25 March 2012

An satong mga Tadâ

A Pastoral Letter on TADÂ, a program for the benefit of the poor in the Diocese of Legazpi

 "Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works." Heb 10,24

Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this passage when he wrote his message for Lent this year. He spoke about our common and constant duty to be responsible toward our brothers and sisters, especially those suffering from various forms of poverty – spiritual, moral and economic.

The Pope’s message brings to mind the call of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines to become a “Church of the Poor”, which means embracing the evangelical spirit of poverty and practicing a preferential option for the poor.

In response to this call, the Church in the Philippines has instituted the traditional Lenten practice of the ALAY KAPWA Program to raise awareness on the plight of the poor, and help them in their needs through different forms of support and assistance, mainly through almsgiving and donations.

This year 2012, following the directions set by our recently concluded First Diocesan Pastoral Assembly, I am inviting every member of the Diocese of Legazpi to join a modified form of ALAY KAPWA, which we shall henceforth call TADÂ, and which will continue as a diocesan project beyond the season of Lent. In other words, TADÂ will be a year-round program for the poor of the Diocese of Legazpi.

Tadâ – a Bikol word that means crumbs or leftovers – is based on a very simple rationale. In everyone’s life there are things that may be considered leftovers, things no longer needed. These things are oftentimes taken for granted, even discarded, because they no longer have that much value to us. But they can still be of some value, they can still be of use, to others – especially those who have very little in life. These are the tadâ in our lives. Let us gather and bring them together. For sure, if we do, they can help the poor in some form or other.

Immediately, we discover, for example, that there are many monetary “change” that we do not mind anymore: P0.05, P0.10, P0.25, even P1.00. Let us collect these in plastic bottles (which you can get from your respective parish rectories, or you may very well come up with your own!) and bring them to church, preferably on Sundays, and offer these at the offertory procession during the Mass. We will collect them and whatever amount gathered will be set aside to assist the poorest among us in their various needs – medical, nutritional, educational, and others. I am certain that the little tadâ that will come from each of us, like the five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed five thousand, will become plentiful enough in order to feed those who are hungry and help those in need.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his Lenten message: “Each part should be equally concerned for all the others" (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body. Acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters – as expressed by almsgiving, a practice which, together with prayer and fasting, is typical of Lent – is rooted in this common belonging. Christians can express their membership in the one body which is the Church through concrete concern for the poorest of the poor.”

The invitation to offer our tadâ is by no means an encouragement to be mediocre in generosity or be miserly in charity. The needs of the poor are big and many, and we cannot supply them all, at least not by our strength alone. But by God’s grace anything can be accomplished.

Starting with our tadâ means starting small, but with a view to a bigger end. We start by opening our eyes to the reality of poverty and our capacity to empower the needy. We proceed with instilling a habit of giving in everyone in order to form our hearts to become ever more generous with our gifts and ever more trusting in the Lord, the Giver of gifts.

Once again from the Pope’s Lenten message: “Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands.”

In this regard, I have asked our Diocesan Social Action Center (SAC) to develop a formation module and train the Commission on Social Concerns in our parishes, so they in turn may be able to provide their fellow parishioners the necessary catechesis that will make this program properly understood, appreciated and owned by all in the local Church of Legazpi.

Thus, I would like to ask our Parish Priests to send representatives from their respective Parish Commission on Social Concerns for orientation on TADÂ, and allow them with more or less five minutes to explain to our people what TADÂ is all about during designated Sunday Masses.

Our SAC people will also be doing the rounds of schools to share this project with them, as well as to those communities of the faithful – associations and movements – that may be interested to participate in this worthy endeavor of our local Church.

May the Lord of the poor and His Blessed Mother bless this effort of ours and make them successful according to His Most Holy Will!

Given this 22nd of March 2012 at the Diocesan Chancery in Legazpi City.

Bishop of Legazpi

Rev. Fr. Rex Paul B. Arjona

Pastoral Letter No. 2, Series of 2012

24 March 2012

Prayer for the Day of the Unborn

In 2004, Pres. Arroyo issued Proclamation # 586 declaring every March 25 as "Day of the Unborn" in the Philippines. It is urged that churches will have a special recognition of pregnant mothers and special prayers and blessings to them on this day.


Psalm 145:13-21

The Lord is faithful in all His words
and holy in all His works.
The Lord lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look hopefully to You,
and You give them their food in due season;
You open Your Hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is just in all His ways
and holy in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
to all who call upon Him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,
He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord keeps all who love Him,
but the wicked He will destroy. 
May my mouth speak the praise of the Lord,
and may all flesh bless His Holy Name forever and ever. 

Prayer for Unborn Children

God, our Creator, by Your love the world is filled with life,
through Your generosity one generation gives life to another,
and so are Your wonders told and Your praises sung.
We look to You in our love and in our need:
may it be Your will that we bear (adopt) a child to share our home and faith.

Loving God, be close to us as we pray to love and do Your will.
You are our God, nourishing us forever and ever. Amen.

Dear St. Gerard Majella, Saint Raymond Nonnatus,
patrons for pregnant women
and St. Catherine of Sienna,
patron against miscarriages,
please intercede for us.

Prayer and Blessing of Pregnant Mothers

All make the sign of the cross. The leader begins:
Let us bless the Lord Jesus,
who in the womb of the Virgin Mary became one of us.
Blessed be God forever.

All respond:
Blessed be God forever.

The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the blessing:
Join now in listening to the Scripture and in blessing this mother-to-be
that she may cherish the child in her womb
and await birth with great hope and faith.

Then Scripture is read:
Listen to the words of the Holy Gospel according to Luke 1:39-45:

During those days, Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

The Gospel of the Lord.

All respond:
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.

After a time of silence, all join in prayers of intercession. The Hail Mary, the Memorare, or other prayers asking for the protection of Mary may be appropriate. After the Lord's Prayer, the leader may invite all to extend their hands toward the mothers or to place their hands on them in blessing. Use either Prayer A or Prayer B next.

Prayer A:
Gracious Father, Your Word, spoken in love,
created the human family
and Your Son, conceived in love,
restored it to Your friendship.
Hear the prayers of (mother's name),
who awaits the birth of her child.
Calm her fears when she is anxious.
Watch over and support her
and bring her child into this world
safely and in good health,
so that as members of Your family
she may praise You and glorify You through Your Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Prayer B:
God has brought gladness and light to the world
through the Virgin Mary's delivery of her child.
May Christ fill your heart with His holy joy
and keep you and your baby safe from harm.
We ask this in His Name, who is Lord, forever and ever.

All make the sign of the cross. The leader concludes:
May God, Who chose to make known
and to send the blessings of eternal salvation
through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
bless us and keep us in His care, now and forever.

Holy Water is then sprinkled to the pregnant mothers followed by clapping of hands by the churchgoers.

10 March 2012

Renewal, Reform and Rehabilitation

A Pastoral Letter on the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO)

“A clean heart create for us, O God; renew within us a steadfast spirit.” cf. Ps 51,12

Dear People of God:
It has been more than a year since I was requested to take part in looking for solutions for our embattled ALECO, solutions both urgent and long-term, effective and beneficial to all. From my humble knowledge and engagement with our electric cooperative, I would like to speak now as a pastor looking after the hopes and fears of the people of our province in these trying times.

The problems of ALECO did not happen overnight. They were brought about by a system that has not done enough in implementing checks and balances, nor in pursuing accountability on the part of those entrusted with running the cooperative. Add to this a legislation that puts a vital service such as the supply of electricity at the whim and mercy of market forces. In the end, it is the people, especially the poor, who suffer the most for the wrongs they have not done and for sins they have not committed.

At the outset, we acknowledge the assistance and leadership of President Benigno Aquino III, together with the Department of Energy and the National Electrification Administration, in finding ways to resolve these problems. Nonetheless, we call upon them still not to abandon Albayanos in this struggle. It is a matter of social justice and good governance that they must commit everything in their power to help in the rehabilitation of our cooperative.

We welcome the initiatives of our local political leaders in advocating the cause of ALECO. Decisiveness and genuine concern for our people will pave the way out of our dire situation and bring about progress and unity. However, prudent intervention ends when a return to patronage politics begins. We call upon our local leaders to continue to support the independent governance of our cooperative and not let bad politics corrupt it yet again.

We also appreciate the various individuals and groups who have invested much time and effort in finding long-term solutions to our recurring problems while upholding the spirit of genuine cooperativism and the demands of justice. However, good intentions need also the open mindedness to seek to understand other points of view and form a realistic self-assessment of strengths and limitations. Such balancing act may even produce better ideas and better venues for collaboration.

We have used the analogy of a sick person who is hemorrhaging to death as an apt description of the sad condition of our electric cooperative. In this regard, we have tried a number of measures to remedy the situation, among them the Special Payment Agreement. Yet much is still required.

We have listened to various stakeholders and a few proposals in their initial stages. However we do not have the luxury of time. A major part of the problem is high systems loss aggravated by substandard equipment and depreciating facilities, and low collection efficiency. And because we are not able to pay our bills, our debt continues to balloon out of proportion and the threat of disconnection looms over us.

Soon we will have to make a decision about what is best for ALECO. In the process of accepting and evaluating various proposals, and the eventual approval of the most suitable, we would like to submit the following principles for consideration.

1.      The welfare of Albayanos is the first priority. Translated to the services being offered by ALECO, this means a stable supply of electricity, reasonable rates, and sustained rural electrification, among other things. Whatever solution may be offered must have the common good as its top priority.

2.      The preservation of our cooperative nature is our preferred position. An ably run electric cooperative, together with judicious government oversight and strong support from member-consumers, is still the most ideal situation for Albayanos. Considering our not so ideal circumstances however, our no-to-privatization stand cannot extend to the exclusion of other solutions that may involve the infusion of private capital and resources if the situation so requires. The measure of a righteous stand is not whether it fits a certain ideology but whether it is truthful, just and fair, and leads to an option that benefits our people the most.

3.      Obligations should be acknowledged and settled. While the priority are the member-consumers, the obligations to suppliers, those from whom we have outstanding debts, and the employees, need to be given importance as well. Any proposal to be considered must abide by this principle. This, however, does not rule out efforts at securing reasonable loan payment restructuring and seeking judicial remedy against payment of unjust debts.

4.      Transparency and accountability need to be ensured in the service of truth and justice. The process of choosing the pathway to rehabilitation and turn-around must be done with utmost transparency in order to be fair and credible to member-consumers and stakeholders. Shady deals and undue influencing cannot be tolerated. The wrongdoings of the past need to be investigated and those liable must be brought to justice. Government officials, administrators, employees, volunteers, and those helping ALECO in any way, must bear in mind that they are accountable to the people of Albay.

5.      Real rehabilitation will be realized only through meaningful reforms. Our present situation may seem bleak at the outset, but we also recognize that we have before us the opportunity to finally leave behind this dark chapter of our cooperative’s history. If we are to move forward, we cannot afford to regress to the old ways of complacency and corruption. A healthy rehabilitated ALECO is not an impossible dream, but it will happen only if meaningful reforms are instituted as soon as possible.

As we journey through the season of Lent, the need for reconciliation, conversion and renewal becomes even more urgent in our relationship with God and with each other. We need to be reconciled with our true identity as God intends us to be. The Father of mercies has given us an example of unselfish love in the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus humbled himself for our sake that we may follow his example. We are thus redeemed persons, capable of going beyond the temptation of selfishness and journeying together towards a deeper concern for one another and for the common good.

In more concrete terms, we need to rekindle the very purpose of our cooperative: that is to serve our people and in so doing contribute to the progress and development of our families and communities, province and country. In order for ALECO to be renewed and transformed, we the people that compose it need to be renewed and transformed as well.

May the Almighty God bless our efforts with success and bring them all to fulfillment.

Sincerely in the Lord,

Bishop of Legazpi

Rev. Fr. Rex Paul B. Arjona

7 March 2012

08 March 2012

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Stations on the Way to Freedom

The Lenten season onus on self-denial and dying to oneself is really an exercise in finding the path to real freedom, something that can only be found in God. When the mind recognizes this, the heart finally discovers what it pines for all this time. This is what our Christian tradition calls “metanoia”. When this happens, the world may not immediately be less fraught with hardship and danger, yet it will no longer be miserable. For once again, hope sustains and the symbols of faith regain their meaning, and every step taken is a liberation.

This short reflection is prompted when I recently (belatedly yet ever so timely) came across the German theologian and WWII martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s meditation “Stations on the Way to Freedom”.


If you set out to seek freedom, you must learn before all things mastery over sense and soul, lest your wayward desirings, lest your undisciplined members lead you not this way, now that way. Chaste be your mind and your body, and subject to you and obedient, serving solely to seek their appointed goal and objective.


Do and dare what is right, not swayed by the whim of the moment. Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living. God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you. Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit amid great rejoicing.


See what a transformation! These hands so active and powerful now are tied, and alone and fainting, you see where your work ends. Yet you are confident still, and gladly commit what is rightful into a stronger hand, and say that you are contented. You were from from a moment of bliss, then you yielded your freedom into the hand of God, that he might perfect it in glory.


Come now, highest of feasts on the way to freedom eternal, death, strike off the fetters, break down the walls that oppress us, our bedazzled soul and our ephemeral body, that we may see at last the sight which here was not vouchsafed us. Freedom, we sought you long in discipline, action, suffering. Now as we die we see you and know you at last, face to face.