Circular Letter No. 2/2011
February 20, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
I received a text message today from Bro. Boy and Sis. Nini Vista, MMP promoters based in Calamba, regarding the newly-formed cenacle group in Los Banos, Laguna. Though the news was very exhilarating, it no longer came as a surprise to me. Knowing this couple, one simply has to wait for what comes next as they move around to promote the cenacle. They are tireless and unstoppable in carrying out the work of Our Lady. Their fruit-bearing mission is admirably unprecedented. Our prayers go with you, Bro. Boy and Sis. Nini. Continue to inspire us in the MMP family!
Starting from their home-based cenacle in Calamba, their work spread to the neighboring town of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, with several groups doing separate weekly cenacles. Their promotion rapidly moved to several towns of Laguna: Nagcarlan, Liliw, Magdalena, Sta. Cruz, Pagsanjan and Paete. Nagcarlan is the venue of their annual gathering called `Day with Mary' every October. In this town, nine barangays are already doing the cenacle. In Liliw next April, the first Parish Cenacle Retreat will be held, with the parish priest, Fr. Philip Atienza, getting interested in the MMP. The Los Banos cenacle group is the couple's most recent baby. Here, I am praying for a new direction. May Our Lady lead them towards San Pablo, the seat of the diocese in the province of Laguna.
Down south in Mindanao, another inspiring story on promoting the cenacle was relayed. Sis. Indai Banquerigo, a long-time MMP promoter in Davao, reported that cenacle groups were organized in the Parish of Sto. Rosario, Kalapagan, Lupon, a town in Davao Oriental under the Diocese of Mati. The cenacle prayer was also introduced in BEC's in the chapel-communities of the Immaculate Conception, Our Mother of Perpetual Help and St. Joseph. The parish priest is Rev. Fr. Mario Jimenez. We received this good news right after the First Annual Gathering of MMP Lay Promoters in Tagaytay last January 21 - 23.
I got interested to hear about this development in the Diocese of Mati. In 2009, the Clergy of Mati made their annual retreat with the Marian Movement of Priests. It was the first time for them to experience a retreat in the form of a continuous cenacle. Held last August 10 - 13, in Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan, no less than the local bishop, Most Rev. Patricio H. Alo, D.D., had wished in his homily during the closing Mass that the spirit of the MMP bear fruit not only in the spiritual life of his priests but also in their pastoral ministry. Fr. Mario's initiative to introduce the cenacle in his community must be the fruit of that retreat. Interestingly, the Church was born in the cenacle. If there is a form of prayer that fits well with the BEC program in the parish, it is the cenacle. I personally find it appropriate and effective in the formation of spirituality in the process of building Christian communities. Let us pray that more priests will discover the significance of the cenacle, not only in their personal lives, but also in the life of the parish community.
Up in the north, in the province of Cagayan, I myself have witnessed a similar experience of a parish priest so animated in his pastoral work through his devotion to Our Lady. He is Rev. Fr. Noel Malana, a priest from the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. He attended the MMP Clergy Retreat only last October in Makati. I came to his parish, Sto. Nino de Faire, to attend the celebration of their Priests' Day 2011, an annual gathering of priests in the Archdiocese that was held last February 8. More than forty priests stayed overnight in his parish, together with their Archbishop, Most Rev. Diosdado Talamayan, D.D.
How he hosted the event in his parish to the satisfaction of his guests, the clergy of the Archdiocese, was a great amazement. Fr. Noel admitted that his parish, Sto. Nino de Faire, is a poor community, a small remote town in Cagayan. Yet, the celebration was a real big feast. Food was served almost endlessly the whole day for a huge crowd of priests and laity. I told Fr. Noel in jest: "Parang buong bayan ang pinakain mo!"
I was fortunate to arrive on time for the morning Mass. The statue of Our Lady of Piat was in the sanctuary. The church overflowed with people. In his message, Fr. Noel said that it was all because of her, pointing to Our Lady, that we are united in the parish. Though we are a poor community, people are so generous to share the little that they have. How the parish developed such unity, animated with virtues of littleness and generosity, was really an amazing work of Our Lady.
I thought the celebration ended as priests left in the late afternoon. To my surprise, a procession in honor of Our Lady of Piat followed. I joined Fr. Noel and his parishioners to bring the statue to an old chapel, few kilometers away from the church. People lined up in the street as the procession passed by. So simple, yet theirs was a great show of fervent devotion. That evening, an overnight vigil was held in the chapel led by the Archbishop. Before leaving to catch the night trip back to Quezon City, I said goodbye to Fr. Noel. Seeing him, I wondered how he would survive the overnight vigil after two days of hosting. But, no traces of fatigue in him, only a smile of joy and peace. And the people, they too looked tireless, beaming with happiness to have Our Lady in their midst. Just before I left, Fr. Noel reminded me of his invitation for the MMP to come to his parish and introduce the cenacle to his parishioners.
In these experiences, from north to south of the country, Our Lady again reminds us of the importance of the role of priests. We find, in this context, the urgency of her message:
"I want every priest of my Movement and every priest who has consecrated himself to me to pray, suffer and work in order to bring me back once again into the midst of my faithful . . . because it is with them (the lay faithful), gathered around my priests, that I want to form my invincible cohort . . . These faithful children of mine will be called by me and be formed for this great task: to prepare this world for the great purification which awaits it, so that at last a new world may be born, completely renewed by the light and the love of my Son Jesus, who will reign over all." Our Lady stressed: "But these priests must now begin to act." (Message 25 a, g, r)
Fr. Gobbi echoed this ardent wish of Our Lady in his Circular Letter for 2011. He reiterated the mission she entrusted to him: the task of inviting priests to consecrate themselves to Her Immaculate Heart. In this way, he continued, Jesus can live in each one of us, and the strength of his divine Love will consume us in a perfect union. Thus, the mystery of our being identified in Him is realized. In conclusion, he said: In the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is we who become the artisans of this new civilization of love.
Priests remain the foremost concern of Our Lady; they are sons of her predilection precisely because of their strategic role in the life and mission of the Lord for His Church. We, in the Marian Movement of Priests in the Philippines, are committed to pursue this mission. In the past three years of doing this work with local resources, a retreat has been proven to be the best way for priests. Starting in the afternoon of Monday and ending on lunch time on Friday, the four-day retreat in the form of a continuous cenacle is moment of intimate encounter with Our Lady, manifesting herself in a very special way, to initiate the priests into the spirit of the Movement, into consecration to her Immaculate Heart and into a fraternal gathering in a cenacle of prayer with her.
Here in the Philippines, we have set two regular MMP retreats for priests in the months of May and October. For this year, the retreats are scheduled as follows:
-First batch: May 9 - 13, Home Sweet Home Retreat House, Baguio City
-Second batch: October 10 - 14, Betania Retreat House, Cebu City.
MMP Philippines also helps dioceses in the annual retreat of their priests upon the invitation of the local bishops. For this year, we received invitations from the Diocese of Digos and the Archdiocese of Yangon (Myanmar). The following is the schedule:
-Diocese of Digos: July 11 - 15
-Archdiocese of Yangon (Myanmar): September 12 - 16
I ask you, brothers and sisters, to pray for these retreats. Pray in particular for priests that they may respond generously to the invitation of Our Lady.
As we hear of more and more cenacles being formed among the laity, we are confident that there will also be more and more priests to learn and live the spirit of the MMP. We entrust all our endeavors to Our Lady who has always assured us of her unfailing help.
To you, my brothers and sisters in the Movement, I send my prayers and appreciation for your untiring collaboration in carrying out the work of Our Lady. I am looking forward to meeting you in the succeeding activities of your groups.
God bless us all!
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
REV. FR. ROMERICO A. PRIETO
Marian Movement of Priests - Philippines