Asia-Pacific Dominican Family Meeting – March 2020

Asia-Pacific Dominican Family Meeting

Asia-Pacific Dominican Family Training Program on the Salamanca Process and the Un Sustainable Development Goals:

Emerging Challenges from the Regional Training Workshop

Amidst uncertainty about whether to continue to hold it or not due to the CoViD-19 pandemic, the Organizing Committee decided to push through with an important Training Workshop in the Asia-Pacific Region, ensuring precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the virus. 

Held on March 7 – 13, at the De Meester Residence, St. Theresa’s College, Philippines, the Workshop was intended for more than 70 participants from all over Asia-Pacific. The aim of the entire Workshop was to equip members of the Dominican Family with knowledge, skills and practices that would help promoters to address issues of justice, peace, and integrity of creation with effective communal action.

In this report, we highlight the design of the Training Workshop. The first full-day design includes sharing by victims of sexual exploitation which was held at the Meeting Hall instead of traveling to their shelter to avoid the risks of COVID -19. The rest of the day was spent on a tour of the major Dominican institutions in Metro Manila – Eucharistic celebration at the chapel of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena; St. Domingo Church: San Juan de Letran College and the walled city called Intramuros; and finally, the University of St. Tomas, the oldest Catholic educational institution in Asia founded in 1611.

The next day was spent in listening to Inputs from the participants who gave their Country Reports and from resource persons who shared specific aspects of the Dominican Tradition that would deepen our commitment to justice and peace ministry.  We were mindful of the essential pillars of Dominican spiritual life: study, prayer, preaching, community, and ministry. The talks were intense and comprehensive. First was: “Justice and Peace in Dominican Life” touching on the relational dynamics in Justice and Peace Ministry within the Dominican Family by the Master of the Order, Gerard  Timoner III followed by “The Salamanca Process” presented by fr. Pablo Sicouly who focused on the historical background of the Salamanca Process to encourage participants to re-appropriate it  to our present-day involvement in justice and peace work as a strong basis for a deep interaction between reflection and action in the ministerial life of the Dominican Family.

The evolution of Catholic Social Teachings (CST) was presented by Sr. Raffaella Petrini, Franciscan teaching at the Angelicum College in Rome; The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were jointly presented by Sr. Cecilia Espenilla; Sr. Teresa Dagdag, who used the slides prepared by Sr. Margaret Mayce, DSIC (Dominican Sisters International Confederation); and a Faculty Researcher at UST (the University of St. Tomas) Dr Gina Lontoc, who shared an ongoing project that is based on the SDGs in San Jose, Nueva Ecija using women farmers’ action as an entry point.  “Climate Emergency and Laudato Si: A Look at the World from Within: A Dominican Perspective,” was presented by Sr. Teresa Dagdag, a Maryknoll Dominican; “The Amazonian Synod” by Rodney Galicha; and “Mining in the Philippines” by Jesus Garganera, of Tigil Mina (Stop Mining), who set us on fire with actual examples of Mining as an exploitative issue in the Philippines, and inspired us with instances when mining communities fought for sovereignty over our national patrimony. Finally, two women both named Cecilia, presented two aspects of Human Trafficking: Cecilia Flores Oebanda shared how she works to transform victims to advocates of sexual exploitation through a program called ‘Voice of the Free’ and the other Cecilia, a Siena Dominican, gave a dynamic presentation of Human Trafficking, using the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking (POHT) of the Vatican and the International Dominican Network Against Human Trafficking organized by DSI in 2015.

After days of listening to the talks,  we engaged in a planning process using the Statements of Commitment to Action from the Final Statement of the International Congress of the Dominicans in the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights: Past, Present, Future, held in Salamanca, Spain in 2016.

Enthusiasm and excitement characterized the group interaction as we focused on specific SDGs as our entry point. This was followed by another round of Country Planning Process by those who came to join the Workshop from Pakistan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, South Africa, Rome and, of course, the Philippines.

The lively and energetic participation by the JPIC Promoters, the Provincial and Major Superiors, Formators, General Council members, Lay Institutes, Seminarians, and students who represented the Dominican Family was synergy in action.  The number swelled with the presence of the Student seminarians at the talks given by the Master of the Order and the Socius for Intellectual Life. The presence of Lay Dominicans, millennials as well as the centennials, was a good combination of youthful vitality and experiential wisdom, a visible testimony of the commitment of lay partners in mission. Many of the latter travelled from Kidapawan, Cotabato, Philippines, eager to start work for Justice and Peace with hundreds of environmental refugees in their earthquake-torn province. Youthful energy was shared by Adonis Basa who led us through ice breakers to get us re-conditioned for the next sessions. The process-oriented moderation was deftly done by Froilan Alipao of the Simbahayan, UST’s community development arm. The whole workshop was a success with the able assistance of the hard working Secretariat – Mark delos Santos, Mark Angelo Bravo, two lay Dominicans, and Jhun Zamora of Letran College, working group mobilized by Fr. Victor Calvo, Jr., the generous Prior of the Letran College community.

After the Workshop, a conversation ensued among some members to begin to search for a common direction for synergetic action.  An inchoate group of volunteers self-named as The ‘Salamancans’ are bonded by a common hope that Justice and Peace promoters in the Asia-Pacific Region could become catalysts for a process to effect collaborative action using the UN SDGs as entry points, the Salamanca Process as a common framework for reflection and action, bonded by Dominican Spirituality(ies) to guide us as we deepen our communal engagement in the coming years. This specificity in our Dominican charism could be a key characteristic that would spell the difference in the way we sustain the practice of the 4 pillars of Dominican Spirituality as we get more seriously  involved in the life of the One Earth Community with mercy and compassion following the example of St. Dominic.

Sr. Teresa R. Dagdag MM and the Organizing Committee

March 28, 2020

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