How often it is that we have look into those tortured eyes and failed to notice their twinkle! We have seen only embarrassing defeat, jaded suffering and obvious dying, but failed to notice the light that pierces the gloom in our hearts.
In the void that loneliness and isolation brought by our distance from Crucified, we can be misled to fill the gaping abyss with new phones and ipads. We can cover the gaping vacuum with another luxury car or designer jeans or more fashionable shoes more than our shoe racks can contain; with a vacation out of the country or another gadget for the bedroom. We can hold on to the whisky bottle and hope that the bottled spirit will exorcise the spirit of boredom in us. It can also be filled up by working like a horse to impress the people, to create a fans’ club and move you up higher to a better assignment. It can also increase our interest in bank savings, the stock market and the accumulation of more properties. Church funds and personal funds are deliberately mixed up. The parish crawls in financial difficulties while we sprint and jump with financial security. Our easy and comfortable lifestyles can make us numb to the peril of worldliness. It can make us at ease with ecclesiastical vanities.
How often have we reduced his living eyes to painted plastic on a wall, and deprived ourselves of feeling what those eyes twinkling in passion convey: that we are noticed, appreciated, valued, and sent forth. In so doing, we have cheated ourselves of the only treasure in our calling: the felt certainty from the Cross that we are each individually and totally loved.
We have exchanged this prize, this pearl of great price, for the compulsive conservation of conceptual castles, for the anxious pettiness of rules and regulations, for the obsessive preservation of a pecking order, for the selfish defense of private space, for the eccentric collection of quaint things, as well as for the lifelong preparation for our retirement.
Or, we have exchanged this self-emptied Messiah for self-established messiahs on distinguished thrones, ourselves rejecting the folly of the Cross, preferring the authority of feared prelates or the renown of pious celebrity or the fashionable cynicism of the insecure. For these recognized spiritual professionals, there is really no need for prayer, no need for prophets, and certainly no need for the unlettered and unwashed, for all ultimately is about themselves.
Look at Jesus…
In this year of the poor, we too are being asked in silence to peer into the eyes of the crucified Lord, not plastic, nor wooden, nor closed, but open for me, confusing me, disturbing me, returning me to an original inspiration, healing me, raising me up, making me whole and surprising me anew with unaccustomed joy. In those twinkling eyes, we consider the quiet invitation to be actually poor, one with him, stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength, one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcast. Of course, we can say no. We can repeat the valid, reasonable excuses. But we can also say yes.
In this Year of the Poor, may our neediness be turned to sanctity, and may our arrogance be turned to service. In all, may the love of the Crucified Lord triumph as he gazes into our hearts and we dare to look into his.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 30, 2014 First Sunday of Advent
(SGD)+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan CBCP President
A PRAYER FOR TEACHERS
Giver of All Wisdom and Greatest of all Teachers,
Look upon our teachers with love
Grant them the resolve
To nurture our eager minds
And to never give up on us who fall behind
Bless their hearts
For they rejoice when we succeed
And encourage us when we fail
Endow them with gentle patience
For the path of learning is never easy
Kindle a spirit of passion in them
It is the flame that ignites the love of learning in us
Help them see the potential in each student
Their belief in us means much more than the grade we make
Instill in them a commitment to keep on learning
It shows us to not fear new knowledge and experiences
Inspire them to touch the future
They influence how big a dream we dream for ourselves
Bless our teachers who have come before
for their work endures to this day
Let the light of Your example shine upon all teachers:
To build up with their words
To love with their mind
To share with their heart
PANALANGIN PARA SA MGA GURO
Tagapagkaloob ng Lahat ng Kaalaman at Guro ng mga guro
Bigyan po Ninyo ng pagkalinga ang aming mga guro
Biyayaan Ninyo sila ng kahandaang
Linangin ang aming murang isipan
At huwag magsawa kapag ‘di makahabol ang turuan
Pagpalain nawa ang kanilang mga pusong
Nagdiriwang sa tuwing kami’y nagwawagi,
At nag-aalo sa tuwing kami’y nadadaig
Pagkalooban Ninyo sila ng mahinahong pagtitiyaga
Sapagkat ang landas ng kaalaman ay hindi madali
Pagningasin Ninyo sa kanila ang maapoy na diwang
Nagpapaliyab sa kagustuhan naming matuto
Tulungan Ninyo silang makita ang galing sa bawat mag-aaral
Wala sa marka ang halaga kundi sa pananalig nila
Ikintal Ninyo sa kanila ang walang pagkauhaw sa karunungan
At bagong kaalaman at karanasan ay ‘di dapat katakutan
Turuan po Ninyo silang masiglang abutin ang alapaap
Kasinsigla at kasintayog ng sarili naming pangarap
Pagpalain po Ninyo ang mga gurong nauna sa amin
Ang nagawa nila ay napapakinabangan pa rin
Tanglawan po ng Inyong mabuting halimbawa ang kaguruan
Upang makapagtayo sila sa pamamagitan ng kanilang pangungusap
Uapng makapagmahal sila sa pamamagitan ng kanilang isipan
Upang makapagbahagi sila sa pamamagitan ng kanilang puso
Tribute to Teachers during World Teachers’ Day
October 5, 2014
Dear People of God:
If you wish, you can be taught; if you are willing to listen, you will learn; if you give heed, you will be wise. Frequent the company of the elders; whoever is wise, stay close to him. Be eager to hear every godly discourse; let no wise saying escape you. If you see a man of prudence, seek him out; let your feet wear away his doorstep! Reflect on the precepts of the LORD, let his commandments be your constant meditation; then he will enlighten your mind, and the wisdom you desire he will grant. (Sirach 6:32-37)
Parents as first teachers
Parents are the primary teachers of faith and morals. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223)
And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:39-40)
Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years… Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God (CCC, 2226). Jesus grew up in the city of Nazareth where there was no formal schooling, Nazareth became his first school with Mary and Joseph his first teachers. Even without formal schooling, just from the lives of witnessing by his parents, Jesus was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him. After all, children learn from what they see.
We do know that the education of a child does not end in the home. It has always been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Thus, the parents must exercise their right to choose a school for their children that will best help them in their task as Christian educators (CCC, 2229).
Teachers as formators of character and competence
Children grow in faith and wisdom when nurtured by proper education. Proper education as a supplement for the formation in the home must be given well in the schools. This includes having the best possible teachers. “The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, they reveal the Christian message not only by word, but also by every gesture of their behaviour.” (The Catholic School, 43) These teachers educate not only the mind but also the heart.
Teachers are shapers of competence and character. They never deliver mediocrity, only excellence. They come to class prepared and on time. In so doing, they model for the students what is expected from each of them. Thus, pushing their students to become responsible and helping them develop their full potentials.
Teachers draw out what is best in students. They are patient in dealing with those who are discipline-challenged and as well as the academically-challenged. They try to find the unique giftedness in each person, drawing out the Christ in them.
Moreover, as formators of competence and character they are witnesses of faith. They take learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Teachers open the eyes of the students to the realities and problems of the world. They show how each we are connected with nature and with one another. “If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Teachers then encourage each student to contemplate on how she or he can contribute to the betterment of the world. When they teach, they “bring the experience of their own lives to this social development and social awareness, so that students can be prepared to take their place in society …” (LCIS, 19)
We owe much to teachers. They mold and inspire the young to work for social transformation. The current situation that we have in our country, however, presents a rather bleak condition for those engaged in the teaching profession.
Plight of teachers
Time and again we would hear stories of teachers going abroad for better pay as caregivers or domestic helpers. We have private school teachers migrating to public schools for higher pay because some private school salaries are so low cannot even afford raise a family. Yet even the public school system with a relatively higher salary scale has its share of challenges for teachers. There is the challenge of multi-grade teaching especially in schools located in the hinterlands. Teachers are faced with the difficulty of managing their time handling two classes inside the same classroom divided only by a blackboard to allow the teacher to monitor activities happening on the other side of the room. The tedious task of preparing lessons and the additional task of checking for two grade levels would be very taxing for these teachers. Sometimes, those hired to do multi-grade teaching are even new graduates without any teaching experience and yet, they persevere in with their work. There are also principals who even use part of their salaries just to improve the conditions of the schools under their care – true stewards in the service of the providing education for the nation. We have volunteer catechists who give religious instruction in the public schools without any pay at all.
There are also teachers, both in the public and private sector (those in small mission schools), who travel hours on end to scale mountains and cross rivers before they can reach the schools. Some schools do not have the proper amenities, with buildings that are ready to collapse in the next natural disaster. Some do not have electricity and therefore are not conducive to learning but the teachers continue to persevere anyway and make do with the available resources. There are those who have dedicated themselves for the education of the Indigenous People away from the cities. This would mean that they would be away from their families for days just so they could deliver education.
Teachers as heroes and saints
Teachers prepare for class, undergo ongoing training for their discipline, build community with other teachers, and continue to be formed by the church. Outside the school, they have families to raise on their own and sometimes their salaries are not enough to support their families. Even in the face of the seemingly dire situations that we find these educators in, they persist in their vocation because they believe in the cause of education, because they know that education gives hope and leads to social transformation. These educators are the true missionaries who “fully respond to all of its demands, secure in the knowledge that their response is vital for the construction and ongoing renewal of the earthly city, and for the evangelization of the world.” (LCIS, 37)
Teachers are challenged to be brave amidst the turbulent times. They are called to holiness and heroism. They look to the teacher par excellence, Jesus Christ. Jesus never rejected the title teacher. ”You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.” [John 13:13]. He spoke with authority. He was a great communicator of the vision of the Kingdom. Teachers then look to Christ as example. By their witness of the faith and through their example, they make saints and heroes out of their students. They use the discipline of love to lead them to holiness and heroism.
There is no retirement for teachers. Even as employment ends, teachers devote their time as volunteer catechists in public schools, they lead in forming the basic ecclesial communities in parishes. They take active part in their dioceses. They take part in the building of the Kingdom.
Gratitude to Teachers
For this reason, we would like to thank all those who have committed their lives in the teaching profession. We thank them for the service they deliver to our nation by their excellent teaching. They are our heroes. They are the true missionaries. They give without counting the cost. They “develop in themselves, and cultivate in their students, a keen social awareness and a profound sense of civic and political responsibility… committed to the task of forming men and women who will make the ” civilization of love ” a reality.” (LCIS, 19)
We also thank all those who help in one way or another in making the circumstances for our teachers a little better. We thank the Department of Education for trying to close the gap in teacher and student ratio and providing better salaries for the public school teachers. We thank all the school administrators for always looking after the interest of our teachers. We thank parish priests who encourage volunteer catechists to go to public schools and deliver religious instruction.
In as much as we feel the support of government, we ask you to go the extra mile. We call on our legislators and budget personnel to continue to support our education system.
We also call on our brother priests to strengthen catechetical instruction in the public schools within your parishes. Moreover, make your parishes youth friendly. As pastors of souls you are teachers of the faith. Visit the public schools and be present in the youth of the schools, encourage and inspire the young people to choose education as a vocation.
We admonish the young people to love and respect their teachers. They have sacrificed much of their lives to make you responsible members of society. It is our prayer that the best ones among you will find it in your hearts to be teachers.
We appeal to the administrators of the schools to ensure that schools are places of encounter with God; that your students and teachers experience God in your campus. Continue to give your teachers support they need so they can deliver quality education to the students.
Finally, we thank the teachers for your generosity of spirit. We pray that you persevere in the good work that you are doing. Continue to let the face of God shine on you. “May the Lord who began his good work in you will see it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:9).
May Mary mother of all teachers bring us closer to Jesus our only Teacher!
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, October 5, 2014, World Teachers’ Day
(SGD) +SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
TCS – The Catholic School, Congregation for Catholic Education, March 19, 1977
LCIS – Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION, October 15, 1982